tutorMyself Chemistry is all you need to get to grips with the latest Edexcel iGCSE Chemistry Specification (2017).
tutorMyself Chemistry has already done the notes for you, so it’s just up to you to memorise these and start to test yourself as early as possible.
The sooner you start testing yourself, the sooner you’ll start putting the facts and concepts into your long-term memory.
Students often wonder what’s the best way to learn. There are so many ways of doing this, but all of the best ways include these steps:
Step 1: Study and memorise
- Pick a piece and study it. This could be a spec point or a whole topic. When studying, don’t just read through the material. Go slowly and engage in some active thought. How does what you’re reading link to other things you already know? What questions could you write down about the material you are reading? If there’s a diagram or a table, could you cover it up and write it down somewhere else? Try to think of some deeper meaning to what you’re reading.
- A really time-efficient way of making facts and concepts stick in your head is, whilst you are reading new material, to get a piece of paper and make up and write down some questions on that material. Make sure you know the answers, but don’t write down those answers. Put those questions aside and use them later, preferably a few days or a week later.
Step 2: Test yourself
- This is absolutely the key point. In fact if you’re at the stage of preparing for the actual iGCSE Chemistry exam, don’t bother with re-studying, but just start by testing yourself. If your memory of the material is sketchy, it doesn’t matter. You’re not testing yourself because you want to get everything right. You’re testing yourself because the effort of recalling something will make it stick in your head more. And you’re testing yourself to find out what things you don’t yet know properly.
- When testing yourself, do so with real commitment. Testing yourself properly feels uncomfortable. It feels hard. You should feel squirmy. But that squirmy feeling – that feeling of being in the struggle zone – is exactly where learning happens, and is the way to get you great marks in the exam.
- For example, if you’re using flashcards, don’t just flick through them, but make it into a proper test by writing down the answers on paper. And don’t just check them one at a time, but instead answer 10 in a row and then go back and mark yourself harshly, just like the examiner would.
- If you’re doing a quiz, really take the time to come up with your best answer – never leave a blank and never gloss over something.
- Another easy way of testing yourself is to play a little game called “spec point roulette”. Go to the spec page, close your eyes and scroll up and down randomly. Then stop and open your eyes: wherever your mouse/finger is pointing then, from memory, write down your very best notes on that spec point. Don’t cheat by clicking and looking at the answer. When you’ve done your very best, carefully check your answer. Then reflect on how you could have done better.
Step 3: Make a good note of the things you got wrong
- When marking your work, try not to think about the mark itself, but instead you should focus on what was the best possible answer because that’s your target.
- Never use the phrase “silly mistake” – there’s no such thing. Really take the time to put yourself back in the shoes of yourself when you did a question and remember what you were thinking at the time. How could you have seen things differently? Was it some specific knowledge that you need to review? Was there a calculation method you need to practice more? Do you need to identify and underline key words in the question?
- When you have worked out why you didn’t get the best possible answer, make a note of this. It’s a great idea to have a notebook listing all these “mistakes” or “knowledge gaps”. Your job over time is to make this list smaller and smaller and smaller.
- If you’ve had a complete blank in some topic or area, then go back to the notes and study again.
Keep practising by testing yourself, but make sure you are mixing up and spacing out your practice. Don’t spend 3 hours testing yourself on one topic. That’s too easy and not a good use of your time. Much better to spend 30 minutes on one topic, then flick to another. Also, it is much better to spend 1 hour per day for 5 days, compared to doing 5 hours on 1 day.
By applying these methods, good students are able to get better marks and spend less time studying.
Perhaps it’s good to be even more specific about good methods of preparing for exams by listing some bad ways of preparing for exams! If you find yourself doing any of these, then you are not spending your time in the most efficient way, and your time is the most important thing in the world.
- Don’t make notes by copying things down from this site or from a textbook. These are the only notes you need. The only useful way of writing out notes is if it’s on a blank sheet of paper and you’re doing it from memory as a way of testing yourself.
- Don’t bother printing out notes and highlighting and underlining words and phrases. There is no evidence this is effective in helping you remember things, and in fact there is some evidence that it can harm your memory of other important pieces in the text.
- If you are working to prepare for an exam and the work you are doing does not make you struggle then you’re not using your time effectively. Get back in the struggle zone to get the most from your time.
Make it stick
There is loads of evidence that using the principles summarised here will get you better grades in less time: contemporary cognitive science is pretty clear on that. A great place to start learning more about good study methods and how you can best improve your long term memory is a book called “Make It Stick”.
You need to know it all
The exam board are quite good at putting most of the spec in each exam paper, so to do well you’ve got to make sure you really know everything in the spec.
If you are in any doubt as to what exam you’re doing, here is the exam board website linked to the information on tutorMyself Chemistry.