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Revision guides

With Tom Bowes, Candice Platt, Becky Pope, Justin Finbow.

Revision guides tap into a huge market of student and parental anxiety. It's 20 years since Geoff Barton (above) sat any serious exams, so he enlisted a group of his Year 11 students to road-test the latest offerings.

LETTS VISUAL REVISION GUIDES. pound;3.50 each. www.letts-education.com

THE PROMISE

"Everything you need to know presented in a unique visual way."

"To produce top quality books that are carefully written, immaculately presented and marvellously funny; and then we supply them to as many people as we possibly can, as cheaply as we possibly can."

SAMPLE TITLES

KS3 English, Mathematics, Science; GCSE English, Mathematics, Science, Business Studies, ICT, Geography, French and many more.

KEY FEATURES

The books place a heavy emphasis on cramming as many essential facts and figures as possible on to each page. They use a straightforward, unpatronising tone. There are "points to remember" panels, "examiner's top tips" and "quick tests".

BARTON'S VERDICT

A gaudy riot of colour and cheap graphics. The sheer quantity of content is astonishing - including sample questions, essay plans and advice. It lacks sample student answers, annotated by examiners, which is where students can learn most about getting the style right in exams. BYLINE:The books cover the ground at a cracking pace. Despite the relentless wackiness, the content is spot-on - very well-judged for its target audience. The advice given to students in the English guides is exemplary.

STUDENTS' VERDICT

Tom

They're certainly colourful, but a bit confusing.

Candice

The layout is pretty wacky, but it holds your interest.

Becky

The books are organised to give you maximum information on every page. They feel like value for money.

Justin

I think the design is a bit over-the-top, to be honest. SCORE

710 Very visual and good value for money. Ideal for those who like high energy content.

CGP REVISION GUIDES. pound;2.50-pound;3.50 (discounts for schools) www.cgpbooks.co.uk

THE PROMISE

"To produce top quality books that are carefully written, immaculately presented and marvellously funny; and then we supply them to as many people as we possibly can, as cheaply as we possibly can."

SAMPLE TITLES

KS3 English, Mathematics, Science; GCSE English, Mathematics, Science, Business Studies, ICT, Geography, French and many more.

KEY FEATURES

A lively written style, crammed with bad puns and visual gags. The layout places maximum content on every page, but with a semblance of structure. There are lots of advice panels, short sample answers, and revision questions.

BARTON'S VERDICT

The books cover grround at a cracking pace. Despite the relentless wackiness, the content is spot on - very well-judged for it's target audience. The advice given to students in the English guides is exemplary.

STUDENT'S VERDICT

Tom

Some of the clip-art looks a bit naff.

Candice

I really enjoyed these. I felt I learned a lot without trying too hard.

Becky

Really good - the information is presented very clearly.

Justin

They look a bit home-made, but they do give loads of information.

SCORE

810 Bargain-basement production values. Superb, lively content.

VIRGIN GCSE REVISION GUIDES. pound;4.99www.virgin.combooks

THE PROMISE

"More than a psychological prop, they can actually make a real impact on a student's confidence and final grade."

SAMPLE TITLES

GCSE English, Mathematics, Science, French, History and Geography.

KEY FEATURES

A pocket paperback format of around 200 pages which uses writers from the Letts series. Left-hand pages provide information; right-hand pages provide self-assessment panels to test your learning. Pages contain "grade booster" panels with extra hints. The style is clear, chiefly written in bullet-points, and unpatronising.

BARTON'S VERDICT

These are the most reassuringly factual books, in presentation and content. Some of the advice is dubious - for example: "Words such as moreover and furthermore are rarely found at GCSE level and will impress examiners if used correctly." I'm not sure I want my students to use moreover. There's a tremendous amount of useful information and the format (to my eyes) is the easiest to learn from.

STUDENTS' VERDICT

Tom

A lot of information in the book, web addresses to visit for help, plus a glossary.

Candice

A great selection of facts, figures and diagrams.

Becky

Really helpful as there are questions at the end of each section to help you revise.

Justin

This would be excellent for last-minute revision, and is very easy to use.

SCORE

910 Very reassuring formats and an authoritative tone.

Geoff Barton is vice-principal at Thurston college, Suffolk, and author of English textbooks. Photographs: Nicholas Bowman

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