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The concept of ‘study skills’ is found in a large number of schools and is often seen as a dry subject by both teachers and students. However, the approach adopted in this publication is refreshing and entertaining and was a pleasure to read.

The book is well written and well laid out with good use of colour. Five main areas are covered: managing yourself and your time; memory, reading and note taking; group work, project work and using ICT; revising subjects and the exams. In each area the book makes widespread use of a number of presentational techniques and can be used to ‘dip in’ for specific help on a particular area of study and examinations. Each section is laid out in blocks of text that enable the reader to get a ‘bite’ very quickly.

The guide makes use of a wide range of current areas of good practice in terms of learning and memory, and for this reason should have widespread appeal for students involved in GCSE examinations. Approaches can be recognised from the fields of accelerated learning, visual, auditory and kinesthetic and whole-brain learning, including what the author describes as ‘summary maps’ or memory maps.

One of the strengths of this book is the fact that the author highlights that the learning style of the student is individual. A number of approaches are suggested, but it is up to the individuals to decide what will work and what they are comfortable with.

It is good that the book is short and therefore accessible for students studying for examinations.

It could be asked why the guide is just aimed at GCSE as the good ideas for revision and examination technique could have wider appeal, although the exemplars from GCSE-type questions may limit the book to this audience.

At £3.99 the book appears to be aimed at the student market. The question is whether it is sufficiently innovative to capture the imagination of would-be readers by differentiating itself from other books in what may be a saturated market. Once you get over the ‘ordinary’ title and cover there is good material inside.

GCSE Success Essentials: Study Skills Lee, J (2005), Letts Educational, £3.99

ISBN 1843154730

David Ryan is the adviser for special educational needs and inclusion in Belfast Education and Library Board and an educational and management consultant.

This article first appeared in Gifted & Talented Update – Apr 2006

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