The weeks and months leading up to exams can be challenging for students (and parents and teachers alike). Now more than ever, young people seem to be feeling the pressure. So how can students revise better? Which techniques really work, and which don’t? What can students do to improve their memory, mood and concentration?
Before you do any revision
1. Eat breakfast
It is estimated that around 27% of boys and 39% of girls skip breakfast some or all of the time. It’s not called the most important meal of the day for nothing: research has found that skipping this meal significantly reduces students’ attention and their ability to recall information. Simply having a bowl of cereal will give students the concentration and memory boost they need.
Evidence suggests students who study in a quiet environment recall more than those who revise while listening to music
2. Put your phone away
This should be an obvious one, but for many it isn’t. Phones can be distracting; they are linked to fomo (fear of missing out), and evidence shows that undergraduate students who spend more time texting and using social media get lower grades. In another fascinating study, researchers found that the mere sight of a phone was enough to reduce a person’s ability to focus. The implication couldn’t be clearer: out of sight really is out of mind.
During revision sessions
3. Start early and spread it out
Actors don’t leave their rehearsals until the day before opening night. Athletes don’t only train the day before a match. To commit something to memory takes time. Spreading out your revision sessions on a particular topic (eg one-hour sessions over 10 days) is more effective than spending the same amount of time in one go (ie 10 hours in one day). This effect, known as “spacing”, helps because it allows time in between revision sessions to forget and re-learn the material. This strategy has been labelled as “one of the most robust across the entire history of experimental research on learning and memory” (pdf).
Secret Teacher: last-minute revision classes do more harm than good
4. Test yourself
Leading researchers in the field of memory consider testing yourself as one of the most effective ways to improve your ability to recall information (pdf). Testing yourself also helps you check for any gaps in your knowledge. Practice papers provide a good starting point, as well as quizzing yourself at the end of your revision session.
5. Teach someone
After you have tested yourself, teach the material to someone else. This has been found to help aid memory and recall: it is known as “the Protégé Effect”. Teaching someone else requires you to learn and organise your knowledge in a clear and structured manner.
6. Think twice about using highlighters
Despite being the favourite weapon of many students tackling revision, research suggests they don’t work very well. People learn and recall information better if they connect it to other pieces of information. Highlighters don’t do this, they isolate single pieces of information. Quite often, students end up highlighting whole chunks and passages of text, which can give the appearance of having worked hard, but is of little value.
7. Don’t listen to music
Parents around the world rejoice: you now have a legitimate reason to insist that your child stops listening to Justin Bieber on repeat. Students who study in a quiet environment can recall more than those who revise while listening to music. Extroverts, and those with an exceptional ability to control their attention, are not negatively affected as much: but it doesn’t help. At best, for these students, it just doesn’t hinder them as much as everyone else.
8. Get some fresh air and exercise
You cannot work all day, every day. Nor should you. Revision has to be about quality, as well as quantity. Going outside and getting some fresh air helps people feel refreshed and better able to focus afterwards. Furthermore, doing a little bit of exercise helps people deal better with stressful situations: it reduces anxiety and increases self-esteem.
Practice makes perfect: why mock exams are great for students’ brains
Students are encouraged to work hard and revise a lot before their exams: however, there comes a time when they need to stop and go to sleep. Knowing when can be tricky. There is a link between being a perfectionist and struggling to sleep. If a child is falling asleep within five minutes of their head hitting the pillow, they should probably be going to bed earlier. Other sleep tips include having regular bedtimes, not being on your mobile phone in bed, but if you are, turning down the backlight on it.
As research into psychology continues to develop, we learn more and more about how best to help students learn. Revision time can be challenging as it often requires students to monitor their own behaviour when working independently at home. Hopefully, by teaching them about what helps improve their memory, mood and concentration, we can better equip them to meet the challenges head on.
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How To Write Science Reports & Science Practicals For Biology, Chemistry & Physics
This guide can be used by GCSE science and AS Level and A Level biology, AS Level and A2 Level chemistry and physics students who need to help to write up science coursework as part of their syllabus. This can apply to AQA, Edexcel, WJEC, OCR, SQA and CCEA specifications. However it also can be used as a general guideline for students who require help, advice and tips on how to write science practicals, scientific experiments and science reports for degree and university levels. It can also help students with the writing of science experiments and reports for Medicine, Biochemistry, Biomedical Science and Forensic Science as well as other subjects including Psychology, Ecology and Environmental Science.
The Basics - How To Write A Science Experiment, Chemistry or Biology Report
There is a general standardised formal structure to writing science, biology and chemistry reports which you will need to follow. This section will deal with the basics that all science students should be aware of when writing up chemsitry coursework or biology coursework. All science practicals should be written in impersonal past tense. Impersonal means that you should avoid using any phrases that include personal terms such as we or I. Past tense means that you must describe the experiment as if it has already been carried out (with the exception of any planning section that you may need to submit as part of your report). Avoid using future tense in any science, chemistry or biology practicals or writing it as if you are describing a method or instructions for others to follow. This can be quite difficult to master at first. Here is a couple of examples of right and wrong.
Wrong Personal - "WE added five cm3 of buffer solution to tubes A and B and then I incubated both tubes in a water bath at 37 degrees centigrade."
Right Impersonal - "Five cm3 of buffer solution WAS added to tubes A and B and THEN both tubes were incubated in a water bath at 37 degrees centigrade."
Wrong Future Tense - "YOU WILL need to label 5 tubes from one to five and add 1cm3 of reagent to each." Or "WE WILL be labelling 5 tubes from one to five and ADDING 1cm3 of reagent to each.""
Right Past tense - "Five tubes WERE labelled from one to five and 1cm3 of reagent WAS ADDED to each."
General Layout For Science Coursework & Scientific Experiments
The sections usually included in science reports are:-
- Aim or Abstract
- Discussion/ Evaluation/ Methods of Improvement
Title of your Science Report
Your science report title should be short but detailed enough to accurately describe the work that has been carried out. At the top of your report you should also include the date and your name (the author) and the name of any collaborators if there were any.
Aim or Abstract
Aim - The aim section should describe what the purpose of the biology or chemistry experiment is in no more than two or three sentences. This is fine for most reports for high school up to GCSE level.
Abstract - As you begin to study at a higher level i.e post 16/ undergraduate / university / postgraduate you will need to include an abstract section instead. This is a summary in one paragraph of the entire work including results and conclusion. In academic publications the abstract is useful as it allows others to quickly judge if your work is relevant and of interest to them and warrant more detailed reading. It provides a similar role to the summarised content you find on the back covers of books. The most difficult aspect in writing an abstract is trying to summarise a long and complex report in a short paragraph without leaving out anything important.
Background / Introduction
This shows your understanding of the science behind the report but it must be relevant. In the science coursework background / introduction you include any background information you have found whilst researching your topic. Include relevant previous work done by yourself or others. Diagrams and images can be included if you so wish, but remember if you do use other sources such as books, other publications or internet sites then you MUST list those sources in your reference/ bibliography section.
Your science experiment hypothesis should be clear and be in the form of a question that you want to find the answer to. Ideally the question should have a yes or no answer. For example in a chemistry practical the following hypothesis may apply : "Does vitamin C in orange juice oxidise over time when exposed to the air?" A clear and well written hypothesis can help point the way to what data you need to gather to help you find the answer. Once you know what data you need that helps in the experimental design. So as you can see the hypothesis is the foundation around which your report should be designed and built.
From the science experimental data you obtain (if the experiment is well planned and carried out) you should be able to say if the hypothesis has been either supported or not in your conclusion section.
Your science practical method should include a list of the equipment and the method used. Although you must write your method in past tense and not as a series of instructions to others, it must be detailed enough for others to follow and repeat your work if required. This reproducibility of results by others is one of the cornerstones of the scientific method.
Science Experiment Results
Your science experimental results section should be well presented and include your data in table and graphical form. Any calculations you used on your data including statistical tests if required should also be in this section. Presentation is everything and all graphs should have a title and all axis should be labelled. Do not scale your graphs so that they fill the entire page and butt right up against the margin (a pet hate of mine). It is better to divide your scale by two and have a smaller half sized graph in the centre of the page. If you use this approach you may be able to fit more than one graph per page allowing the reader to review your graphical data and spot trends more easily. If the graphs are on separate pages then they have to flip back and forth between them. You need to choose the correct type of graph for the data you are presenting. A histogram is ideal for comparing two groups whilst a line graph is better for showing how enzyme activity varies with temperature.
You must resist the temptation to make any comments on your results in the results section. That is what the conclusion section is for. An experienced scientist will, by looking at the your results, be formulating their own conclusions based on your data and you should not influence your reader by including your own thoughts and comments here. Once the reader has reviewed your data and maybe come up with their own conclusion they can then move on to the conclusion section and see if your conclusion and theirs agree.
Science Coursework Conclusion
This is where you review your data and state your opinions and arguments of what the results show AT LENGTH. A half page conclusion is not going to get you a good grade. You should quote the data in the results section in support of the scientific conclusion you are making. Such as "as can be seen by graph 3 there is a marked difference between group A and group B which allows the conclusion that ....." etc.
You should state if the hypothesis has been supported or not. Your readers can then decide if they agree or disagree with your conclusions. This is the basis of scientific debate. If the data obtained is not sufficient to support or reject the hypothesis state why and propose further work that will help to generate more data allowing you can draw a firmer conclusion.
Science Report Discussion / Evaluation/ Methods of Improvement
You should include here sources of error that might effect the results. Remember a good scientist is always self critical. If you have used measuring apparatus such as weighing scales for mass or glassware for measuring volumes then you may need to calculate the percentage error of the measuring apparatus. The formula is the smallest graduation halved then divide that number by the volume or mass measured. Finally multiply by 100 to get a percentage. If you have used a pipette to measure 20cm3 of solution and the smallest graduations on the pipette are 0.1cm3apart this means that the actual volume dispensed may be 0.05cm3 (which is (0.1/2)) above or below 20cm3. The actual amount dipensed will be between 19.95cm3 and 20.05cm3.
To calculate the percentage error for this measurement
0.1/2=0.05 and (0.05/20)*100 = 0.25%
Also you could propose here further work or investigations that might be able to produce further data that will support your conclusions.
Reference / Bibliography
You must include all the external sources of information you have used in compiling your report. Each source should be described in sufficient detail to allow the reader to locate and read the source themselves. One standard way for example of quoting a section in a book would be to in this format.
Author(s), Book Title and Edition (year of publication),Publisher, page numbers
Stryer L, et al, Biochemistry 5th ed (2002),W.H.Freeman & Co Ltd, p102-105
Or for a magazine or paper in a scientific journal.
Author(s)(year),Title,Publication and volume, page numbers.
Watson J.D. and Crick F.H.C.(1953) A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic AcidNature 171, 737-738
If there are more than two authors for a source name the main or first author and use the Latin "et al" which means "and others".
For website sources you should quote the full website address.
We hope you have found this guide on how to write a science practical useful and wish you the very best with your grades.
By Emlyn Price - Home Tutors Directory
This guide is original and has been based on our own experiences of advising students during many years of tuition. It is protected by copyright. You may use this for your own personal use or for teaching purposes. It should not however be re-published wholly or in part on other websites or in written publications and certainly not passed off as anyone else's work. If you have seen this article published elsewhere we would like you to let us know by contacting us here.. We can then take action against them.
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