Track learners' understanding with our new revision checker

By Dave Taylor
Published 02 February 2024

Dave Taylor is a maths teacher, podcaster and a member of our maths expert panel. To help you and your learners be more impactful with your time, we asked Dave to develop a resource to complement the topic audit resource released last year.

Here, he tells you about the new revision checklist and how you and your learners can use it to record understanding against the GCSE Maths specification and limit gaps in knowledge.

Why use the revision checklist?

Learners often work sub-optimally when it comes to revision – flashcards where they reveal the answer too soon; watching videos on the internet without actually doing anything themselves; and completing parts of past papers (skipping the bits they don't understand). These are just three of the ways that learners can trick themselves into believing that they're revising.

The feeling of doing something, but not making any progress, is a false positive. They feel as though they're working hard as they're spending a lot of time revising, but it's having no impact. This leads to an ill-informed belief that revision doesn't work.

As experienced teachers, we know the three given examples of revision can be applied in ways which deem them almost pointless, and we can direct our students to revise more effectively.

This is not a question of motivation, as learners who are spending time revising (however ineffectively they may be working) are already driven to improve their knowledge – they just need information to guide them more effectively.

In my previous blog, I suggested 'it would be more useful to have a copy of the specification to hand and have students assess themselves against this, to identify areas of content that they should revise.' The resource is exactly this – a printed sheet, or Excel spreadsheet, which learners can continually update to rate their understanding of the mathematics curriculum.

What is the revision checklist

The revision checklist is a tracker for the whole specification at the two tiers of entry, allowing learners (or teachers) to identify in which areas their understanding (or the understanding of a class) needs more work when it comes to revision.

The checklist is split into two separate documents, one at the Foundation tier of entry and the other at the Higher tier. The printed version allows students and teachers to colour in a box to visually represent a learner's understanding or a class to better inform revision in the build-up to examinations. The visual representation uses the colours red, amber and green (or RAG rating) where red indicates that this is a weakness in learners' understanding, amber represents an area which needs more practice, and green suggests that this area is secure.

How can your learners use the revision checklist?

Learners can use the tracker to rate their understanding, helping them to identify their own needs. This can be done in conjunction with the topic audit resource or as content is covered in lessons and during periods of independent study beyond the classroom. Having this information will enable them to better direct their independent study as their knowledge base grows, rather than inefficiently spending time on content that they’ve already mastered – which they'll have rated as 'green'. As their tracker becomes greener, learners will see their successes, which will feed their motivation.

Why is the revisions checklist useful for teachers?

Teachers can use the checklist to rate the understanding of their classes as they mark mock examinations, low-stakes assessments completed in class, or exam questions as homework. Using this information, the teacher can plan lessons which meet the needs of their students as exams appear on the horizon.

In all cases, however, both learners and teachers need to understand that getting a question correct doesn't mean that the learner/class has the knowledge to answer all questions in the domain. This health warning must be made clear to learners in particular. It’s also the case that answering a question incorrectly doesn't mean that the learners/class wouldn't succeed within a specific domain in another question, and a learner shouldn't necessarily feel as though they need to revisit 'construct and interpret pie charts' on the back of a careless error, for example.

When to use the revision checklist

To make the best use of the revision checklist, this resource should be used as early as possible, so that we can gather the required information over time. Doing this will mean that both learners and teachers are better informed about learners' understanding across the specification. This will then enable us to direct their attention to specific areas for development so that all involved use their time more wisely.


Dave Taylor

Dave Taylor

About the author

Dave has spent 16 years as a teacher of mathematics, TLR holder and Head of Department in Leeds secondary schools and CPD lead nationally, and is now Head of Curriculum for Mathematics at AQA.

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