A-Levels are hard, a lot harder than GCSE. Some people go as far to say that they are the hardest thing you’ll do in life – so how can you ensure that you’ll succeed in them?
In this article, I’ll be taking a look at the best time to start your revision for A-Levels, and other related questions. If you’re struggling to figure out your revision schedule or are just not sure where to start, you’ve come to the right place.
You should start revising about 7 weeks before your first A-Level exam for best results. Any later than this and you face the risk of not being able to cover everything. Any earlier than this and you could end up forgetting what you revised at the beginning. Obviously, everybody is different, so this time frame is just a recommendation.
When Should You Start Revising For Your A-Levels?
A-Levels are very important, not just for getting into university. Employers tend to look at your A-Levels when considering employing you (whether you went to university or not). If you don’t have good A-Levels, then it’ll be difficult to really progress high in your chosen career path.
This means that you’ll want the best possible grades, and you get those by effective revision. Starting at the right time can make all the difference in your exams, and starting at the wrong time can be detrimental.
The average student takes 3 A-Levels, but the number of exams you take will depend on what A-Levels they are. For example, you’d take more exams for A-Level Maths than you would A-Level Law.
The best time to start your revision will allow you enough time to cover all of the content in all of your exams. This shouldn’t be too early, as you’ll have already have gone over the content in class (and your independent study).
It’s all about finding the balance between starting too early and starting too late.
Students from WhatUni say that the minimum time you should set yourself to revise for an exam is four to five weeks. This is about a month in advance of your exam, which will give you enough time to revise effectively.
Of course, this is only the minimum amount of time you should spend. For best results, I’d add a few more weeks on to that number, just to ensure your success.
This brings the total up to about 7 weeks in advance of your first exam. This should hopefully give you enough time to go over everything you need, so you don’t mess up and divebomb your grades.
I hopefully don’t need to do the maths for you here, but that’s 49 days to revise. If your exam is at the start of May, then your starting point for revision will be around the middle of March.
If you’re looking for the right revision starting point for GCSEs, then it’s fairly similar. I have a whole article dedicated to going over that here, so make sure to check it out.
When Is It Too Late To Start Revising For A-Levels?
The short answer is, it’s never too late – but starting later than 2 weeks before your first A-Level exam is too late… As I’ve already said, any revision is better than no revision at all. It’s never too late to start making an effort to improve your A-Level results.
Even revising on the day before your exam can help, too. It won’t help much if you really have done nothing before, but it may be useful to cram that last-minute info before the big day.
If you’re looking for a point where revising for your A-Levels becomes almost obsolete, however, then what follows is what you want.
The absolute minimum amount of time you should spend revising for your A-Level exams is 2 weeks. If you start at any point later than this, you risk putting your A-Level exam results in serious jeopardy.
This is because A-Levels are extremely difficult. If you’re not 100% committed to working hard for them, then they can go pear shaped fast.
You need to allow yourself enough time to go over all the content you’ve learned throughout the course. Not only this, but you need to do it for 3 A-Levels.
2 weeks is also the bare minimum – you’ll need some seriously impressive cramming skills to pull it off. It’s much better to stretch out your revision over the course of 7 weeks if you want the best results.
Starting your revision so close to your exams also causes an unneeded amount of stress. As your mental health deteriorates, so do your grades.
Having said this, don’t forget that any amount of revision will still help. Even if you’ve left it until literally the morning of your exam, don’t give up – do some revision.
Speaking of the morning of an exam, take a look at this article for tips on what to do if you have left it very, very late. If you’re someone who finds it difficult under exam pressure, this article will definitely help you out.
What Can You Do If You Have Left Your A-Level Revision Too Late?
Your time is up, and your exam is just around the corner. You haven’t revised (enough) and the panic is starting to set in. What can you do to help?
There are lots of things you can do. Possibly the most important one to remember is not to panic. A-Level exams are stressful enough as it is without the added worry of your revision time. However, it is equally important that you ensure that the revision techniques you are using from now on are actually effective!
If the revision techniques that you are using right now are not effective, you really should check out (and hopefully implement) our recommended revision techniques.
You need to stop worrying about how late you’ve left it. Just get started revising immediately. Immediately after you have read this article of course…
Don’t lose sleep worrying about your exam, and definitely don’t trade sleep for revision. Sleep is essential if you want to keep your concentration up during your exams (which you do).
Don’t give up, either. Your exam may be too close for comfort, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll fail. As long as you try your hardest, you’ll have something to show for it.
Another important thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter what other people have done. There may be that one kid on your class that’s done heaps of revision, but don’t compare yourself to them.
All that does is lower your morale and self-esteem for your exam, and that gets you nowhere. Focus on yourself and your abilities, and just try your hardest in that exam.
If you need some more tips on what to avoid doing if you’re stressed, check out this article. It’s got loads of helpful info on how to stay cool, calm, and collected during exam season.
The best thing to do is revise and hope for the best. Even if it’s the morning of your exam, just cram as much information into your short-term memory and keep your fingers crossed.
For all you late bloomers out there, your recipe for success is staying calm and cramming revision. If you do that, then you should be all set for your A-Level exams.
Also, depending on how late you have left your revising, your morning routine on the day of your exam will be increasingly important. Click here to find out what you should be doing on the morning of your exam.
Can You Start Revising Too Early For Your A-Level Exams?
We all know that it gets to a certain point where you have to revise, in order to avoid failing. Turning it around, however, is there a point where revising is ineffective because your exams are so far away?
The answer is yes, most definitely.
Revising too early for your exams can lead to you forgetting the information by the time the exam rolls around.
When you’re in that exam, and you see a question that relates to the information you revised so long ago, it can be hard to bring it all back.
This has happened to me many times, and it’s more annoying than it sounds. Having the answer on the tip of your tongue and not being able to write it down is VERY frustrating.
It also puts you in a negative mindset for the rest of your exam, which can then affect the rest of your revision confidence. What’s worse than failing an exam from one bad question?
However, this is not to say that it won’t still help. A-Levels are tricky, and any practice you can do to help your understanding of the course is good.
Strengthening the bonds you have between bits of information is always useful. It’ll make it easier for you in the long run, when you have to apply it to questions that really matter.
Just make sure that by the time your A-Level exams DO roll around, you’re ready to go. As long as you’ve got all the knowledge you need stored in your head, then you should be set for some good results.
Your independent study should help with this. Doing hours of independent study will help you when it comes time to revise, as you’ll already have the skills down.
Can You Not Just Pull An All-Nighter Before My Exam?
Using your short-term memory to cram lots of information in is a good idea for revision the day before an exam. With the same logic, is it a good idea to pull an all-nighter?
The answer, without a doubt, is no.
All-nighters are never a good idea so close to your A-Level exams, unless you plan on failing.
All-nighters will give you a chance to do more revision, I agree with that. The problem is, your brain doesn’t have a chance to take all that information in.
You don’t give your mind a chance to rest and process all of the revision you do, and this can lead to some serious mistakes in an exam.
Not only that, but switching out sleep for revision will leave you drowsy and unfocused in your A-Level exam. This leads to even more mistakes, like misreading the question.
Getting facts in your short-term memory is a good idea, especially so close to your exam. But there’s only so much it can hold before it starts letting go of stuff.
This exact reason is why revising a particular way the day before your exam is a good idea, but revising the night before is not such a clever idea. Find out how to revise effectively the day before an exam here.
All-nighters are a terrible idea if you value the success of your A-Level exams. They leave you tired and in the wrong frame of mind for an exam, and they are also a very inefficient way of revising.
You should definitely avoid all-nighters before your exam. For some other things you should stay clear of, take a look at this list of things you should avoid doing during exam season.
Now you can see why all-nighters are a terrible idea, you should also be able to see why setting a revision timetable is important.
If your schedule is already set up in the 7 weeks before your exam, there should be no need for all-nighters. Not only will this leave you feeling refreshed for your exam, it should lead to less stress, too.
Does The Right Time To Start Revising Depend On What A-Levels You Take?
There are loads of A-Levels that you can take at college, and all of them are different from each other. Is the amount of revision time affected by this?
The short answer is yes. There are loads of factors that affect the length of revision time, and A-Level choice is definitely one of them.
The long answer is subject specific. Therefore, if you’re wanting to know an exact answer for your specific subject hit the relevant link below (these articles align the difficulty of a subject with the amount of revision you need to do):
For instance, the difficulty of your A-Level will affect how much time you should spend revising for it. A harder A-Level, such as A-Level Further Maths, will make the starting point for revision earlier than 7 weeks before your exam.
This is because the difficulty of the content makes it harder to learn and stick in your head, meaning you need more time. Similarly, an A-Level that comes more naturally to you will require less time.
It also depends on how many exams your A-Level has. For A-Level Chemistry there are 3 papers, but for A-Level Law there are only 2. This means that you’d have to spend longer revising for A-Level Chemistry than you would A-Level Law.
However, these factors can be completely flipped on their heads, depending on what kind of a learner you are. If you’re a fast learner, it will make you revision starting point a lot closer to your exam date, because you can handle the information quicker.
However, if you’re a slow learner, you’ll probably need some more time than 7 weeks. ESPECIALLY if you take a harder A-Level as well.
If you’re taking some hard A-Levels, I recommend starting your revision even earlier than 7 weeks, let’s say 8 or 9.
If you take some easier A-Levels, then it’s alright if you knock a few weeks of off your revision. Although, it might be beneficial if you stuck with 7, as there’s no harm in a little extra revision.
How Should You Start Revising For Your A-Levels?
We know when the best time to revise is now, but just how do you go about it? Are there any special tricks that will boost your revision efficiency?
A-Level revision is hard, harder than GCSE because of the difficulty of the content. For this reason, it can be difficult to find the motivation to start.
One good way to get your head in the game is to create yourself a revision timetable. This way, all your revision is scheduled for you, and it’s harder to avoid it.
Don’t forget to include some breaks in your timetable, though. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to work as hard as you can for your A-Levels – this is great, but you need some chill time too.
If you feel like your revision is repetitive, then it might be of use to spice it up a bit. Add colour, add shapes, do different things to make it more enjoyable for yourself.
This way you’ll be more engaged with what you’re revising, and it should help your motivation, too. Try out some different revision techniques as well – everyone’s different, so make sure you find the right way for you.
Your revision style will need to change as you get closer to your exam date. For example, there is a specific way to revise the day before your exam and there is also specific things you should be doing on the morning of your exam to help the knowledge stick.
Stay positive, and don’t panic. If you’re worrying about your revision and/or exams, you might find yourself putting it off. This is definitely NOT a good idea.
Relax, put on some good music, and just start. Any revision is better than no revision at all, so don’t worry about doing it right.
One thing I find useful when doing my revision is completing past papers for my A-Levels. This is a great way to do your revision, and it prepares you for your exam techniques, too.
There are also some things you should definitely NOT be doing before your exam. There’s a really helpful article on things you should be avoiding during revision, so make sure to take a look.
How Much Revision Should You Do For Your A-Levels?
Revision should be your main focus in the 7 weeks preceding your exam. It’s sometimes hard to get the amount of revision right – too much and you’re overworked, too little and you’re likely to underachieve.
It’s important to get it right at the very beginning, when creating your revision timetable. Start as you mean to go on, and you’ll find it much easier to do well in your exams.
The amount of revision you do should cover all your subject content in time for your exam. If you do 4 A-Levels, then I’m afraid you’ll have to do substantially more.
My suggestion is about 15 to 20 hours per week. Depending on how you split this up, it isn’t actually that much.
Most students do about 3-5 hours a day, with weekends off. This is great if you fancy a break at the end of the week to just relax and let your hair down.
The other, more intense way of revising is to do 3 hours a day, 7 days a week. This means you don’t get full day breaks, but it also means that you don’t end up forgetting some of the stuff you learnt.
And you know what they say: the best way to revise is little, but often. Revising for just 3 hours a day but 7 days a week will ensure that your A-Level exams go swimmingly.
Obviously, the perfect amount of revision will differ between students, as everybody is different. Some of you might also have days where you can’t do any revision.
Whatever your situation is, make sure you at least do SOME revision. If you don’t revise, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what happens (spoiler alert: you fail).
How Important Are Independent Study Hours For A-Levels?
Studying at college for your A-Levels not only includes class time, but also some independent study hours. These hours are essential for your success in class, but do they count towards your exams?
If we’re talking about raw revision hours, then no. You need to be doing that 15-20 hours revision time on top of your independent study time if you want to succeed in your A-Level exams.
It’s essential you get both of these sets of hours done in the week. If you don’t, you’ll not only start falling behind in lesson, but you’ll also see a fall in your exam grades.
If we’re talking about exam contribution, then yes. Any work you do that relates to your A-Level courses is useful to you.
The more independent study hours you do, the more likely it is that you’ll pass your exams. Independent study is useful for practicing your knowledge and exam techniques but it needs to be done EVERY week, not just in the 7 before your exam.
The reason that you do extra revision in the 7 weeks preceding your exam is to go over what you’ve done in class and your independent study.
Like I’ve said previously, doing work so far away from your A-Level exams means you’re likely to forget it. Revision just reinforces what you’ve done to make sure you’ve got the knowledge secure in your mind.
Make sure that as you near the start of your exams, you’re doing everything you can to ensure your success. This means working hard in class, independent study, and revision time.
If you’re not, you’ll find that you don’t get the grades you’re looking for. Some of the best students I know always go hard at it as we get closer to exams, so I know it works.