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My A Level Exam Tips 2023 | How do I Plan and Prepare for the Exams?

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By: Ken Deng   Published on 21 May 2022 , Updated on 21 Apr. 2023

Approx. 2000 words, 9 mins

A* Flies to the Sky, Making your Future Bright! A Level exam is coming⏳ and it's time to get more A*s.

There are some A Level exam tips💡 to help you get more A*s🌟, such as planning🗓️, reading questions carefully📖, and testing and reviewing with classmates💬.

In this article, I will give you my advice💡 on the A Level exams as well as my planning system🗓️. Let's go!

Note: This article is mainly for Cambridge International (CAIE) AS and A Level. Different awarding bodies may have different knowledge points and/or course structures.

Common Errors in A Level Exams

Firstly, I have analysed🔍 and summarised some common errors⚠️ in the exams of my chosen subjects from my experiences.

Mathematics (9709)

  • Forgot to keep a suitable number of significant figures (s.f.) or decimal places (d.p.) (usually 3 s.f. (or 1 d.p. in case of angles in degrees) unless specified in the question)
  • Solutions of trigonometry is outside the given range (e.g.  0° ≤ x ≤ 360°, 0 ≤ x ≤ 2π )
  • Forgot to state the y-coordinate when you are asked to write the coordinates.

Physics (9702)

  • Forgot to keep suitable number of significant figures (s.f.) (usually ≥ 2 s.f. in general answers) (e.g. Change 6 A to 6.0 A)
  • Use acceleration of gravity g = 10 m s-2 in A Level Physics exam. It is g = 9.81 m s-2. Don't be confused with 9709 Mechanics!

Computer Science (9618)

  • Forgot to CLOSEFILE after using a file
OPEN "OldFile.txt" FOR READ OPEN "NewFile.txt" FOR WRITE ... ... CLOSEFILE "OldFile.txt" // Remember to Close the Files! CLOSEFILE "NewFile.txt"
  • Forgot ENDPROCEDURE or ENDFUNCTION headers
  • Incorrectly use between pre-condition (WHILE) and post-condition (REPEAT) loops
  • Forgot to add quote marks (' or ") in characters or strings in Trace Tables.
  • Forgot to add CALL when calling a procedure in pseudocode.
CALL MyProcedure1() Num1 <- MyFunction1()
  • Forgot to initialise variables (e.g. set to zero 0).
  • Forgot to DECLARE variables, especially the Count variable for the FOR loop. For example,
DECLARE Count : INTEGER // Remember to DECLARE the Count variable in FOR loop! FOR Count <- 1 TO 10 OUTPUT Count NEXT Count

My A Level Exam Tips

1. Read Questions Very Carefully

Some questions may contain trap options⚠️, especially Multiple-Choice☑️ Questions (MCQs).

When I was practising past papers, I did research🔬 about the traps🗑️ in some incorrect❌ options.

There is still an available (incorrect) option❎ even if you:

  • forgot to multiply or divide by 2 (e.g. ½mv2 in Kinetic Energy),
  • forgot to square or make square root of the numbers,
  • forgot to change units (e.g. from cm to m📏),
  • inversely interpret x- and y-axis (e.g. V-I or I-V graphs📈 of Filament Lamp and Diode),
  • partially finish the question with middle values, or
  • forgot to read the whole question.
Physics MCQ Trap Options 9702/11/M/J/20 Physics MCQ Trap Options 9702/13/O/N/18

Physics MCQ Trap Options

2. Keep your Desk Tidy

Another thing is to keep your desk tidy✨ to make sure you have enough space for your paper-based materials.

In 2022, I have also invented my Ideal Study Environment assumptions🛠️ (derived from Ideal Gas💨, pV=nRT, R=8.31) where I can achieve perfect productivity🌟 while studying📝. For example,

  • 1. WiFi🔗 is Provided (Minimum Speed💨: 50 Mbps (6.25 MiB/s))
  • 2. Enough Lights💡 and Illumination
  • 3. Enough Places📦 to Put Items
  • 4. Electronic Devices💻 are Allowed✅
  • 5. Suitable Desk Height🪧 and Wide Desk
  • 6. Comfortable Chair/Sofa🛋️
  • 7. Has Charging🔋 Ports🔌
  • 8. Food🥙 and Drinks☕️ are Allowed
  • 9. Quiet🤫 (less than 70 dB)
  • 10. Zero Distraction📵, Boredom and Tiredness😴
  • 11. Versatile Decorations🌿
  • 12. Can Stay for a Long Time⏳
  • 13. Relaxing Music🎵🎧
  • 14. No Need to Purchase💷 Items to Stay Here
  • 15. Has Clocks🕘 and/or Timers⏳
  • 16. (New in 2023) Has Peer Pressure👨‍👩‍👧‍👧 (at least 1 other person here, including staff)

My Ideal Environment Assumptions

Practise Past Papers at School

Practise Past Papers at School

3. Don't Leave Many Tasks Until Deadline

I recommend you finish🏁 your tasks on time⏳. No matter what the deadlines📆 are, you always need to complete✅ your tasks.

If you cram💨 or leave too many tasks until deadlines📚, you will rush to make your projects finished. This will lower⬇️ the quality of your projects and so become less effective in your exams.

Review📖 your subjects, especially your upcoming exams, as soon as possible so you have sufficient time for revision as well as your big knowledge database📚.

Reduce procrastination and don't delay your today's tasks. You will have a sense of achievement🏆 by finishing all tasks today.

I usually say🚦:
Do your Tasks at a Steady Rate,
Do Not Rush or Cram,
Do Not Leave Too Many Tasks until Deadline.

My Bedroom Decoration Reminder

My Bedroom Decoration Reminder (My Words)

4. Don't Discuss Answers Loudly After an Exam

I discovered that some students usually discuss💬 the answers with their classmates👨‍👩‍👧‍👧 very loudly📢 after exiting the exam room.

The exam is over⌛️, so the answers cannot be changed✏️.

If your answer is incorrect❌ when discussing answers, not only will you exert pressure😰 on yourself, but also it will affect your mood😴 for preparing for future exams.

Student A: Hello! What was your answer to Question 6 (a) (i)? My answer was 6 A (Ampere, unit of electric current).
Me: My answer was 6.0 A (Ampere). It should be 2 to 3 significant figures (s.f.).
Student A: Oh no!⚠️ I forgot the significant figures!

No matter what your feelings😀 are or what results🏅 you will get after an exam, you always need to prepare for future exams➡️ and subjects.

So, I usually forget the answers when the exam is over like clearing my brain's RAM💾 content.

Related Knowledge

Now, I have discovered related A Level Computer Science (9618, AS) knowledge in real life: RAM (Random Access Memory).

RAM stores the apps📱 and instructions☑️ currently in use, like storing the questions and your answers📄 during an exam.

It is volatile💦, so the RAM content is lost🗑️ when the computer is powered off🪫.

My Revision Methodology

1. Plan and Check for Upcoming Exams

So, how do I plan for my exams? Well, I am using my programmed🧑🏻‍💻 Ken's Study Planner web app🗓️ to make plans.

Since I have programming⌨️ skills, I have made my website and the Planner app🖥️ to easily plan my study journey🚄.

The days of each exam paper for each subject are discrete🖇️, so you need to be aware⚠️ of the date for each exam.

So, I have added them to the Planner's Events🗓️ section.

I use "syllabus code / component code" to name an exam for each paper📄, like "9709/33 (Pure Maths)" and "9618/13 (CS Theory)".

An important🌟 and unique feature of my planner is that it shows how many days are left⏳ until the next exam.

The box will turn orange when there are only 7 days left, and turn red for 3 days.

Ken's Study Planner (2022 Old Interface)

Learn More       Sign Up (Free)

Alternatively, if your school does not allow electronic devices📵, you can list them on a small piece of paper📄.

Did you know?

Ken's Study Planner app and other study resources🗞️ are Always Free🤑 and non-profit. You can sign up and plan🗓️ now.

I use my free time⏳ to help others along with programming⌨️ skills and knowledge🎓 like a volunteer.

2. Review Syllabuses

CAIE international exams have syllabuses📜 which illustrate the knowledge points🎓 to be tested in the exams.

You can download📥 and use the syllabuses to recall🤔 each knowledge point, finding out your missing📚 knowledge points.

The syllabuses are directly available☑️ on the CAIE official website. You can type cambridgeinternational.org/9709 on your browser🌎 (where you can change "9709" to your subjects' syllabus code like 9702 or 9618), scroll down⬇️ and download the syllabus PDF file (and List of Formulae or Data Booklet too!).

Common CAIE A Level Subject Syllabus Codes (for reference only):

  • 9231: Further Mathematics
  • 9618: Computer Science (9608 for old syllabus)
  • 9700: Biology
  • 9701: Chemistry
  • 9702: Physics
  • 9708: Economics
  • 9709: Mathematics
Tip

You need to learn how to use official websites🌎, like using menus and downloading📥 files.

For example, you can find🔍 my other study resources like Habits🔄 on my (this) website's top⬆️ menu.

You also need this skill🌟 when you will apply to universities🏫, like checking entry subject requirements (e.g. A*AA).

CAIE 9709 Syllabus Download Options

CAIE 9709 Syllabus Download Options

For example, in Computer Science (9618)🖥️ syllabus, you may need to describe Abstraction and Decomposition.

So, you need to remember💭 their definitions📓 and understand these key terms🔑.

CAIE 9618 Syllabus Chapter 9

CAIE 9618 Syllabus Chapter 9

3. Review Missing Knowledge Points

After reviewing the syllabuses, you need to look at your textbook📖 and/or some online resources🌎 to review missing knowledge.

You can also recall💭 them using Active Recall while walking🚶 around the school path🛣️.

In the example above⬆️, you will know that:

  • Abstraction is to filter out unnecessary information while only extracting necessary information to solve a problem.
  • Decomposition is to break down a big problem into several smaller steps.

4. Practise Past Papers

You can immerse yourself into the vibe🌿 of taking exams📝 with time limits, and you will be familiar with the question types and how to answer them.

I use my study timer⏳ to limit my time, depending on the exam time limits on each paper.

9618 Past Paper Time Limit

9618 Past Paper Time Limit

My Study Timer

My Study Timer

If you still have too much time⏳ at the end, you can take rest for a few minutes and then read📖 and check each question very carefully⚠️.

You also need to check☑️ the Mark Scheme because you need to know how are papers marked💯 and what types of answers are expected🌟.

For example, you still can get an M1 mark✅ after writing the correct formula (e.g. F=ma, I∝A2) even if you can't do the question.

Related Knowledge

Now, I have discovered related A Level Computer Science (9618) knowledge in real life: Compiler and Interpreter.

In computers, Compilers read the whole program🗞️ at once and then generate an executable file💾 and an error⚠️ report, but Interpreters read and execute one line📄 at a time.

Some students prefer to do the whole paper before checking the mark scheme like a Compiler, but some students prefer checking the mark scheme after doing one question at a time like an Interpreter.

The interpreter stops🛑 once it encounters an error⚠️. The error must be corrected✅ before continuing practising.

5. Test and Review with your Classmates

I test my classmates in my free time🕓 about the knowledge we have learned.

Test Classmates with A Level Physics (9702)

Test Classmates with A Level Physics (9702, Sample)

Based on this methodology, I also make some question papers📄 to express my questions in a written form and test my classmates.

For example, as a Computer Science (9618)🖥️ student, I have made some question papers for my classmates.

My CS Question 5(f)

My Computer Science (AS Level) Questions for Classmates

In 2022, I also had the same idea💡 with one of my other classmates who is a mathematics🧮 student and has also made an A Level Pure Mathematics 3 (9709/P3) question a day just before the exam.

Even if the answers and/or questions may be incorrect❌ or inaccurate⚠️, this is a studying process🌟 and they can be corrected✅ as we review them.

Sometimes, perhaps we can meet the same question types in the exam.

6. Add Stimulating Backgrounds and Decorations

I have also added a stimulating desktop background🖼️ on my laptop and a banner above my apartment bedroom door🚪 to encourage🌟 myself.

From my imagination🪄, The star (*) of A* (A Star) on the certificate🎖️ can be converted into a star in reality, emitting lights💡 in the sky☁️, leading students to a successful✅ way, and encouraging students to study hard/smart.

Did you know?

There are many grades in A Level exams, from A*, A, B, C, D to E, in which A* is the highest one.

That's why I usually say "A* Flies to the Sky, Making your Future Bright!" (my 2021 slogan)

A* A

Apartment A* Exam Motivation Banner

Apartment A* Exam Motivation Banner (2022, AS)

Good Luck with your Exams!

The international exams (e.g. A Level) are coming soon⏳. Hope you can study diligently, get outstanding results and pick more stars🌟 from A* on your international exams! Come on!

If you would like to plan🗓️ your exams with Ken's Study Planner, you can learn more or sign up for free.

Disclaimer

1. Related Knowledge displayed in this article is for ease-of-understanding only. I cannot ensure that they are 100% correct.

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