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Key Stage 4 Literacy and Revision Tips

Literacy and Revision Tips for Year 10 & 11

General advice regarding literacy:


  • Read a variety of texts in your own time regularly. You should be reading fiction as well as non fiction.
  • When reading, highlight and annotate significant parts. Writing notes and summaries during or after reading is also an effective way of revising and remembering information.
  • Knowing how to skim and scan texts effectively will be useful for research, revision and in actual examinations. Skimming is quickly casting your eyes over a piece of text to get the gist of it and to discover if it is of interest or relevance to you. Scanning is looking for specific information when you know what you are looking for.


  • Have a dictionary and thesaurus available in your home and use these when writing to help with vocabulary and spellings.
  • Check over your work once completed.
  • Ask someone at home or a friend to check/read over your work. However parents should draw their child’s attention to errors made rather than correcting them themselves.


  • Where homework tasks are to research, look at a variety of sources; internet, books, magazines, etc. The school librarians can help you to find information that will be most useful.
  • Summarise research; it is very important to make notes in your own words based on your findings. For example, for every useful/relevant page of information you read, sum it up in five sentences in a bullet pointed list.
  • Make a note of all the websites and books you have used and which were useful as well as those that were not.


  1. Highlight key points: Underlining or colour coding is a useful first step to breaking down long pieces of writing into more usable short lists or diagrams.
  2. Make a Mind Map: A mind map is really a spider diagram using COLOUR so that each leg of the ‘spider’ is a different colour. Research shows that colour can help us remember things. You could also include pictures on your map to help you remember key ideas.
  3. The Shrinking Mind Map: The aim of the game in revision is to reduce a lot of material into a small space. ‘Shrink’ your original mind map two or three times by reducing the amount of detail on it but using the same colours for the same ideas. By your final shrunken map, you may have only ten words on it but each word will trigger your memory of all the other ideas that were on your original map.
  4. Song, Rhymes, Mnemonics and Acronyms: Making up catch phrases or rhymes can help you with crucial bits of information, e.g. to help you sort out which is the x and which is the y axis on a graph you could remember “x below y because y goes up high”. It may make you cringe but you won’t forget it! Mnemonics and Acronyms can do a great deal more for you. A mnemonic is a word or abbreviation than helps you remember. An acronym is a word made up using the first letters of a series of other words, for example in English, you must consider TAP before doing a piece of writing:
    1. Type of text
    2. Audience
    3. Purpose
  5. Lists, Charts and Notes
    The traditional way of revision is to make lists of information and it may well be that your brain likes this better than any other way. If you are going to make lists, try and find ways of making them interesting and keeping them short; use the Shrinking Mind Map technique here too.
  6. Study Buddy: Sharing Learning – one of the most effective ways to learn is to teach someone else! So don’t sit and struggle alone!
  7. Practising Previous Exam questions: All exams are written in a coded language because, there are often not many different questions that you can be asked about in particular subjects. What does happen is that the same questions are asked in different ways or wrapped up in what can be confusing language. A massive key to success in examinations is understanding the question that you are being asked. This may sound obvious but so many people, although well prepared, have misunderstood the question and have written down irrelevant information for which they cannot be given marks.

Over 60% of all errors in exams are caused by not reading the question properly.

In the Exam

  • Read the whole of the exam paper before you begin; it is shocking how many candidates do not see the final question at the back of the paper! Your brain also starts to plan for the questions ahead.
  • Take the time to read questions carefully and consider what they are asking you by looking closely at the command words (see below).
  • Highlight key words or important parts in texts.
  • Skim texts to begin with, then scan for information once you have read the questions.
  • Plan your answers before you launch straight into writing longer answers. Use a simple bullet pointed list of key words and ideas you need to include in your answer, then at the end, check over your answer to ensure you have covered all key points from your plan.
  • Check over your answers at the end not only to ensure you have answered all the questions in the paper, but that you haven’t made any errors like leaving out words in a sentence, misspelling words, leaving out punctuation etc.

Understanding Command Words in Your Exams

Account for Explain why something is the way it is.
Analyse Explain your view of why the main points of an idea, text or process are important.
Calculate Show the method and obtain a numerical answer.
Compare & contrast Write about the differences and similarities.
Criticise Analyse and make a judgement or give an opinion but do not just be negative!
Define Give a brief explanation of what something means.
Describe Say what something or someone is like or give an account of events.
Discuss Consider and examine a text or idea and explore it/write about it in detail.
Evaluate Make a judgement about the quality of something, taking evidence into account.
Explain Give reasons for WHY and HOW.
Identify Find and point out the required features or reasons.
Interpret Explain what you understand to be the meaning, or what someone else intended the meaning to be.
Justify Give good reasons for.
Summarise Give the main points of an idea or an argument.

Useful websites
Provides fantastic factsheets, worksheets, games and quizzes on grammar, spelling, reading, listening, writing and vocabulary.
Great tips on how to proofread and check over your work.
All students should have passwords for this revision website.
Useful for revising all your GCSE subjects.

Ask your teachers for other subject specific revision websites and resources.