How do you possibly remember all the content required for ten GCSE subjects or three or four A level subjects? The quotes in English Literature, the key dates and events in history, the formulae in science, the key concepts in RE, the hundreds of subject specific words in Biology? Every subject has its key information that you need to learn so that you can recall it if required in an exam. There is lots you can do and here are my top tips and techniques for recall and retrieval for GCSEs and A levels.

Revision involves understanding, learning and applying content. You need to understand the content first and then learning involves committing the knowledge and understanding to your long term memory so that you can retrieve, recall and apply it in an exam if the question requires. Studies show that to embed in your long term memory you have to test the knowledge three to six times over a period of time. Therefore the earlier you start learning and remembering and the more times you practise, the better your memory will serve you in the exam.

Top tips for recall and retrieval in GCSEs and A levels:

  • Blurting – this is when you read, study or look at some content that you have to remember for a limited amount of time and then cover it up and recreate as much as you can remember in a short amount of time. You can then re-look at it and see what you have missed out and add it in a different colour.
  • Flashcard solitaire – spread your cards out in front of you and then give yourself a limited time (2/3 minutes) to remember as many of them as possible. If correct put them to one side.
  • Regular testing – of your flashcards, mindmaps, Cornell notes either by yourself or with a friend or family member. The 2, 3, 5, 7 rule. (See Revisit the next day, after three days, after five days and after seven days and then they will be embedded ready for the test or exam.
  • Displaying key information around the house in prominent places (bathroom mirrors, doors, dining tables) on post-it notes so that you are constantly reminded. This is particularly good for quotes.
  • Regular talks and discussions about content that you have to remember.
  • Mnemonics – associating what you have to learn with a word, picture or number and remembering the sequence.
  • Visualising your content either through pictures or from a diagram or mind map
  • Reading out loud – saying what you have to learn out loud so that you’re hearing the content as well as seeing it. This helps you to encode it more effectively.
  • Remaining active – revision and recall does not have to be done sitting in a chair. Walk around the room, throw a ball against the wall, go for a walk

Remember to:

  • Keep each recall task short and set the timer
  • Mix up tasks and subjects
  • Sleep is the best tonic for memory – get a good night’s sleep
  • Avoid last minute cramming by testing over a period of time – the 2, 3, 5, 7 rule
  • Working with someone else (a family member, a friend) is very effective, especially for testing.
  • Build recall tasks into your routine

At we offer academic mentoring and coaching to GCSE and A level students both in schools and privately. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.