If you’re reading this and you can relate to one of the following, then you should start here before reading the other techniques.
- Don’t know why the specification is essential to you
- Don’t know where to find the specification for your course
- Don’t use the specification for normal day-to-day lessons
- Don’t use the specification every time you do revision
1. Don’t know why the specification is essential to you
Every science course, whether it’s OCR, AQA, Edexcel etc, has a clearly defined set of content that teachers are supposed to teach – this is what’s contained in the specification. So the good news, is if this is what’s been produced to ensure teachers teach you everything you need to know, well that means you’ve effectively got a ‘cheat sheet’ for the exam, especially as examiners can only ask you questions on this content. Here’s an example:
this is a ‘snip’ from a chemistry specification…
…and this is one of the first questions in the Chemistry Higher Paper – “simples!”
The specification also contains valuable information that your teachers should share with you, but if they haven’t, look it up yourself. These include, what topics are going to be examined in each paper, or if certain papers only contain certain content. For example, Edexcel Certificate (IGCSE for the state schools), has two papers, and Paper 1 excludes all the bold content, meaning you can better plan your revision.
2. Don’t know where to find the specification for your course
Below are direct links to the specification held on the exam boards’ website. If you’re not sure what specification you’re following, ask one of your science teachers. I’ve only included the three main ones in the UK state schools, but the others are easy to find just by doing a search in Google.
- Gateway Science Suite (9-1) – Combined; Biology; Chemistry; Physics
- Twenty First Century Science Suite (9-1) – Combined; Biology; Chemistry; Physics
- A-level – biology; chemistry; physics
- 9-1 – Combined: Trilogy; Combined: Synergy; Biology; Chemistry; Physics
- A-level: Biology; Chemistry; Physics
3. Don’t use the specification for normal day-to-day lessons
With every science class in my school, I make sure every student have a copy of the specification in a format that makes it easy to access, allows them to know when they’re covering that specification point, and a chance to quickly self-reflect on the content. Even if your school hasn’t made ‘specification trackers‘, you can just print off the pages from the specification links above. This is an example of what I have at the start of every new unit.
At the start of a lesson, students date the specification point(s) being covering. At the end of the lesson, students quickly decide how they’ve found the level of work. Hopefully, they’re in the ‘confident’ box, but if not students know immediately they need to look back at this content again (and before the next lesson). The reason for dating the specification points is:
- if you miss a lesson then you can quickly check a friend’s book and see what specification points were covered in that lesson. This is better than just copying notes, in case your friend has missed something specific that’s key to the specification point.
- when you come to revise a particular specification point, you know exactly what lesson you learned it in
If your school doesn’t give you tracker sheets, I’d suggest making them yourself, as they’re quick to do and are massively beneficial.
4. Don’t use the specification every time you do revision
Why bother learning that extra content that your teacher included in the lesson, when you could just be focusing on only what is coming up in the exam?!
From revising for a class test and building your revision timetable, to having them highlighted at the top of your flashcards you’re holding just before you walk into the exam hall, the specification has to be the one thing that you consistently use.
I’ve made lots of references to using the specification in the different ‘revision technique’ pages and how you can use it effectively, and will continue to in blogs and additional pages that I write.
Needless to say if used regularly and effectively, you should never be in the exam and have that dreaded moment when you read the question and think “I’ve never been told about this” or “this is not what I was expecting”!
Inspired? Try it now
Why not download the specification for your course, build a revision tracker, or just write out any ‘recall’ or ‘state’ type specification points and start sticking them around your house or make a flashcard?
If you’ve found this page useful, leave a comment. Also, if you have any hints of tips that have helped you when using the specification, leave a comment below and share your knowledge with others.