Revise with Focus

Its that time of year when students need to revise. In this blog I want to help students (and teachers) to Revise with Focus.

If you’ve ever taken a picture you will know that you always want to have your picture in focus. Being in focus means knowing what picture you are taking. You remove the blur, adjust the lens and take the photo. Revising with focus is where we consider what we need to focus on, adjusting our revision to ensure it is worthwhile.

I hope teachers might share this blog (or these ideas) with their students.

What not to revise

The first thing to work out is what not to revise. These are the topics that we know well and don’t need to go over. The problem with topics we know well, is that it feels comfortable to revise them. A little bit like playing a piece of music, it is easier to play the bars we know the best. If we want to make progress then we need to work out what we don’t know and focus on that.

What not to revise, well that will also be the topics on the last exam that got the highest marks. These are likely to be topics that you maybe enjoy more, or set works that you like to listen to. Working out the things you often shy away from in revision will help you to revise with focus.

Adjusting your Focus

During revision we need to make sure that we shift our focus to a wide range of topics, not getting stuck on one area of study. This is linked to the thoughts mentioned above, we can sometimes stick with the things we know. As you revise, you should aim to cover as many different topic areas as possible. Plan your revision so that you spend time on everything that you need to revise.

But also make sure that you look at topics from different angles. A little like a good photo, the angle at which we approach something can make a difference. Adjusting our focus can sometimes mean looking at topics in different ways. This can mean undertaking more listening than reading, or writing more notes to support revision.

Plan to revise

If we know what we already know, then we can plan to revise the topics we struggle with the most. This will make for a much more efficient use of time. Whilst going over a familiar or more favoured set work might feel great, sometimes we have to listen to the pieces we like the least. Revising the basics is fulfilling because we feel we know them, but we have to plan to revise the more complex topics.

Planning revision all comes down to putting time aside for each subject and topic within that subject. It might be helpful to break this down into manageable chunks. Just 10-20 minutes of focussed revision might be better than an hour of distracted revision. Focussing on something for 20 minutes might be the best way forward.

Focus on the task

It is one thing to know something, but it is quite another to understand how to apply that knowledge. In a music exam we are going to be asked to spot features in music. Alongside this, we are going to be asked to write more extended pieces of writing about music. Therefore, in our revision, we need to focus on the task. There are a few things that you can do to help:

  • Listen to the set works and aim to spot musical features. Maybe write a list and make sure you can hear them. I like to call this deliberate listening where we focus on feature that we want to hear.
  • Can you describe features within the set works. This is more than naming a feature, it is giving details. Pick a key term such as texture and check that you can describe it for each set work.
  • If you are going to have a longer answer question in the exam, then practice this type of question. Think about how long you will have and work out how many words you can write in that time.
  • Go through your notes and write down every key term that you need to learn. Cross out the ones you know best and then you have a list to focus on.
  • Get a blank copy of the sheet music and see if you can identify the key features of the music.
  • Whilst more relevant to Edexcel, you might like to try out my 100 questions challenge to see what you know!

Revise with Focus

To revise with focus is to ensure that we are covering the topics we need to cover. We don’t want to go over things that we already know, but instead we want to build up our knowledge. Focus on Sound Pro from MusicFirst is a really great resource for revision. It is packed full of all the key terms and concepts that we could possible need. There are lessons, tests and 1000s of audio and visual examples. If we have topics we need to focus on, then Focus on Sound will help us to do that. Not only that, but it puts sound at the centre and that is exactly the same as the music GCSE listening exam.

I hope some of these ideas have got you thinking about revision and how to revise with focus.

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