5 Ways to Catch Up in the New Academic Year

by Anita Naik

With students having been away from the classroom since March, getting schools fully up and running in September is part of the plan to help pupils feel ready for next year's GCSEs and A-Level exams. If, however, you think your learning has taken a hit and want to be more prepared for the new academic year, here are five ways to help yourself now.

Know and fill your current knowledge gaps

For the 2021 GCSE and A-Level cohorts, the missing material for exams is likely to be both foundational and core knowledge, which means new lessons, can't build on groundwork, without playing catch up. You may be aware of your knowledge gaps or unsure of what you need to know and why. If so, it pays to spend some time looking at what you did and didn't learn in the last academic year.

The best way to do this is to:

Look at the specification for your exam from the exam board. You can find this online and see how much of it you have covered so far. Ask for feedback from teachers.Test whether you understand a concept or theory by writing a summary of it, then trying to explain it to someone else. This will show you how much you know and what areas you need to work on.

Once you know what you are missing, work on these areas to catch up so that new work makes more sense and you are fully covered for future exams.

Seek extra help where you are struggling

By actively searching for help, rather than ignoring your knowledge gaps, you will help make your learning more well rounded. There is a multitude of ways to find help, from using a subject specialist tutor - to asking for extra help from teachers. This route allows for the best one-to-one support for a specific subject along with examination tips and revision advice.

Setting up your own learning pod or joining one is another winner. Working with other students and being engaged in some form of group work has been shown to increase knowledge and develop essential skills like communication and problem-solving.

It's also worth using your research skills online and looking at relevant StudyTubers on YouTube and following hashtags on Tik Tok like #GCSEAdvice and #AlevelsAdvice for support and peer-to-peer tips.

Revise what you do know

Even though a good part of the last academic year has been missed and homeschooling wasn't ideal, you will still have covered a large number of topics in your subjects. Start revising the information you have already studied, to help with your future workload and potential mock exams.

This means going over your home learning notes from the whole of your GCSE (or A-level) period and revising what you have done so far (from September to lockdown). Working through a subject revision guide will also help here to show you how much you should know and how much you need to know.

Look at past examination papers

Practice with past examination papers as this takes in all the above points and will show you exactly where you are at the start of term, allowing you to seek extra help.

When doing a paper, make sure you check your answers and looking for the mistakes that will cost you marks. If you do this every time you try a practice paper, you will become adept at avoiding these in your actual GCSE or A-level paper.

Past exam papers are also one of the most helpful tools available to prepare you for exams, as they give you clear insight into how the exam paper will look and how key themes or subject areas are likely to be covered.

For more help on revision and catching up, see our blog posts on The Benefits of a Maths Tutor, GCSE Advice for Year 10 and Top 10 Benefits of Online Tutoring.