As your old teacher might have said, the only way to be sure of doing well in your examinations is to "Revise, revise, revise..." Roger Frost looks at what's on offer to help students towards this goal.
It's spring, which means another revision season. For the exam pupils, it's the season of torture but with a tiny bit of respite: there's a pile of software to let you switch revision lessons into a different mode and relieve the tedium.
Software publishers go at this in different ways and people have different expectations, so when shopping for revision software, you'll find yourself choosing between strategies. You can have lots of practice questions, lots of key facts, and lots of inoperable advice like "you have to persuade examiners you can think".
Dorling Kindersley's (DK) DK Revise offers pure practice, with around 1,000 multiple-choice questions per subject. Surprisingly, this is one of the few titles where you can select your syllabus, topics and how many questions you do. For these features it's a good choice for school - you could pick out say 30-minutes worth of questions to fit your lesson matched to the level of the class.
While DKRevise has its devotees, many users say a long session is soporific and want more upfront tutorial help. Granada Learning's Exam Tutor offers different question styles - gap filling, diagram labels, dragging into place and multiple choice. The variety helps, as do key facts pages to cover main topics. This has a solid feel to it perhaps since it is one of the few programs made for school.
New to CD-Rom is Bitesize, based on the BBC website and available for science and maths. The strategy here is a more even balance of tutorial and questions. The system also keeps track of what you've done to add a level of revision management.
If the CD-Rom keeps better track of what you've covered, teachers still ask for more tutorial support - and this you can find in anoter series branded as Aircom or Life Software. Opinions are polarised on this vast range. Each title features a spoken tutorial, animation and questions.
As homes start to enjoy unmetered access to the Internet, these revision CD-Roms will face stiffer competition from the offerings on the Web. It's timely, then, that two 19-year-olds at university have set up Revise.it www.revise.it, and smart and professional it looks, too. The site aims to cover a spread of subjects and offers pages of revision notes where you can highlight the key points. Multiple choice tests, drawn from a question bank add the interactive element. As well as this material, all produced by the 19-year-olds' school teachers, the duo have set up discussion areas and chat rooms for students.
Freeserve, the free internet service www.freeserve.co.ukeducation, also has a revision area which focuses on practice with exam style papers that you can print out, log off and later return to mark your paper. If that's useful but dry, the area is developing interactive exercises where you drag and drop the right words into sentences.
Just a click away is GCSE Answers, www.gcse.com, which has some step-by-step maths tutorials you might bookmark for future use. But for a more advert-free zone, many will turn to BBC Bitesize, www.bbc.co.uk, which, in covering more subjects and levels each year, is a tour de force.
AVP (supplier for most of the software mentioned above)
Useful software (from pound;20-50 depending on licence): DK Revise
The Learning Company