GCSE Exam Technique

With the GCSE Exams around the corner, students across the country are wondering how best to revise. A Tavistock Tutor has written some information below to help GCSE students with their exam technique. Tavistock Tutors also provide GCSE tutors in London for subjects ranging from Maths to English and Italian to Mandarin.

We hope you find the Tips below useful;

As students approach exam season, many become concerned about a lack of preparation, hurriedly learning large amounts of often irrelevant information. Exam technique becomes a sacrificial lamb, neglected by candidates who mistakenly feel that rote learning of content can cover poor technique. By appreciating the difference between learning a subject and being assessed in examinations, you can help your performance significantly.

Although this approach might seem cynical, the size of the task of assessing thousands of student means that papers can often be repetitive, prescriptive and only subtly reworked. Preparing yourself for these papers well can drastically improve your chance of success.

Firstly, throughout revision, use the board specification to learn only relevant subject matter. This is particularly important if you’re using textbooks and worksheets in addition to the board approved resources. While content in these books, such as additional case studies, helps consolidate knowledge, it’s wasteful to learn information that won’t be directly assessed in the paper.

Once most of the content has been learnt, past paper practice should form most of your preparation. There’s no better way to emulate the conditions and time pressures of an exam than attempting previous papers and sufficient time should be allowed to complete every past paper available. Exams can be scary and these provide the most thorough preparation, allowing you to practice time management and allocating time for planning, particularly in the humanities. If the exam or specification has been newly introduced, there are often only a few past papers. Look for specimen papers or mock papers from the exam board website, or ask for these from your teacher – there are also often relevant questions on previous specifications’ papers that your teacher may have.

Don’t underestimate the power of inspection and estimation. Especially in the sciences, the ability to recognise an unreasonable answer is an invaluable skill. If you have a negative answer and the solution should only take positive values then something is wrong. Although approximation and recognising appropriate answers is clearly no substitute for doing a question completely, it allows you to check quickly and help spot glaring errors, giving you time to fix them.

Something more obscure to look at before entering the exam hall is the marking policy of your exam boards. Some exam boards allow multiple attempts at an answer (especially for maths) and then select the best and place that forward. If you’re in an exam and make multiple attempts at a question, it could be to your advantage to not cross working out. The marking policy can be found on mark schemes and can really inform you on the correct ways to lay out working or approach a question. Additionally, it can also be helpful to learn the phrasing of answers to common questions. The more closely your answers resemble the mark scheme, the less ambiguous your answers and the easier it is for an examiner to award you marks.

Finally, the prospect of exams can sometimes be frightening. Although this is some of the most clichéd and repeated advice it’s also probably the most helpful: do your best to maintain a sliver of sanity and routine. Exercise, eat healthily, take regular breaks and see friends. Most importantly relax, before, during and after. If an exam doesn’t necessarily go as well as you would expect there is almost always a chance to resit and remember that there isn’t much point deliberating on how you have performed until results day. If you lose composure on the day, take a short break, relax, return to the paper and have another attempt. Sometimes even the most horrible paper can be rescued with a little patience and calm.

Additional resources:

How to Survive Your Oral Exam
How to Memorise Formulae for Maths and Science Exams
How to Memorise Quotes: Great for Closed Book Exams

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