Published on 22nd March 2019 by lauram

Balancing Coursework and A-Level Exams

Managing to balance coursework, exams and applying to medicine is a big ask, but it’s definitely achievable – if you can manage this, you can manage medical school!  

The good thing about coursework is that it’s for the subjects you already want to do well in for exams – so why not combine the two?

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1. Use your coursework as revision

Using your coursework as a way to revise for exams is a really useful tool. If you’re writing about a particular reaction for a piece of chemistry coursework, once you’ve finished writing about that one, try revising similar reactions/ reactions with the same catalysts or reagents.

Try and use your coursework as a springboard into revision, whether that’s revising something similar to what you’ve just been working on, or using your coursework as the way to check you’ve understood your work. If you can explain a theory or concept in the prose required for coursework, then you’ve understood it well!

Think of working as exercising a muscle. Whichever exercise you do, whether it’s more exam oriented revision, or reading up on topics to write about in coursework, you’re stretching that muscle, helping to build it stronger and stronger.

The more work you do, however you do it, the stronger your understanding of that subject will be. Perhaps writing about osmosis is boring you, but you decide to read about how osmosis is actually used in the body, or what unusual uses of osmosis there are- you’re still strengthening your understanding of the core topic at hand.

Read the 3 Most Effective A-Level Revision Techniques>>

2. Make a revision timetable

As with all deadline heavy periods, having a revision timetable is useful. Try to spread your work out, so you’re not revising the whole of one subject on one day, but in the same way try to link similar topics together from multiple subjects.

For example, if you know you’d like to revise the acid base balance, try and learn the associated chemistry first, and then draw in biological concepts to understand why it’s important in living organisms.

If you’ve just spent all day revising a horrible chemistry topic, try something easier from another subject- you don’t want to stress yourself into thinking everything is really difficult when you’ve just chosen to tackle the idea at the wrong time!

3. Prioritise your coursework

Coursework tends to have to be done before exam revision, so prioritise that. Knowing whether you’ve understood something in coursework will also help you to work out which topics you’ll need to spend more time on for the exam.

Equally, if you find that you get really into your coursework and you feel like you’ve completely understood it, it means you can spend less time revising it later.

Spacing out when you work on something for coursework and when you cover the topic again for revision is really important, as you don’t want to revise it all at the beginning of the year and find out you’ve forgotten it all come exam time.

Read How to Create an Effective Revision Timetable>>

4. Find other ways to revise

Biology and subjects with less equations in are good for revising in times when you don’t need to be able to write anything down.

This includes listening to podcasts on the bus, reading through your notes whilst you’re waiting for a class to start, or just studying diagrams whilst you’re eating.

You’ll find you have plenty of this time not necessarily designated for revision – but if you’d spend that time staring into space or at your phone, why not spend it staring at something useful?

Read 5 A-Level Chemistry Revision Tips>>

5. Relax!

Work-heavy times are the most important times for relaxation as well, so make sure you schedule some time to be yourself. Whether that’s promising yourself that you’ll stop work at 6pm every day and spend the rest of the time getting some exercise, cooking or hanging out with your friends or family, having time to switch off is essential.

Learning to make the most of your free time is a crucial skill for university and is definitely something that needs practice, so start as soon as you can! It’s also a massive source of motivation knowing that if you can just struggle through that last half an hour of revision, you can go and have a nice hot bath and watch some terrible TV.

Words: Katie Hodgkinson

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