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Title Page

Copyright Page


Chapter 1: You

Chapter 2: What Kind of Learner Are You?

Chapter 3: Visual, Auditory or Kinaesthetic?

Chapter 4: Making the Most of Your Learning Style

Chapter 5: Where to Start with Your Revision

Chapter 6: Preparing your Revision Space

Chapter 7: Overcoming Revision Stress

Chapter 8: How to Deal with Anxiety

Exam Check-Up

Chapter 9: Organising Your Notes: Part 1

Chapter 10: Organising Your Notes: Part 2

Chapter 11: Wider Reading

Chapter 12: Using the Internet

Chapter 13: How to Spot if a Fact Is Actually a Fact

Chapter 14: Practising Your Exams

Chapter 15: Marking Your Practice Exams

Exam Check-Up

Chapter 16: The Exams

Conclusion: Advice from Teachers


So here it is.

For your whole life (or your whole life so far), your teachers have been telling you pretty much one thing and one thing only… your exams matter.

Perhaps, to help intensify that statement, they’ve even added a few keywords here and there: ‘career’, ‘UCAS’, ‘university’, ‘prospects’, ‘your adult life’. Sound familiar?

The fact is, your teachers are absolutely right. The exams you are about to take absolutely do matter. But what your teachers sometimes forget is that when they pile all that pressure on you, it can only lead to one thing.


But the truth is that stress doesn’t actually need to be a part of exams. Sure, exams need to be revised for, prepared for and planned for, but that doesn’t mean that you need to get stressed. With the right amount of all those things just mentioned – revision, preparation, planning – plus a healthy dose of good strategies that you can use both in and out of the classroom, you can approach your exams with just the right mindset it takes to pass and to succeed.

And it is exactly those good and healthy strategies – the ones that can put you on the right path to face your exams with all you need to pass them with flying colours – that this book is packed with.

So – do you want those crucial A*s? And do you want to achieve them with the least amount of stress possible? Then read on. This book will tell you how to do both.

How to use this book

A* in Exams isn’t just any old revision guide. Instead, this is a revision guidebook, and like all guidebooks it can be followed step by step in a chronological fashion. A* in Exams will take you through the entire revision process, from the moment your exams first appear on the horizon to the moment you sit them and through all the moments in between, so that you know exactly what you need to be doing and exactly in what order.

At the end of each chapter, we’ve provided a checklist of all the things you will have learnt in that chapter. Make sure you’ve done these things before turning to the next chapter, and physically show that you’ve done them by ticking them off, making a note of them or even sharing them with your friends. This will help to consolidate the learning in your mind, proving that you are ready to continue.

Along the way, you will also encounter asides from Richard Benson, the author of the F in Exams series of books, who has a first-class degree in how not to do well in exams. His contributions to this book are here to entertain you and give a little light relief while you’re studying – but please don’t follow his advice!



Chapter 1: You

The most important thing of all

We’re going to start this book with perhaps the most important thing of all – and that is YOU.

Never forget that the exams you are about to take are YOUR exams. They are not there to make your teachers feel that they’ve done their jobs properly. They are not there to test your mum and dad’s parenting skills. They are not there to mark out your school’s position in the league table. They are for YOU and YOU ALONE.

Now, this might sound a little scary at first. It might put a whole lot of responsibility on you that you don’t necessarily feel you can handle at this stage in your life. But it’s really not that scary at all – especially not when we add to it the second most important thing to remember.


Exams are not your enemy

All of your exams will ask you about things that you have learnt, things that you do know. They are not there to catch you out or make you look stupid. They are there simply to assess your knowledge on the subjects you have been studying, and then to reward you for your answers.


Exams give marks for the things you get right. They never deduct marks for the things you get wrong.

So let’s put those two points together. Exams are there to help YOU show the world what you can do, and not what you can’t do. And, believe me, you can do and you know probably far more than you’re even aware of. Think about it. If you’re 14 then you’ve been at school for nine years! If you’re 18 then you’ve been at school for 13 years!

Sure, you’ve been doing plenty of other stuff in that time – you’ve been growing up, you’ve been making friends you’ll have for the rest of your life, you’ve been discovering the hobbies you enjoy and the things that you like to do and might like to do more of in the future – but over all those years the thing you’ve been doing more than anything else is learning.

You are amazing – no really, you are!

You are a learner, and you’re a pretty incredible one, at that. Think about a job that a member of your family does. Maybe they’ve been doing that job for nine years, maybe even for 14. They’ve been learning, too – all that time they’ve been doing the job, they’ve been learning how to do it as well as they possibly can. But – whether their job is a mechanic or a doctor or a computer programmer or a teacher – the fact is they’ve only been learning one thing. And you? You’ve been learning ten, 12, maybe even 15 different things all at the same time!

When was the last time your mum read a Shakespeare play, differentiated equations and conducted a survey on eating habits – all in the same day? When was the last time your dad wrote a persuasive letter, practised his French and read about World War Two – all in the same day? When was the last time your uncle created a PowerPoint presentation, conducted an experiment on heat convection and played a game of tennis – all in the same day? Not for a long, long time, I can tell you.

Whereas you – well, you do all that each and every day, and you have been doing that each and every day for years and years now. You are an absolute wealth of knowledge, a fountain of intelligence, and you hold the answers to so much that adults can only guess at.

So be confident

Exams are there to help you show off that knowledge, that intelligence, those answers. The people who write exam papers (and this may be difficult to believe but, trust me, it’s true) want you to show the world what a brilliant learner you are. Because you are – and there’s no denying that. YOU are.

So – the first two steps to your exams are simple ones: understand that they are for you alone and that they are there to help you succeed.

Now you know that, we can get on to the more specific stuff – making sure you get those A*s.


This first checklist is perhaps the easiest of all of them, but it is no less important. To get yourself in the right frame of mind and to ensure that you will end up getting the grades you deserve, it is absolutely crucial that you understand and take to heart the following two sentences:

I understand that my exams are there for me and no one else.

I understand that my exams are designed to help me succeed at what I do best.

Warning signs that exams are coming (Episode 1)

1. The head teacher starts giving really long assemblies, which have so many statistics, facts and figures that you feel like they’re going to make your eyes implode.

2. You spend the rest of the assembly wondering what it would look like if your eyes really did implode. Then you realise that you wouldn’t be able to see it – because your eyes would have imploded.

3. You wonder what ‘implode’ actually means.

4. You’ve thought the word ‘implode’ so many times that it starts to sound weird.

5. You wonder if ‘implode’ is actually a word, or if you’ve just made it up.

6. You turn to the person sat next to you and ask: ‘Is “implode” a word?’

7. They look at you as if you’re insane.

8. You think about raising your hand and asking a teacher if ‘implode’ is a word, but realise that’ll probably make you look even more insane.

9. You wonder what looking insane looks like.

10. You’ve thought the word ‘insane’ so many times that it starts to sound weird.

11. You wonder if ‘insane’ is actually a word, or if you’ve just made it up.

12. You turn to the person sat next to you and ask: ‘Is “insane” a word?’

13. You realise that the person next to you has left the assembly.

14. You realise that everyone except you has left the assembly.

15. You run to Geography, and when the teacher asks you why you’re late, you think it probably best to lie.

Other excuses for being late:

I saw on the news there’s a shortage of teachers so I thought you might not be here.

I wanted to treat you to an easy morning.

My alarm was drowned out by my snoring.

Chapter 2: What Kind of Learner Are You?

Now that we’ve established that your exams are about you and you alone, the next thing you need to decide is – what kind of learner are you?

Have you ever wondered why, say, you’re really good at English but not so good at Maths; or why your friend always gets selected for the A teams in PE but struggles to concentrate in History; or why your other friend seems to have a real knack for modern foreign languages but just can’t get his head around most IT lessons?

Maybe it goes deeper – maybe it’s not just about different subjects, but different areas within one subject. Maybe you can solve every equation your Maths teacher sets you, but when it comes to algebra you’re stumped at the first step? Maybe you read a book a week and write reviews on them, which always get you top marks, but when you need to give a speech to the rest of the class you’re a gibbering wreck who stumbles through the words and can’t even make eye contact with your best friend?

If this all sounds familiar, it’s because it should. Everybody knows somebody who seems to do well at everything (and if you don’t know someone like that, then it’s probably you), but, for most of us, we tend to excel in some subjects and not do so well in others. There are some subjects that we just love and others we could do without.