Are there such things as male and female ways of revising? Is your sex likely to be have something to do with how likely you are to be able to revise effectively? This page attempts to give you some clues in this direction. The first part of it is based on an article first published by Exam Aid researcher Bruce Harris in the Times Educational Supplement. Then we look at what boys have got going for them, on the basis of more research, and we sum up our advice for all.
Girls Secret of Success
Girls may be outperforming bays at A level partly because they are more efficient at revising for examinations.
My research into revision habits of 245 students in three sixth forms suggests that they adopt a more sensible approach to exam preparation. It indicates that:
- Girls begin their revision earlier – All students were asked in January about their revision programmes, with no previous opportunity to prepare or compare answers. Nearly a sixth of the students (38) didn’t intend to start revising until 2/3 weeks before the exams and 33 of them were boys.
- They use a more sophisticated range of revision methods – The boys concentrated more on repetitive learning and working alone. The girls were more likely to use self-testing methods and those which involved working with friends or relatives.
- They are more likely to follow planned revision programmes and target their weaker subjects – 80% of the girls intended to take subject teachers’ advice on their revision planning, compared with 53% of the boys. The girls were more likely to follow an overall revision programme (44% compared to 38% of the boys), to concentrate on weaker subjects (44% against 34%) and had taken a practical decision to devote as much time to revising a subject as the volume of work required (53% against 41).
A similar proportion of boys and girls (about 20%) said that they were ‘unsure’ about how to organise a revision programme. This should be a concern – particularly as it may be an underestimate. Boys were generally reluctant to admit to uncertainty, except in private interviews.
Many students had part-time jobs, and they had not taken them simply to fund their social life or buy clothes. A few referred to hardship at home and the need to save for university. ‘I an hardly expect my parents to pay for everything’, one girl said.
The work suggests that where students are disadvantaged, schools with more developed pastoral systems may achieve better exam results. They are more likely to be able to help students grapple with the overall revision problems, such as time management, that concern them most.