The Three-Pen Approach: A Proven Strategy for A-Level Chemistry Success

"Discover the Three-Pen Technique for A-Level Chemistry revision. Structured, effective, and proven, this method guides students to identify strengths, address weaknesses, and achieve exam success. Dive into our step-by-step guide and transform your study approach!

Dr Torben Smith collaborating with his AI

10/23/20232 min read

3 pen approach to exam questions
3 pen approach to exam questions


Navigating A-level Chemistry exams can be daunting. However, with the right strategies, students can enhance their exam techniques and boost their confidence. Introducing the Three-Pen Technique—a unique method I've employed with numerous students to great success.

The Concept:

The Three-Pen Technique utilises three different coloured pens to structure the revision process: black, blue, and red (or green). Here's how it works:

  1. Black Pen Phase (Initial Attempt):

    • Under exam conditions, students attempt the questions using only a black pen. Just like the real exam.

    • No guessing or referencing any material. The aim is to gauge one's current knowledge.

    • There may be gaps or questions left unanswered—this is expected and okay!

  2. Blue Pen Phase (Research & Learning):

    • After a break, or even a good night's sleep, students revisit the paper.

    • Using textbooks, notes, videos, or even the assistance of a tutor, they fill in the gaps using a blue pen.

    • The catch? Absolutely no peeking at the mark scheme!

  3. Red/Green Pen Phase (Self-Evaluation):

    • Another break ensues.

    • Students then mark their work using the official mark scheme, but with a red or green pen.

    • Annotations are made for clarity, understanding, and self-feedback.

    • Scores and percentages are calculated for both the black pen phase and the combined black and blue pen phases.

    • Grade boundaries are applied, but with a conservative approach—assume a potential over-marking of ten percent to play it safe.

  4. Examiner's Insights:

    • Once marked, students should delve into the examiner's reports for those specific questions. This offers invaluable insights into common pitfalls and areas of improvement.

  5. Revisit & Perfect:

    • After a few weeks (to ensure it's not merely a memory test), students should reattempt questions they initially struggled with or lost marks on. This reinforces learning and addresses problem areas.


The Three-Pen Technique is more than just a revision method; it's a holistic approach to understanding, learning, and mastering A-Level Chemistry exam questions. By segmenting the revision process, students can identify their strengths, work on their weaknesses, and ultimately achieve exam success.

Impressed by this technique? Reach out to me—I've plenty more insights and strategies to share with you!

3 colour pens for exam questions
3 colour pens for exam questions
3 colour pens scientist
3 colour pens scientist