Studying for your GCSEs? Whether you’re learning the structure of DNA, French verb conjugations, or the Cold War, follow these top 10 revision tips to achieve those top grades.
1) START EARLY
Weeks, not days before the exam. If you’ve just returned home from school and you’re still totally confused by that Maths equation, don’t ignore it until the week before your GCSE exam. Go over it as soon as possible.
Try to fill the gaps in your understanding throughout the year; this will make life much easier when you start revising for your final exams!
2) KNOW WHAT YOU’LL NEED TO KNOW
First of all, print a copy of the syllabus that you’re studying (make sure it’s the right exam board!). The syllabus will include everything that you’re expected to know about each subject, and therefore, what you could be examined on. Don’t waste time learning topics that are not on the syllabus.
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Secondly, read the examiners’ report (this is an A* tip!). These reports include details of what students from the previous year did right and wrong in the exam board’s opinion, and it’s written by the people who will be marking your exam paper.
3) CREATE A REVISION TIMETABLE, AND STICK TO IT
Start by breaking each topic down into ten to fifteen shorter sections. This way, when you sit down to start your revision, you won’t be overwhelmed by the task ahead. Work out how many topics you have to learn and how much time to spend on each, allowing extra time for those particularly tricky topics.
Create a timetable, setting realistic targets for each day (no, you won’t manage to learn the entire English Literature syllabus in one day…). Your timetable doesn’t have to be set in stone – you might even prefer to write up a weekly ‘to-do’ list for each subject.
However, creating a revision timetable is a waste of time if you don’t stick to it. Don’t spend longer learning a section than you have scheduled – move on. The purpose of following a timetable is to avoid spending weeks learning the earlier topics and then frantically rushing through the later ones.
After you’ve covered a section, tick it off on your timetable. Visually tracking your progress will help to keep you motivated.
Check out GoConqr when creating your revision timetable.
4) REVISE ACTIVELY
This means that simply reading page after page from a textbook is not enough to achieve those top grades. Make your own notes. Although it’s slower, you’ll remember more by hand writing your notes than by typing them. Don’t waste time making your notes look perfect.
Revise using as many different resources as possible to break up the monotony. For example, mind maps are an excellent way to visually link together different concepts. Listen to podcasts, watch documentaries, take online quizzes – mix up your revision resources.
Flash cards are perhaps the best tool for revising. Write a question on one side, and the answer on the other. You can use flash cards to learn just about anything; biological terms, mathematical equations, key historical dates…
Check out QuizLet for some useful online flash card decks.
5) FIND A GOOD PLACE TO STUDY
No, in front of the TV is not a good idea (no matter how convinced you are that watching Big Bang Theory will help you to understand that tricky Physics chapter…). Don’t revise in bed – you’ll almost definitely doze off, and you’ll have trouble relaxing at night.
Try revising in your study, kitchen, the library, a coffee shop – wherever works for you (but remember that it’s best to use a proper desk and chair). You might find it useful to revise different subjects in different places.
6) DON’T GET DISTRACTED
It’s a struggle for us all, but keep off of Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat whilst you’re revising. To avoid any temptation, keep your phone in another room and only look at it during your breaks.
Use apps such as SelfControl (for MACs) and ColdTurkey (for Windows) to block distracting websites on your laptop.
7) REVISE WITH FRIENDS
Get together with a group of friends who are revising for the same exam. You will be confident on different topics, so help each another out. Go through each section, quizzing each other and asking questions if you’re confused.
Explaining a topic to someone else is a great way to test that you’ve actually understood it, plus, it’s easier to remember information once you’ve spoken it aloud.
8) PRACTISE, PRACTISE, PRACTISE
Once you’ve covered every topic, don’t just go over your flash cards thousands of times; you need to apply the information you’ve learned. GCSEs are not simply memory tests.
Attempt as many past paper and practice questions as possible. Do them in silence, and in timed conditions. By doing this, you’ll become more familiar with how questions are worded and you’ll learn how much time to allocate to answering each question. In the exam, you need to be able to recall only the information that is relevant to the question, and get it written down in the time given – this requires practice!
Once you have finished a practice paper, go over it with the mark scheme. Make a note of what you did right, and what you could have done better. Look at model answers given on the mark scheme. This is the best way to improve your exam technique.
The more past papers and practice questions you attempt, the more comfortable and confident you’ll feel in the real exam.
9) DON’T REVISE 24 HOURS A DAY, 7 DAYS A WEEK
It isn’t effective. Take regular breaks whilst you’re revising, and return to your work with fresh eyes. You’ll be able to concentrate much better if you take regular breaks. It’s a waste of time trying to learn new information with an over-tired brain.
Keep your body and mind happy; exercise regularly, eat well, and socialise. You don’t have to give up the things you enjoy during the revision period.
Most importantly – sleep! Staying up all night and drinking gallons of caffeine are not good ideas. Sleeping actually improves memory.
10) BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF
If you can’t understand something, don’t drive yourself crazy. Make a note of where you’re stuck, and come back to it later. Look for a new source of information, and don’t be afraid to ask your teacher for help. You may not understand everything immediately – be patient with yourself.
We all have days when our brain seems to take absolutely nothing in. If you’re having one of these days, go for a walk, get some fresh air, and try again.
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