One thing that I know many people feel on the fence about when it comes to revision at GCSE and A Level is whether or not to purchase textbooks. Some schools may make it compulsory for you to buy textbooks, however for the schools that give you the option, like my school did, I have several bits of advice to consider.
Firstly, and this may sound bad, but for GCSE; don’t bother. They are very expensive, and unless you are told otherwise, textbooks are not worth investing in. These resources should be available at your school, with multiple copies, that can be used in class, or borrowed during break and lunch hours. The reason I say this is because the main point of having textbooks is to do wider reading, and expand on what you learn in class. However, at GCSE, everything you need to know should be taught to you within classes; exam board do not expect you to have wider knowledge outside of the in-class syllabus. Anything you are required to know for your exams should have been taught to you in class, or given to you by the teacher in the form of photocopied handouts. Especially with how many subjects you will be required to study at GCSE, don’t fret about having textbooks unless you are directly told to own a copy.
A Level is a bit more subjective than at GCSE; I wouldn’t straight-up say don’t bother with them. However, I don’t recommend buying them for all of your subjects, or owning more than one per subject. In a similar sense to GCSE, everything that you need to know should be taught to you; everything that you will depend upon to pass should be provided in your lessons, or on a VLE. However, if you are aiming for top-marks, A and A* grades, then a textbook may be a good idea, because examiners will award the grades to people who use their own knowledge alongside taught material in their exam answers. For some subjects, such as maths or core sciences, this is a little trickier to do, as they are not as subjective as subjects such as English or social sciences, and answers are grades based on whether they are correct or not, as opposed to showing a good understanding of debate and interpretation. However, for subjects that do rely on argument and debate, a textbook may be a good idea, as they consolidate each side of the argument clearly, as well as bringing in particular individuals or studies that you can use to strengthen your arguments that have not been mentioned in class. I myself only ever had one A Level textbook, which was a recommended one, and personally do not feel as though my grades suffered as a result of not having a textbook for my other 4 subjects. There are plenty of online resources that I used to help with my other subjects, but the textbook was very beneficial for my top subject, and the one I was most keen to succeed in.
At university it’s different; textbooks are essential. Everything is the other way round at university; the in-depth information you are required to know is all in the textbooks as part of your essential reading, and lectures play the role of consolidating the information you were set to read a week in advance. Therefore, they are much more important. However, they are also very expensive, and so I also have some advice on how to buy them cheaper, which can be applied at A Level, too. Firstly, post on your institutions social media pages asking if anyone is selling second-hand textbooks; I got 7 responses within an hour! Websites such as eBay are also a great place to look; at A Level it’s not worth buying the books brand new for their high costs. When buying them second-hand, anything more than £10 is probably not worth it, and same applies at university. Many people will be willing to sell them cheap simply to get rid of them, and so don’t settle for high-prices; they aren’t worth it. Finally, always check online availability; many have free online PDFs!