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Standard Grade Bitesize Review

The BBC produce free online revision materials for a range of exams. I wish that this kind of revision resource had been around when I was at high school. It’s well thought out, brilliantly produced and with short videos that help illustrate ideas and help break the monotony of revision.

Before I took a close look at the Standard Grade Bitesize webpages, I was concerned with the use of video – the idea that you can simply slump in front of the television and learn everything that you need to is very appealing but totally unrealistic.

Happily, the video content is first rate and supports the written material rather than replaces it.

The studying tips on the website are well worth reading and there’s a great short video on active studying techniques that’s very similar to my own thoughts on the subject, but I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t cover some of the really simple, practical active revision techniques such as SQ3R and flashcards.

Because of the nature of the website there are a few things that you should be aware of if you want to get the best out of the material.

The test questions are multiple choice

Answering multiple choice questions requires a very low level of knowledge. They are helpful for making you think, but they suffer from what I call the Usual Suspects Effect.

It’s much easier to pick something out of a line up than it is to describe it. I know what a horse looks like – if you gave me a group of animals and said ‘which one is the horse’ I would get that right almost every time. But if you asked me to draw you an anatomically correct horse, you’d be looking at a very wonky donkey!

You’d naturally take the tests immediately after reading the material

The natural approach would be to read the material and then take the test immediately afterwards. This makes it very easy to get the answers right as it relies on short term memory, giving you a false sense of confidence. It’s the difference between asking someone to recall what they had for breakfast yesterday and asking them what they’ve just finished eating.

The content doesn’t seem to match the marking schemes that closely

I checked their definition of an Expert System against that expected by the marking schemes and it’s missing a number of the keywords.

If you were to remember the exact definition of an Expert System from the BiteSize material you would have given just two of the eight keywords expected by the 2009 marking scheme. Whilst the definition is technically correct, you should not rely on the person marking your exam to interpret your answers. It won’t necessarily be a teacher marking your paper.

There’s no way to filter out topics that you know well

A key to smart revision is to structure your study in a way that keeps you focussed on your weaknesses. I’m a huge fan of systems that do this automatically, but here you need to do it for yourself.

There’s a tool for highlighting web pages that may help you with this: www.awesomehighlighter.com

Getting the best out of the material

I’d advise using the content to write flashcards which ask questions without giving multiple choice answers. The Leitner system can help you to keep the focus on the flashcards that you are getting wrong and you can use them without having just read the material.

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