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How to memorise formulae – Maths and Science Exams

Memorising mathematics formulas can be a crucial element to your GCSE and A-level exams, so mastering the skill can be essential.

Since the GCSE and A-level specifications changed in 2015, formula booklets are no longer provided for most maths and science examinations. This means you’ll need to know the important formulas off by heart.

There’s no point only loosely knowing them, as this may mean that you’ll get them wrong in your exam which could easily lose you some vital marks.

This applies to all examination boards whether you’re sitting your maths GCSE with AQA, Edexcel or a different exam board. And could appear in any of your maths exams, whether they require the use of a calculator or not.

If you’re trying to find which formulae you need to know, you can read through our article ‘Maths GCSE Need-to-know formulae’ or look on the website for your exam board.

We know that trying to learn endless formulas can be a chore – if you’re bored of standard revision methods and want something new, why not try our alternatives? Tavistock Tutors have compiled a list of tips to help improve your memory and help you excel.
 

  1. Don’t try to learn them all at once

Trying to learn formulas can be hard enough as it is without overloading yourself with them all at once!

To get yourself started, try and choose 2 or 3 at a time to work on. Trying to memorise too many will be difficult and you’re likely to get them mixed up. You won’t be able to learn all of the necessary formulas in an hour’s session – so start early and work through them gradually.

 

  1. Go post-it note crazy

Want gentle reminders of formula without actively trying to learn them? Using post-it notes can be a great way to learn them over a longer period of time – this should ensure that they stay in your long-term memory!

You firstly write down your formula down on a post-it note.Try and also draw a diagram if it relates to a shape as this will help you visualise the formula!

You could even try and colour co-ordinate your post-it notes, for example having a different colour for a different theme, such as blue for area and yellow trigonometry!

Keep writing down your formulas onto post-it notes, and then take all these different notes and stick them about your house. You can put them anywhere and everywhere, all around the house. For example, on cupboard doors, in your drawers, mirrors, windows and the fridge (Make sure you get permission first!)

When you next reach for a quick revision snack, you’ll be reminded of the formula. If you really want to push yourself with memorising them, you could walk around the room and try and read them aloud from memory before having a look!

 

  1. Set a picture of the formula as your phone background

If like the rest of the world you’re constantly on your phone or tablet, it might be a good idea to set your wallpaper to a formula. You may find yourself subconsciously learning it as you check the time or your notifications.

 

  1. Visualise!

If you know that you’re a visual learner, then why not use this to your advantage?

Repeatedly scrawling notes in the same black pen is exciting for nobody – why not introduce some variety or infuse some colour!

Create a mind-map, perhaps based on trigonometry, and then try writing all of your formulae around it. This visual image is more likely to stay in your mind, and you could even try and write it out from scratch to test yourself!

It doesn’t matter if it’s not a masterpiece – it will help you visualise the formula in your mind and that will help aid you in your exams!

 

  1. Index/ Flashcards

Whatever you call them, flash cards are an age-old tool which are helpful for remembering small pieces of information. All you need to do is cut up some paper or card into palm cards and write each of your formulae on an individual card.

On one side, write the name of the formula such as ‘area of a rectangle’. On the other side of the card, write out the formula with a diagram if possible.

First, read the formula several times aloud with it still in front of you. Then flip the card over and try to repeat the formula from memory.

You can grab index cards in different colours which could work with your colour co-ordination, and they’re small and portable so you can try and learn the formulae anywhere – even on the bus to school!

 

  1. Record them

Here at Tavistock Tutors, we recognise that everyone hates the sound of their own voice – but saying things aloud and then listening to them again has been scientifically proven to improve your memory!

Most phones and computers have a microphone or memo function. You can record yourself saying the formula aloud and then play the recording over again whenever you have a few spare minutes. Hearing them, mouthing the words along with yourself or saying them out loud can all help.

It can be a really easy and passive way to learn, whilst maybe doing something else – Some people even listen to them as they’re falling asleep!

If you find that you really find listening helpful, then maybe consider making your formulae into a song which could make them even easier to recall.
 

  1. Quizzing and teaching

Another uncommon way to learn small snippets of information is by working with other people and speaking them aloud. Many people underestimate the power of talking as a useful way of remembering things.

If you’re in a group, or just at home – you could ask someone to go through your revision resources with you. By trying to teach someone else some information, you will simultaneously be strengthening your own knowledge of the topic.

Try and explain how the formula works to someone (maybe even to your dog or a wall if you can’t find someone) and then this will help you to understand it and memorise it better.

You could even produce a small presentation with your formula on. This could include practice questions in which you demonstrate how you would apply the specific formula to the question – this is sure to remain in your memory if you’ve been teaching other people using your presentation.
 

  1. Online resources

If you fancy something a little different, without using pen and paper – then there’s plenty of resourcesonline to help you learn things quickly!

Websites such as Memrise (https://www.memrise.com) and Quizlet (https://quizlet.com/en-gb) are very popular as language-learning tools – but that’s not all they are good for!

You can create your own sets and courses, similar to an online pack of index-cards. These websites then use different types of activities and games to help make learning more fun.

You can even download an app so that you can memorise formulas on the go!

 

  1. Put them into practice

As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect! One of the easiest ways to try and remember your essential formulae, is to use them repeatedly.

The more you use them within your own workings, the more likely you are to remember them when completing a similar question in your exam. You could use textbooks, worksheets or past papers for this practice.

If you want to find some past papers for your exam paper, read our article ‘Maths GCSE Past Papers’ which has a full resource bank and discusses some of the benefits of practising with past papers.

 

  1. Don’t Panic!

We know that ‘formula’ might not even sound like a real word at this point, but don’t get bogged down – try to give yourself plenty of time to get them into your long-term memory before your exams.

Overall, how you study and memorise formulae is entirely up to you – just do whatever works best (remember that everyone learns differently) and maybe even try some different methods together.

If you’re giving yourself little reminders to help you remember the formulae, don’t become too reliant on this help as you will need to know them off by heart in your exam with no hints to help you!

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Additional resources:

GCSE Maths: Need to Know Formulas
GCSE Maths
The Importance of Studying Maths and Science

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