If you want to get an A* in GCE O Level Chemistry (5070), you will love this step-by-step actionable guide I am about to share with you.
Before moving ahead, I have good news for you. What’s that?
Even if your exams are approaching and your preparation is not good, the tips (I am about to share with you) will help you ace your exams.
How to get an A* in O Level Chemistry?
Use the “Crest-to-Toe” Technique:
Let me explain.
If you have ever looked at a slope, you would have noticed that a slope has a crest and a toe.
In simple words, you can recognize the crest of a slope as its top part (upper surface). And, the toe of a slope is its bottom (baseline section).
But what does it have to do with your exam preparation? Let’s take a look at this technique and try to find that out.
The “Crest-to-Toe” law is an effective study method in which you prepare the difficult topics (concepts you find challenging) first and then move on to the easy ones (revising the concepts you find easy).
If you apply this concept the right way, you will be amazed by its surprising results. Here’s how to apply this technique.
- First of all, take out your syllabus (content that specifies what to learn).
Then, take a quick look (skim) at all the topics and underline the topics you find difficult (for example, Electrolysis and Organic Chemistry).
- Apply the “Crest-to-Toe” technique and start preparing the underlined topics (through books, notes and Youtube videos).
When you are done with all the underlined topics, move on to the comparatively simpler ones (use your book or notes) to learn the key concepts.
Now, if you are confused about how to prepare the difficult topics, follow the below instructions.
- First of all, you should scan (just briefly go through) all the headings, sub-headings and illustrations in the chapter. But why?
This is because you are mentally preparing your brain for the chapter. Pretty simple, isn’t it?
- Then, divide the topic into chunks (because studying the complete topic at one go will lead to confusion). Let me explain this with the help of an example.
Let’s suppose that there is a Maths chapter that includes several problems (along with their solutions). In this step, you try to understand why each solution works that way and what concept all the problems have in common.
In this way, you will learn in chunks and link all of them up to understand the complete concept.
Cool, isn’t it?
- After this, you will have to revise what you have learned to test your understanding.
This will ensure that you are completely done with the topic (before moving on to the next one).
Note: Remember that difficult topics take time. So if this process is time-consuming, do not panic. Instead, stay calm and try to cover all the important concepts (such as definitions) as you (will) pace up later.
With this, it is time to move straight to the next tip, the Cornell note-taking method.
The Cornell Note Taking Method:
Before talking about the method, let me tell you that this note-taking method (according to Science), is one of the most efficient techniques of taking notes.
In fact, this technique makes it much easier to make and review notes for your exams. But before that, let me tell you why note-taking is important?
Look, you know yourself better than anyone else. You know what works for you and what does not. For example, you know what kind of notes will work best for you (brief and to-the-point or detailed).
So instead of using your (detailed) books for revision, having your own notes is a far better choice. But, how to make your notes (the right way)?
Let’s talk about the Cornell note-taking method.
Basically, you will have to divide your page into four sections. Here is what each section would mean:
The first section (on the top): This is an optional section and you may or may not make it. But if you make it, you will write the title (the topic) over here.
And you may also write the date (if you want).
The second section (on the left): Here, you are going to write the keywords (the main words or ideas) along with the comments (if any from your teacher or even your own).
The third section (on the right): This is the place where you will write all your notes (such as definitions or any important concept).
The fourth section (at the bottom): In this section, you will simply write the summary of all your notes (when done).
But the real question is, why you should use this method?
This system allows you to reflect on your notes as you summarise everything at the end (this makes the topic easier to understand).
And sometimes, having a summary of everything is the only thing you need.
Moreover, making your own notes will also make sure that you learn the topics for long. This is because scientific studies have proved that writing while learning will allow your brain to hold information for a longer time!
This takes us to the next strategy, which is using marking schemes (the proper way).
Shift to Exam-Specific learning:
In O level Chemistry (5070), you will have to take three exams:
- Paper 1 (consisting of 40 multiple choice questions) – 40 Marks
- Paper 2 (theory paper containing structured questions) – 75 Marks
- Paper 4 (Alternative to Practical) – 60 Marks (later scaled to 30)
Now, what does paper specific learning mean?
This technique requires you to take a different approach to your papers. This is because preparing Organic chemistry for your practical exam may not be the best choice.
Similarly, focusing (more) on topics such as experimental chemistry for your theory paper may not be the best choice either.
Here is what you will do:
For Paper 1:
Paper 1 is designed to test your concepts (and covers almost all topics). Therefore, you need to understand all the important concepts first.
For that, you may use the book or your own notes (that you made through the Cornell note-taking method).
After that, practise the latest past papers (for the last five years) to test your concepts and understand the nature of the exams. Later in this article, I will be breaking down the exact method for solving past papers (stay with me).
In short, focus more on learning the concepts first. Then you move on to past papers to test your knowledge.
For Paper 2:
For this paper, you should focus (more) on some topics.
Important Note: You have to prepare all topics (you should not leave any topic). However, there are some topics you should give more time for better understanding.
What does it mean? Let me explain.
The topics such as chemical bonding, salts, electrolysis and organic chemistry are the “examiners favourite“. This means that questions on these topics appear frequently and they also carry a lot of marks.
When you are done revising the “major” topics, move on to past papers. You should practise as many past papers as possible (but complete the latest ones first – They reflect the mindset of the examiner).
Remember that for paper 2 preparation, past papers are crucial. So when you make a mistake, do not just move on. Instead, try to find out the correct answer and its reason.
For Paper 4 (ATP):
I have good news for you. But what’s that?
This is the most scoring exam and is the one in which students perform well (generally).
Here is that exact strategy that you can use to prepare for this exam.
- First of all, you need a complete and comprehensive guide that covers all the major aspects of the alternative to practical (ATP) paper. For that, you can use our detailed notes below:
- After reading this guide, you should review the below topics (using your book or notes):
Experimental chemistry, Salts, identification of ions and Gases, Moles and Electrolysis.
- Then, practise past papers.
They will help you test your knowledge.
When you are done with this technique, move on to the next one (solving past papers).
Solve Past Papers (the proper way):
You would have heard this advice earlier – solve past papers.
This is good but just solving past papers is NOT enough. In fact, a lot of students solve past papers (the wrong way).
But how can you properly solve past papers? Here’s how.
We are going to divide this technique into two parts.
You will adopt this technique if you have time (at least more than a month before your exams). In this method, you are going to solve past papers without setting a time limit for yourself.
Let’s suppose you are solving an MCQ (multiple choice question) paper for which you will have 1 hour. However, you will take as much time as you want to completely solve the exam paper.
Once you are done, you should use the marking scheme (a document that provides answers to the questions) to see how you performed. This is just like solving a normal past paper, but what is the difference.
The difference is time.
This technique will help you explore your potential and will help you find out the areas where you need to focus. Once you know the topics you need to work on, the next step is to practise.
Plus, there is something even more important in this part.
Whenever you make a mistake, take your time and try to understand the main concept for the problem. And after all, you have plenty of time at this stage.
You will use this technique if your exams are near (less than a month). Here’s what you will do.
We are going to use the same strategy as mentioned in “Part 1”. The only difference will be time. But how will you decide the time?
You will give yourself 5 minutes less than the actual time (you will have during the exam). For example, you will have 1 hour for the MCQ paper. But, you will give yourself 55 minutes during the practice.
In your final exam, there are a lot of factors (such as stress) that determine the time it takes you to complete your exam. Not only it will help you solve past papers (properly), but it will also help you with time management.
With this, it is time to move on and talk about revision.
Revision (the ultimate guide):
If you want an A* in IGCSE Chemistry (0620) or O Level Chemistry (5070), the revision strategies I am about to share with you will help you do so.
Before doing anything, you HAVE to make a timetable. This is because this document will keep everything organised, and you do not have to worry about missing anything during your revision.
Moving on, flashcards (along with mind maps) are a great revision tool. Now you might be saying, I DO NOT have enough time for this.
Look, you do not need to make your mind maps or flashcards “beautiful” by decorating them. You just have to note down all the useful information (in an organized manner).
Now I have a question for you. Is solving past papers a good revision strategy?
Indeed it is! Here is what you should do.
Whenever you make a mistake while solving past papers, take out your flashcards or mind maps for the topic. Then, go through the resource and revise the related concept.
Finally, go back to the question and try to solve it again. In this way, you are going to correct your mistakes and will revise the concepts as well.
Before moving ahead, let me share my personal revision technique.
Whenever I want to revise a topic, I play the imagination game. But what’s that?
What you have to do is simple. Just suppose that there is a large audience in front of you. Then, try to teach the topic to “them”. This method will not only help you revise but will also boost your confidence.
Now, it is time to move on to the next tip (staying calm).
Stay Calm and Motivated:
Last but not the least, and one of the most important tips.
The (sad) truth is that a lot of students are prepared for their exams, but only some achieve their desired grades.
But why? The answer is stress.
Here is a thing. Stress and anxiety are very common (and almost all students face it). But the real thing is, how do you deal with it?
Here is a deal. If you want good grades, you have to stay calm during your exam. This is because if there is a difficult question, you are most likely to panic.
Therefore, let me share some tips with you that will help you with stress management (ultimately leading towards a better performance).
- Boost your confidence (just before your exam).
Here is what I mean.
Just before going for your exam, DO NOT go through the topics you find challenging. Instead, revise the concepts you are already good at.
This action will automatically reduce your stress because revising these concepts will boost your confidence. This is just liking “baiting your brain” which is totally fine in this case.
- Breath (6 times), get hydrated and return.
If you are stuck on a problem (and you are panicking), this practice will help you deal with stress. It will not only help you deal with stress, but it will also allow you to reach a rational solution to your problem.
- Sleep well.
If you are planning to study overnight before your exam, let me convince you not to do so.
Some studies have proved that having a full night’s sleep before taking an exam is correlated with better grades.
On the other hand, sleeping less will negatively affect your short term memory leaving you unable to focus. This is the reason why sleeping before an exam is recommended.
Not only it will help you focus and deal with challenging questions, but it will also reduce stress levels.
With this, our topic on how to get an A* in O Level Chemistry has come to an end.
Now, it is your turn.
Which of the above-mentioned techniques you are going to try first? Is it the Cornell Note-Taking method or the exam-specific study method? Either way, do let me know.
And let me assure you that securing good grades in O Level and IGCSE Chemistry is not difficult. It just needs some time, and practice and you will be good to go.
Thank you very much for reading and staying with me till the end. Stay tuned for more.