Have you been exploring ways to teach students how to revise for exams? It’s something lots of students struggle with. Based on recent experience of taking students through GCSE exams this idea was devised by DHT Deb O’Connor; a simple and powerful formula to convey the essence of good learning and revision. Neatly, it also forms an acronym with another layer of meaning: FACE it! Daunted by revision for exams? FACE it! Think you know it already? FACE it!
Facts. Identify the key facts that need to be known and learn them. Memorise them. Test yourself. You can’t explain something if you can’t remember the key facts.
Apply in context: Use recall of facts to solve problems in new contexts; it’s not enough to learn isolated facts. Test that knowledge in different scenarios using questions in books and past papers.
Connect to other ideas: Increasingly you need to make links between topics – eg Energy and forces in science from different areas (eg mechanics and magnetism); comparing the use of techniques between different texts; seeing common patterns in historical events or geographical processes.
Exam practice: Use past exam questions to rehearse the process of responding under time pressure, demonstrating your knowledge and understanding, taking account of the marks available.
This simple formula gives students a structure for the process of revision that can otherwise seem nebulous and overwhelming: learn the facts; apply them in context; connect to other ideas; practise exam questions. It may seem obvious – but for a lot students it really isn’t. They browse through their revision materials endlessly but ineffectively.
For example, in Biology:
- Facts: the equation for photosynthesis; the role of chlorophyll; the starch test; the concept of limiting conditions; the concept of gas concentration.
- Apply in Context: learn how graph of crop yields vs CO2 concentration relates to the equation; learn how results of covered leaf or variegated leaf experiments can be explained
- Connect to other ideas: link work on crop yields to nitrogen cycle, nitrogen-fixing bacteria and use of nitrate-providing fertilisers,
- Exam practice: complete exam questions: eg a CO2 graph needs to be analysed for 4 marks; leaf starch test results need to be explained for 3 marks.
‘FACE it’ works for the revision process in lots of content heavy subjects. It also works as a description of learning at a more general level. In fact it reads as an expression of the Trivium (with a different E):
- Facts: grammar; knowledge.
- Apply and Connect ideas: dialectic; discussion, exploration, problem solving
- Express the learning: rhetoric, extended verbal answers, written responses, models, products.
Taking this a bit further, you could tell your students to ‘FACE the FEAR’, the very real fear of exams and revision. But now FEAR is ‘FACE Everything And Revise’.
Cue Ian Brown…
So, next time one of your students is struggling with their revision tell them not to give up; they just need a method. They need to FACE it.