How to revise A Level Required Practicals

Student studying

Revision of the A Level Required Practicals probably feels like a daunting task, but in reality most of the hard work is done. The ideas for revision below aim to give you some support with that final hurdle of doing your best in the end of course exam papers!

Tip 1: Understand the A Level specification

The first and most important part of revision, not just of the required practicals but all content, is to make sure you are clear what your exam board is expecting. The best way to do this is to look at the specification for your board. These are free, and downloadable from the exam board websites. Whilst these are written primarily for teachers, they also outline the expectations for students as part of this. Having a skim read of this, and of the required practical section in particular is a great first step. Another good option here are the relevant pages in your textbook or that your teachers may have given you in the form of a knowledge organiser. This will help you to make sure you know what the practicals are and what skills you are expected to have learnt.

Tip 2: Get your Required Practicals notes in order

Get your lab book, folder or papers that you have written up your practical activities on over the past two years and make sure they are in order. This will help you to revise sensibly, although don’t waste any time tidying up graphs or tables or writing things out, just make sure everything you have is in one place. This will help you to see all of the content and hopefully your own achievements as you’ve developed your understanding of practical. If, after consulting the specification, you find there are any gaps please speak to your teacher about content you may have missed.

Tip 3: Access revision materials

Thirdly, use reputable revision materials to help you to work through the content of the practicals. At the bottom of this blog you will find links to Oxford’s key revision materials on this for each science. Read through the content in your own notes and in the revision guide, making sure to make a list of any questions you have to either look up an answer to in the textbook, ask a friend about or go to your teacher about. Use your own preferred revision method here, such as making flashcards, spider diagrams or voice notes. If you want to learn more about ways to revise, you can download a metacognition study pack which has lots of useful, practical tips.

Tip 4: Practice, practice, practice

This could be argued to be the most important step. Find the past papers for your exam and familiarise yourself with the style of question and expected answers. In general, you don’t need to know all the specifics of the practical to gain some of the marks as there are often similar questions which are asked regardless of the practical being examined. By working through the past papers, you will not only gain understanding of the content but also of the style of answer that is required. If you are short on time whilst revising, using the previous exam papers is the number one thing you can do to improve your chances in the exams.

Specifically make sure you know how to calculate a mean, read off charts and tables and consider what controls and safety measures need to be in place for each required practical. You will need to apply these ideas to unknown practicals in the exam paper, so this revision is as much about preparing you for the unknown as well as the known content! Make sure you note the key learning that came from the practical, for example, what did it prove or disprove or what key ideas does it link to?


Overall, 12 required practicals which you have completed over the two years of your A-level study are first and foremost a training tool to help you develop confidence and skills in working independently at practical activities. If you’re heading to university to study a STEM practical subject, then this will be immensely beneficial when you do work in the labs as part of your degree. Although the content and equipment will be different, the basic skills of planning, evaluation, risk assessment and analysis will not fundamentally change. Even if you are not going on to further study or to work in a STEM career, you can use these skills in everyday life: planning a DIY project, writing a risk assessment for work or volunteering, measuring and planning a garden or allotment growing plan, keeping track of a pet or child’s growth and development, or even just cooking your favourite meal!

So remember how hard you have already worked, be proud of how much you have already developed your practical skills and enjoy the feeling when you get to the other side of the exams! Good luck!

Jo Pellereau combines teaching with a part-time PhD. She holds an MSc in Science Education, CSciTeach and has completed the Independent Schools’ Qualification in Academic Management.

Oxford Revise Revision Guides have been created by subject experts alongside cognitive science specialists. They combine everything you need to know for your subjects in a way that’s proven to stick in your brain and be the most effective way to remember. Each Revision Guide follows 3 simple steps: Knowledge, Retrieval, Practice.

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