How to Write Kick Ass Physics Revision Notes

 

Improve your physics exam results using our fool proof method for writing effective revision notes

Do I need to write revision notes?

Every student asks themselves do I need to write revision notes? The answer is YES!

Effective revision notes highlight the facts you need to memorise in a form that can be easily referenced when you move to the next phase of your revision (exciting, right?)

Write them yourself

It is important that you create your own revision notes. Writing notes makes you work through the whole of the course summarised in the most efficient way, to identify where your weaker areas and to capture it all in your own words.

Efficiency is key

Comprehensive revision notes are the secret to your exam success. Don’t underestimate their importance. However… you shouldn't spend infinite amounts of time on them. Please don’t spend hours re-writing your entire class notes or marking up your textbook with a highlighter.

Write them topic by topic

That way they won’t be overwhelming and you’ll be able to focus on the topics that are examined the most and/or you find the hardest!

Start writing them at the beginning of the course

Try to write your revision notes throughout the year, as you complete each topic in class, so you don’t need to set aside a block of time at the start of your revision to write notes for the entire course. (If you’re reading this the day before the exam, don’t worry, we’ll get you there anyway!)

Sound impossible? It’s not! Follow this GradePod revision notes guide to writing the most kick-assingly effective revision notes you could ever wish for.

Learning Objectives

Let’s start with Learning Objectives. EVERY SINGLE EXAM has a set of learning objectives. These are a list of instructions - learn this fact, memorise this formula and describe this relationship.

What is that I hear you cry – ‘But where do I find the learning objectives for my course?’

Option 1: Textbook

If you have a textbook for your physics course, try going to the front of the chapter for the topic you are studying. If the textbook has been written well (and recently), it should be based on (a recently version of) the exam board syllabus.

Option 2: Exam Board Website

Each exam board publishes their Physics syllabus online Warning: exam board specifications tend to use pretty convoluted language, and include a lot of additional information.  If you decide to go there, take a deep breath and don’t be overwhelmed.

Option 3: Online Revision Courses

What you ideally want is to find a resource that has already done the job of working through the exam board specification and that has already picked out and decrypted the essential learning objectives.

A high-quality online revision course will provide a complete set of learning objectives for each topic and that these should be readily available and map exactly to the exam board’s requirements for your course.

Here’s an example of a set of Learning Objectives from the GradePod online course so you know what to look for:  They are:

  • Mapped exactly to the exam specification
  • Easy to understand, with the correct terminology use
  • Set out clearly to allow you to track your progress through them

Revision Notes

Once you have your Learning Objectives, you are ready to start writing your revision notes.

 Your revision notes for each course topic should follow exactly the same structure. That way, you start to know instinctively where to look for certain types of information.

The GradePod revision notes template looks like this: 

Download The GradePod Revision Note template here

What to write: Formulae

Quite simply, you just look through your list of learning objectives and write down all the formulae. You can improve your grade simply by memorising the formulae.

 If you understand each formula and how to use it, simply write the equation down. If you’re a little less confident with any of the formulae listed, you might want to include a couple of notes to remind yourself (for example) when you might want to would use it.

IB Data booklets or GCSE Equation Sheets

You will given a data booklet, or equation sheet, in your exam.

Get a copy of your exam data booklet or equation sheet and cross-check it against the equations in your revision notes. You should memorise any equation that doesn’t appear in the IB Physics data booklet – label them with a red star in your revision notes so that you  know which formulae to focus on when doing your final revision.

What to write: Required Definitions

Definitions (and basic recall of facts) can count for around 10% of your final exam mark, so take care when writing your definition revision notes – there’s huge potential to improve your marks here with limited effort.

A handful of definitions can make all the difference when you’re looking to achieve top marks.

Once you’ve written down all our definitions, mark those that you need to memorise for the exam with a red star. To figure out which ones you need to memorise, look for words like “define”, “state”, “memorise”.

A good quality online revision course (like ours!) will have done all this work for you.

Otherwise, you can use past papers to help you identify which definitions are consistently examined. This is a little time-consuming, but it’s time well spent. When you come to doing past paper questions, try to remember to mark up commonly examined definitions in your revision notes so that these are clearly identifiable when you come to doing your final revision.

What to write: Common Diagrams

Our brains capture information in a number of different ways and a diagram can be both memorable and informative, so this section of your revision notes is particularly important.

To complete this section of your revision notes, simply take your learning objectives for the topic, open your textbook (or class notes) at the correct chapter / topic and look for diagrams that match the learning objectives. Then (you guessed it) copy the diagram into the Common Diagrams section of your topic revision notes like this:

Once you’ve copied the diagrams into your notes, take time to label them and annotate them with explanatory notes to help you remember what they are illustrating. When it comes to making these annotations, you should ask yourself questions like:

  • What scale is the diagram? (e.g. micrometres, kilometres, light years, etc.)
  • Are any of the sections of the diagram moving? (e.g. molecules in a gas)
  • Have you labelled all the parts? Do they need any explanation?
  • Are there any formulae associated with the diagram?
  • Would you associate any keywords or phrases with the diagram?
  • Are there any absolute numbers that can be attributed to the diagram?

Look at my diagrams. The one on the left-hand side diagram is simply copied from the textbook. The one on the right-hand side has been labelled with annotations prompted by my questions above. You can see how helpful these sort of annotations can be when it comes to last-minute revision.

What to write: Common Graphs

The Common Graphs sections follows the same methods as the Common Diagrams section. Open your textbook (or class notes) at the correct chapter and simply copy out the graphs that you see referenced in your topic’s learning objectives, into your topic revision notes like this:

Once you have a section of graphs you can start to analyse the relationships between the variables represented in your graphs and to annotate them with useful reminders and notes. You can use the following questions to as prompts:

  • What mathematical relationship is shown between the two variables in the graph (e.g. are they directly proportional, indirectly proportional, etc.)?
  • What does the gradient of the graph represent?
  • Is the gradient constant or varied? Why?
  • What does the intercept of the graph represent?
  • What does the area under the graph represent – if anything?
  • Are there limits to the graph?
  • Does the graph extend to infinity? Why?

This section is more helpful in exams than you might expect. Annotated graphs are a way to covered the important relationships between key variables in your topic in a very concise way. Simply sketching out a graph can be a huge help when figuring out how best to structure a detailed and precise extended-response answer in an exam.

What to write: Experiments

Most exam boards have a list of experiments (or practicals) that you need to carry out during your course. If you look through your exam board specification document, it will be clear which experiments are a mandatory part of the course. Don’t worry if you haven’t done these in class yet, they will summarised in your textbook and your job just now is simply to open your textbook to the correct topic, identify the experiments that are related to the topic you’re working through and to summarise them in this section here.

Use the following prompts to help you capture all the important points:

  • What is the title of the experiment?
  • What are the independent, dependent and control variables?
  • Draw a brief sketch of the apparatus
  • Give an extremely brief method (no more than two sentences)
  • What table should you draw?
  • What did the graph look like between the independent and the dependent variable?
  • What conclusion was drawn?
  • Where did errors occur? Were the systematic or random?

Remember – you don’t need to include a complete write-up of the experiment and you shouldn’t go into too much detail here. My example below should give you an indication of the approximate level of detail required:

What to write: Other Notes

In the ‘Other Notes’ section of your revision notes, you’ll include the learning objectives that haven’t been covered by the previous sections of your notes (formulae, definitions, diagrams, graphs, experiments).

In the ‘Learned from Past Papers’ you can also include any insights that you’ve gained by completing past papers. This part can’t be filled out until you’ve done a few past papers, of course, but it’s important to include here any lessons you learn when doing example questions, especially where you lost marks so that you can avoid repeating the mistake in the real exam.

My example shows you the sort of things that might end up in this section.

 

 You can now pat yourself on the back for the awesome pile of notes you’ve created, set aside your textbook and now focus on practising exam questions and improving your exam technique.

The enormity of the course now fits into your pocket and, more importantly, into your head!

Download The GradePod Revision Note template here

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