Reach for the stars: How to get an A*

Finally we have some information about how the exam boards will be awarding the A* and the ofqual blog explains this here:

So the good news is that it doesn’t matter if you get full marks on one paper but much lower on another so long as the three papers add up to the magic number you will get your A*. The tricky bit at the moment is knowing what that magic number will be! 90% was the golden rule in previous years meaning 234/260 would be the number to beat however this figure seems very high given how tough pupils seemingly found the AS exams nationwide last summer…so who knows! Just do your best and make sure you are cracking at methods and stats where you could really impress if you nail this area of Paper 3!stars

I am starting to use this little image to identify stretch and challenge opportunities throughout the psychology rocks website, so look out for the stars and reach for them!

What ever the boundaries my top tips for success are as follows:

Before the exam A* pupils …

  • practice completing whole papers under timed conditions and get their  essays down to a fine art; they don’t waste time putting in too much and are truly selective about working out the best things to put in, this is because you need time to proof read and check that there are no points left hanging where you will lose marks for not elaborating sufficiently.
  • Leave no stone unturned in their revision, this means effective time management when creating revision plans and starting early enough to fit everything in. Gaps mean your work cannot be thorough whatever the question, A* pupils are thorough and leave nothing to chance.
  • are logical at all times, this means that you must build time in to the run up to exams to check any arguments you are unsure about with staff, often pupils have areas of muddy understanding and arguments become a jumble. Take the time to really understand the more nuanced arguments, so you can show off the most sophisticated arguments with incisive clarity of expression 🙂
  • look for original and interesting contemporary content to add some A*sparkle! They always go the extra mile and genuinely love their subject so don’t mind having a quick google and seeing what is going on in the world relating to a particular area that they might be able to shoe horn into their work, but only if its truly made relevant to the question of course!
  • use their textbooks, to read up on every area
  • use psychology rocks to ensure that they are conversant with every single aspect of the spec and how the questions might be asked
  • follow acronyms and mnemomics with care to ensure appropriate structure in their work as directed by staff who have carefully sifted through exam board material to find clever ways of hitting the necessary grading criteria 😉
  • always engage in reflective tasks, searching for ways to improve their technique

In the exam itself:

  1. Follow all exam advice on this site ans aim for full marks in every short answer question by paying special attention to mark allocations, commands terms, numbers in questions and always taking the time to explain yourself fully.
  2. In essays, plan sensibly so you never miss a conclusion and you always aim for thorough AO1 and a systematic balanced approach which means you always follow ping with pong 😉 i.e. every point is counter argued to provide balance throughout.
  3. Proof read your work and never leave a point handing in the air, otherwise you are not going to score for “well developed and coherent”
  4. In 20 markers always, think very carefully about your conclusion, you won’t hit top band unless its nuanced!
  5. Always always link points back to the question to show that they understand the significance of the point that they are making; this is equally true of arguments (support) and counter/competing arguments, which are always effective and well developed too!
  6. Balanced judgement are central to success in longer mark questions, e.g 20 markers
  7. In scenario/applied question they ensure every section of their essay/response is contextualized and theory is never just spouted without making it relevant to what you are supposedly to be discussing