Archive for the 'printable' Category


A very quick one, this – and one aimed more at publicity than information.

I hope that any and all student readers of this site are sharing useful posts with friends. There are easy ways to do this, especially now that we’re on Facebook and Twitter. But how are students going to find out about it in the first place?

One way is downloadable by clicking on the image below, a fairly boring poster.

I’ll work on a slightly flashier one, or perhaps small ones (A6 maybe) that can be added to existing displays. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from adding links to VLEs, noticeboards etc, either in text or QR form. You may find it most useful to link to specific pages or sections of the blog, of course. And the printables available here can be added ‘as is’ to displays, with the QR code already included.


What Should I Revise (first)?

It’s really easy to spend the first half hour of any ‘revision session’ faffing about what you need to revise. Something that’s worth doing early on, for each subject, is to figure out:

  • what will be tested
  • how well you understand/remember it
  • what you can do about it

Some of this was covered in an earlier post but right now it’s time to focus on a particular subject. It’s time for an audit, which is nowhere near as scary as it sounds.

You’ll need a copy of the sullabus (from your teacher or the contents page of your revision guide is best). There’s two versions of the ‘audit’ available, a pretty pdf one which you can scribble on, or an editable word version.

  1. Write topics in the left hand column. These should be one or two words, and in some kind of logical order. You might find that you can use the titles of each lesson, or each page in the revision guide. Break them down if you need to.
  2. Give yourself a ‘star rating’, from zero to five, for each topic. The more accurate this is, the better. It should reflect competence (how good you are at getting the marks in an exam-style situation), not just confidence.
  3. Add some comments in the right hand column. These should be details about the topic, how you think you need to fix any problems, perhaps a page reference, a pointer to a website or a friend who’s agreed to help.

This should not have taken you long – perhaps 20-30 minutes for each exam subject. Those topics you’ve given yourself low scores for are your priorities – you need to ask for help, ideally from your teacher, before you can really start effective revision. Four or five stars means a quick review is probably enough for now.

For each priority area, spend a few minutes reviewing it as soon as possible. On the back, use the boxes to make a few notes, key words or flow charts that will help you with proper revision. Every time you finish studying a topic (using one of the active methods discussed here) write the next priority area at the top of a piece of paper and put it where you can’t lose it. This means your following revision session can get off to a prompt start. As you make progress, you can add stars to your audit sheet.





Written Exam Answers

Your subject teachers will have taught you about different kinds of written answers. How you approach them will depend on just how much writing is needed. Some require a single word or sentence, and probably start:

  • define
  • state
  • what is…
  • when
  • where
  • give an example of…

Those are the easy ones, and are usually more about recall than anything else. Some are much more open and may require a longer answer or even an essay. If so, there are a few things you can do to help you get as many marks as possible.


Check with your teacher – what kind of format is needed? Will bullet points lose marks? Can you use headings? Even if you can’t break a long answer up into explicit sections, it will probably be good to have some idea of what you will need to include. The number of marks available should guide the amount of time you spend on the question, but a moment spent thinking before you write will probably be well spent.

Showing Off

Your answer should show that not only do you know stuff but also that you can explain it in the context of the question. Use key words and processes, explain links between different parts of the topic, and relate concepts to real situations or consequences. One acronym which can be interpreted in several ways is PEE.

  • Point: what are you trying to say?
  • Evidence: state the fact in the real world, historical event, scientific concept or quote from a text you think is relevant.
  • Explain/Evaluate: justify your choice and show why it is linked to your opinion.

Of course, once you have given your answer you will need to check it makes sense. It might also be worth checking important words for spelling, and going over the grammar. Using the sequence on the printable above will help you to slow down your thinking so that the clear, concise sentences don’t need much editing once you’ve written them down.

Practice using this structure in your various subjects – perhaps write up a summary you can refer to during revision. You’ll probably find different ‘internal checklists’ useful in different topics (Safety, Variables, Controls, Measurements, Repeats might be helpful when writing experimental plans but less so in English) but the process of explaining your thinking in writing is universal – and useful in real life too.

Improving Homework

Perhaps it seems unfair that teachers judge students based on the quality of their homework. In theory, it’s useful because it gives a double snapshot, of both understanding and effort. From a student’s point of view, homework is a way for teachers to make them feel miserable at home as well as in lessons. This, however, is missing the point.

Homework is about learning. The idea of carefully set homework is to allow students to review what they’ve covered in the lesson, practise techniques or prepare for something that’s coming up. Along the way, some tasks will encourage the acquisition and use of skills like research, summary and planning. Teachers get an idea of what you understand, and how to help you with the bits you don’t.

So if you think of homework as half diagnosis and trouble-shooting, half early exam preparation, maybe it’s easier to see the point. If so, perhaps you’re ready to think about how to improve it…

Image and link to Improving HW checklist

For any subject, you’ll have weak areas. Some of those will be things that affect all subjects, like handwriting or spelling, or problems with maths. Just as your teacher will offer comments and suggestions for improvements on your work, you need to be able to spot what’s not so good and fix it yourself. The whole point of school is to get to the point where you can do just as well without the teacher. By using the checklist above (linked from the image) regularly you’ll learn what your common mistakes are and start to avoid them.

Maths Questions

To answer an exam question well, you first need to figure out what you have been asked to do. With written answers this can be complicated, although recognising command words can help a lot. For mathematical questions, the idea is a lot simpler. You need to find a numerical answer.

There’s a reason you have a set method to follow for mathematical questions. It works. Now, it’s quite possible that you can do some of the steps in your head, but writing down what you’re doing has two purposes, both worthwhile:

  • it makes it easier to avoid mistakes
  • it means the examiner can give partial credit (working marks) for a wrong answer

Of course, this applies in lessons too, with the added bonus that seeing where a mistake is made means your teacher – or perhaps you or a friend – can figure out how not to make it next time. If you have problems with mathematical questions, keep a copy of the checklist above (pdf available by clicking on the thumbnail) handy where you do your work. Follow the steps, writing down whatever you’re doing. If you have trouble with a particular step, look for worked examples or ask for help. Over time, you’ll find you’ve internalised the process, and should aim to recall the equations rather than looking them up. By then, you’ll be getting most or all of the exam marks.

Five C Words

For any idea, it’s important to see both the details and the big picture. There are loads of different ways to get you thinking about this, from de Bono’s Thinking Hats to applying Bloom’s Taxonomy. This is another, and works well for thinking through an idea in lessons, reviewing work or as part of revision. You can scribble it quickly or use the printable version below to record it for the future.


What is the main idea? Sum it up in a sentence, a definition, or an equation.

Thermal radiation: heat can be transferred as an EM wave


How does it fit into the world or the universe? Why does it matter? What are the most closely related ideas?

Like other kids of heat transfer (conduction and convection) it is caused by a difference in temperature.


What key words or relevant characteristics will suggest this concept is important? What will need to be considered to explain it? What words in a question will give a clue that this idea is related to the answer?

The colour and surface area of the object affects how quickly heat isĀ emitted or absorbed. Heat can be radiated through a vacuum. It is also called infra-red (IR) radiation.


How does it work? What makes it happen? Does this mean it can be predicted, or prevented?

Heat is transferred along a temperature gradient. Bigger differences mean heat is emitted faster (higher power). Shiny surfaces reflect thermal radiation.


What effects does this have? Is it dangerous? Does it have implications for spending or earning money? How is it used in technology?

We can’t stop it, only slow it down. We use shiny or polished surfaces to reduce it, for example in Thermos flasks. An object will cool faster if it is a dark colour with a large surface area, so we include cooling fins on electrical equipment like laptops, fridges and freezers. Ear size in animals tells us about the climate they live in (compare arctic foxes with elephants). As the ice caps melt there is less reflection of thermal radiation to space, possibly accelerating climate change.

If you can explain the different aspects of an idea like this, then you probably understand it well enough to use in a variety of situations. And that, after all, is the point of learning.

Cornell Notes

Making good notes is one of the best ways to ensure that what you learn in lessons stays with you. If you are free to make your own notes, think carefully about how you will record the information you need without wasting time on unimportant details. There are many possible variations, such as mindmapping or shorthand, but you may find a particular format that works for you.

Cornell Notes

This layout is a way to produce notes and review materials all in one go, and there are several variants (see explanations at LifeHacker and Wikipedia). Brief notes are written in the main section during the lesson or lecture. As soon after as practical, add words – headings, questions or key concepts – to the ‘Cue’ column on the left. Then add questions or a summary paragraph below, as part of your review process. These prompts can then be used to test yourself when it is time to revise. Click on the image below for a pdf.

Cornell notes were originally intended for university lectures, not interactive lessons, but may still be useful. They are particularly well suited to making notes from videos or podcasts, or for researching new topics.

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