GCSE A-Level Revision

Can a Revision lesson be fun?

Coursework is almost done and we are moving into that period of time where we focus on the listening exams. Whilst every board is different, fundamentally the listening exams all focus on similar things. I see a lot of people posting questions about what they could do in such a lesson and asking how they can make revision work.

For me what the students need to be able to do is put key terms to what they hear. This is obvious of course, but sometimes they just need some guidance on what exactly a listening exam is testing them on. What I always say is that the answers are being played to them in the exam – they just need to link them to the right key term. It is therefore crucial going in to any music exam that they can identify the key features of music and use the right terminology.

So here are some thoughts on how to approach revision lessons:

Sit at the Piano and Play.

I am not sure what your piano skills are like, I didn’t have piano lessons. But I can safely say that I spend as much time teaching from the piano as possible. A great approach to a revision lesson is to get students to offer up key terms that they may not know and then you demonstrate them at the piano. Listening out for them in actual pieces of music is of course great, but stripping away all of that and just hearing say a Pedal Note or a Sequence on the piano can be really helpful. It is also hopefully inspiring for the students to see you playing all these key terms. I would suggest recording that lesson and sending it out to students for them to listen to – maybe I will do that when I get round to it.

Scrap Heap Questions

Now you may think this sounds like a fad idea and a potential disaster, but for some reasons I find it really works well. You get students to write down either a question or a key term on a piece of paper. They then screw up the paper and after the count of three throw the bits of paper at each other, chaos. But fun, and engaging. They then pick up a piece of paper and have to read out what is on it and hopefully answer the question or define the key term. Just try it, I find students enjoy it, and yes I do let them throw the paper at me. Because what you do is keep them picking up bits and re-throwing. It is fun.


One of my favourite after dinner games is referred to in my household as “Celebrities”. You each write down 5 people on a piece of paper (I always put myself down which annoys my wife) and then you fold up and put in a bowl. Each person then takes a piece of paper and has to get their team-mate to guess who it is. In round one you can use as many words as you like. Round 2 they all go back in the bowl having counted up your total and now you are only allowed 3 words. Round 3, all back in the bowl, but this time you have to act out your celebrity. It is fun and engaging and all that. So…in a revision lesson you do the same thing, but instead of famous people, yes you’ve got it, you use key terms! It is a fun game because students can sing things, act things out and generally really get to grips with the key terms.

Group Key Term Singing

This is an obvious one that always works for me, but just takes some forward planning. You create a list of key terms and give them to a group – you can do different terms for each group. They then have to communicate these key terms to the rest of the class using just their voices. So for example, a Perfect Cadence can easily be sung by a group of students or an interval of an octave. This combines defining key terms and hearing key terms.

Listening without listening

This is a great one for me and a favourite. You get students to complete a listening exam without actually hearing anything. Have I gone mad, no I haven’t. What you are getting them to consider are the possible answers that could work for a question. Now admittedly this may not be easy for all questions. But lets say there is a long answer question asking them to assess the rhythm and melody in a piece of music. What you get them to do is suggest possible answers. It is a break away from just completing another past paper.

Past Paper Breakdown

Completing past papers is great. But what is important is to get students to really go through them and see what they got wrong and why:

  1. They simply didn’t know the answer
  2. They knew it but didn’t explain it
  3. It was a guess and they guessed right/wrong
  4. Knew answer, but used wrong key term.

There are lots of ways of evaluating a listening paper and so it is important that they go through each question and work out what went wrong

So there are a few ideas to keep you going and I am sure I will come up with some more over the coming weeks. And for goodness sake send them into the exam feeling confident and happy. Enjoy the coming weeks!


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