Planning and practising for GCSE exam success
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With multiple exam papers for up to 12 subjects to prepare for, just the thought of GCSE revision can be overwhelming and it’s very easy to procrastinate and put it off.
The key to taking control is to start early and get organised. The GCSE exams start in mid-May and it’s a good idea to start revising five or six months ahead of that time. Why not harness the surge of motivation that many of us feel at the start of the New Year to get a revision plan in place?
Use a technique that works
It’s important to think abouthowyou will revise, as this will influence your revision plan.
To be blunt, a lot of the study techniques that you may have used in the past just aren’t efficient when it comes to preparing for an exam!
Practice testing is proven to produce far better results in the final exam than any other technique and the most effective way of using practice testing is in short bursts that are spaced out over time.
Make a plan
A structured revision timetable makes GCSE revision much easier, but make sure that you set achievable goals.
Start by checking the exam information for each subject: what is the date for each paper and what does that paper cover? Mark the relevant dates at the end of your schedule and work backwards from there. The exam boards – AQA, OCR, Edexcel (Pearson) and WJEC/Eduqas– all publish exam timetables and course specifications that will help with this on their websites.
Rather than blocking in one subject at a time, try to schedule lots of short sessions (about 2 hours each) for each subject, spaced out over the whole revision period to allow for repeated practice testing.
Be strategic – starting with Maths and English revision can help to make revision of your other subjects more efficient later on. For example, revise mathematical skills such as rearranging formulae and using ratios, fractions and percentages at an early stage. This will then save you time when it comes to revising subjects that incorporate these skills, such as Chemistry and Physics. Likewise, brushing up on your English writing skills early on will help you to tackle practice questions that require longer written responses in all subjects.
Prioritise your revision
Once you’ve allocated revision slots for all your subjects, you can start prioritising the topics within each one.
Start by printing out a copy of the course specification and go through the subject content line by line. Use three different colours to highlight:
- things that you know
- things that you are uncertain about
- things that you don’t know.
Don’t worry about the things that you feel confident with – going over these again is a waste of time. Start with the things you don’t know and schedule in some time to revise these areas first. Read through your existing notes and refer to your text book or revision guide if necessary. End each revision session with a quick test to check understanding.
Once you have revised the problem areas, start using practice papers. These will test understanding across all topics and highlight any areas that need further revision.
There are lots of different ways that you can test yourself. For example, quick recall questions, of the kind you find in revision apps and online quizzes, are great for testing understanding at the end of a revision session. Practice papers can then be used throughout your revision to check progress and identify any persistent problem areas.
Use practice papers
Here are just a few reasons why practice papers are completely invaluable when it comes to ‘revising’ for an exam:
- they ensure you focus on essential content without straying off topic
- they help to highlight areas where you need further revision and practice
- they familiarise you with the different question types and formats used in the exams
- the answers / mark schemes are usually student-friendly (unlike past papers) and show you what examiners are looking for to award full marks
- individual questions require you to draw on knowledge from a range of different topics (no other resources provide solid practice in this important exam skill!)
- you can use them to track your progress by comparing your scores
- they will boost your confidence – you’ll feel much happier walking into the exam hall, because you’ll understand exactly what you need to do.
Exam Papers Plus has just launched a new range of GCSE exam practice products. These consist of higher tier exam-style questions, plus answers, which have been written by subject experts and can be downloaded for use at home immediately after purchase. Each question is supported by a video that provides a worked solution to the question, plus top tips on how to tackle similar questions, avoid making common mistakes and ensure you pick up all the marks available.
Planning and practising for exam success
Planning and practising to ensure exam success really is as simple as that:
- take control early on
- get organised and put a plan in place
- use a reliable revision technique: test yourself regularly
- use practice papers regularly to track progress and develop essential exam skills
- nail that exam!