Becoming a year 11 or year 12 student can be quite stressful, for several reasons, the main being harder content, and time management. But there is a solution to avoid most of this stress, and that is to start learning the content before school starts! The summer holidays are coming up, and these six weeks are a perfect chance for year 10 students to start learning year 11 content! The same can be said for current year 12 students; start learning the rest of the syllabus before you learn it at school. So without further ado, here are my top 8 tips to maximise your summer holidays and get a head start.
Before you start learning year 11 or 12 content, you must analyse what you already know. Making sure you understand all the content you learnt this year is crucial since it is the foundation for next year. A good way to check your knowledge is to take your syllabus and read over each dot point, and recall the information. Then, check your notes to make sure your knowledge is 100% correct and detailed. If it is, great! Move on to the rest of the syllabus. If you have forgotten, don’t worry! There are plenty of ways to re-learn content by yourself such as reading textbooks and your notes, watching youtube videos relevant to the dot point, and doing practice questions. I will talk about these strategies further in the rest of this article. Revising content works because it helps improve your memory and recall which is essential for exams, and it also ensures that you don’t forget small but necessary details.
When you finish revising, start reading the syllabus for the subject you want to study. Firstly, read through the entire syllabus and pay extra attention to the course content section. Once you finish reading it for the first time, start making notes. In these notes include a summary of: skills, the content focus section, and of course, an overview of the content. When analysing the actual content itself, it’s a great idea to take a look at the inquiry question. Once you analyse the inquiry question, you can make links to the content below it and it is much easier to write your notes as you know what the actual focus of that section is.
Let’s take a look at the year 11 Biology syllabus as an example. The module 1 is called ‘Cells as the Basis of Life.’ The first subtopic is ‘cell structure’ and the inquiry question for that section is ‘What distinguishes one cell from another?’ From this alone we can understand that this section will be focusing on cells, their structures, how their structure is important for their specific roles, and how these differ between cells. Once you understand the general idea, start looking at the specific dot points, and make links to the inquiry question.
Using biology as an example again, let’s look at a dot point. ‘Investigate different cellular structures, including but not limited to: examining a variety of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.’ So how does this dot point link to the inquiry question? Well, it links to the idea that different cells have different functions and hence different structures which help them carry out those functions. Ask yourself questions such as, ‘why is this dot point under this subtopic?’ Thinking like this prompts you to make links to the question.
Sometimes tricks like this work so well that, I was able to successfully predict many questions in several of my Biology exams!
Learning year 11 and 12 content is just like learning any other content! Well, maybe a bit harder. But nevertheless, if you already have strategies that work for you then stick to them, and also experiment with new styles. If you are in year 10, I especially recommend trying new study techniques. Study techniques will vary from subject to subject but basically you have to learn the content, do many practice questions and mock tests.
So how do you actually study? There are several effective study methods, and it often depends on your learning style, but personally, I find it helpful to incorporate various methods. First, I would actively read textbooks, and watch YouTube videos. Some channels that were especially useful were 2 minute neuroscience, CrashCourse, and TedEd videos. I would then start doing practice questions and reading sample answers to gain a better understanding. Once I felt that I understood a concept or topic well, I would make notes while continuing to do practice tests and reading more about the topic online so that I could make my notes a bit more detailed. Once you finish your notes, the main thing is to regularly revise and do as many mock tests as possible
When it comes to learning new content, tutors can really help! They can teach you content just like a teacher would, so it’s a head start since you are taught the same content but earlier. Tutoring centres can also provide great resources such as workbooks and homework which you get feedback on from markers! If individual learning isn’t your thing, then joining a tutoring centre could really help you get a head start.
If you’re happy learning content by yourself but are finding some concepts hard to understand try asking a year 11 or 12 student to help you. Many schools offer mentoring programs where senior students mentor junior students for specific subjects or topics. If there isn’t a program like this at your school, just try asking a senior student for help, or ask your teacher to ask a senior student for you.
One of the key differences between the top students and average students is that top students are, as one of my teachers said, ‘textbook readers’. It’s true. Top students do their research. They go above and beyond and try to actually understand as much as possible, not just memorise information in the hope of achieving a good mark. They always read as much as they can about a topic and understand it. Another reason why they are so invested, apart from getting good results, is that they are genuinely interested in the subject, I’ll explore this further in tip number 8.
Once you think you know all the content and are feeling confident at answering practice questions, test yourself by doing a mock test as I mentioned earlier. Once you finish the test, mark it using the criteria and use the traffic light method to evaluate your understanding of the subject. Take your syllabus and the mock test paper and highlight in green, on your syllabus and the test paper, what you are confident with and score a high mark on. Highlight in yellow the things you understand but need a bit more knowledge or depth in your answer. Finally, highlight in red the questions and corresponding dot points that you need to be able to do better.
This is the traffic light method, and it’s helpful because it ensures that you study efficiently by focusing on topics that you struggle with. This also prevents you from studying only the ‘green topics’ which may in fact be the topics you personally like and spend more time on while neglecting the rest. Therefore, using the traffic light method will help you prioritise which sections to focus on and help you study more efficiently.
Last but not least, make sure you develop a genuine interest in every subject you are studying. It makes the learning experience much more fun, and it helps you remember and recall information better. All of this in turn helps you become a better student. In year 11 and 12 I would often read about other aspects of Biology and Chemistry that were different to the things we learn at school and it was very interesting and exciting! Doing this it becomes a sort of positive feedback loop where the more you read about a subject the more interested you become and study it more. The more you study it, the more interested you become, and you read about it, and it goes on. Developing a genuine interest can also help you with your future university course and eventually career path. It is the tip I think is most important, because it’s easy to focus on a subject when you actually like it!
Thanks for reading, and I hope you find these suggestions helpful when you start studying year 11 and 12 content!