This time last year, I had received my mock GCSE results and was looking to my exams in the summer, which seemed so far away at the time; for year 11’s across the country, it’s the first time you take a public exam. I was tired of hearing the same thing about preparing for my exams, so I’ve tried to put in some different ideas as well as some tips you will have heard before, but are worth remembering. Looking back now, there are some things that I simply wish I’d known, so I thought I would share them with you now!
Before the exams
Know your syllabus. It may seem like I’m stating the obvious, but going back to the syllabus time and time again is crucial. While the course content is listed in text books and revision guides, I would recommend always looking at the exam-issued syllabus, because that will tell you exactly what will be in the exam and how much you need to know about it. I think that this is most relevant to the sciences, but you should try and print off a syllabus for each subject and put it in a revision file, going back to it at the beginning of each session.
Required Practicals. For the Sciences, taking a look at the required practicals is time well spent. Learning the methods, variables, equipment will really help you, as there is bound to be a question on one of the practicals. I think that the importance of required practicals is understated, but you should really know them as the questions are worth 6 marks (for my exam board, AQA).
Practice, practice, practice! Practice papers will be your best friend through the exam period. It’s so important that after you have done your practice papers and marked them, that you record your result and which topics you struggled with. This gives you a list of topics to go over in the days leading up to the exam, and to do questions on. I found that some of the questions that I had answered in revision were the same as the ones that came up in the exam! Also, remember to stick to the exam timings!
Order is important. For me, spending a whole morning doing Biology, Physics and Chemistry consecutively would be a struggle – I wouldn’t be able to keep up the motivation throughout because they aren’t the subjects I enjoy the most. Therefore, I found it really useful to order my subjects from favourite to least favourite, then decide on the order of my revision from that.
Take a break. When you’ve worked with no distractions, you deserve a break. Get up from your seat, go outside, exercise, chat to friends or family; try and take your mind off your work for a while and you will go back feeling refreshed. I liked to watch an episode of Brooklyn nine-nine in between revision sessions!
Talk to your teachers. For the humanities subjects, essays make up the majority of the paper. If your teacher offers revision sessions, be sure to make use of them, and ask them if you could go through/give them some essays to mark outside of school work. Hopefully, they should be keen to mark your work to help you secure those top grades!
Quizlet is your best friend. Chances are, you’re already using Quizlet, but if you aren’t, it is an amazing resource that will come in especially handy if you are taking languages. If you are short on time, and cannot create a set from scratch, there will probably be someone else’s set on there that you can use that covers your topics (but if you can, make your own so you can be sure that everything you want is on there, and the process of making them will help you learn).
Online resources. If there are some subjects that you really want to go over or if the content just isn’t sinking in, try YouTube. My favourites were Mr. Bruff for English and Malmesbury Science for science practicals (also has videos for A-Level).
Don’t lose hope. If you didn’t do as well as you would have liked to in your mock exams, use it as a learning experience; it will be of much more value to learn something from an exam that went badly than to ace an exam and lose momentum in your revision. Personally, my result in my Biology mocks prompted me to put the work in by doing practice questions on every topic. Eventually, I managed to grow my grade by 3 grades!
Before your results
Please don’t compare your GCSEs to your classmates or friends. Everyone has their own circumstances, journey and strengths outside school, and those with the highest grades will not necessarily be the most successful. As you go your separate ways after prom, whether you are taking A-Levels, BTECs, other technical qualifications or an apprenticeship, people will remember you for not how many As or A*s you have, but your personality, interests and attitude towards others.
Try your best – I’m rooting for all of you! If you need any more advice, please don’t hesitate to DM me on my Instagram, @alyssamaereads.