How to revise for your GCSEs

GCSEs: a four-lettered acronym that strikes fear, frustration and ferocious amounts of stress into the minds of students, parents and teachers alike. However, exams shouldn’t be such a trauma. Finding effective, efficient and fun learning strategies is crucial to minimising the anxiety that often comes with exams.

So, here are some tips that will help you alleviate some of the GC distress-E:

  • Be on top of what it is you actually need to do. Yes, it sounds obvious, but it is important to know exactly what each exam entails: how many papers are there for each subject? How long is each exam? What topics will each paper cover? What resources are you allowed to bring into the exam? You can find all this information in the syllabus for each course on the respective exam board websites. You’ll be surprised how much more in control you will feel once you know exactly what you need to cover.
  • Find your exam dates for each paper. Your school will probably provide you with a timetable, but know your own schedule and you can plan accordingly.
  • Create a revision schedule for the holidays and study leave. Be realistic and spread the workload out. Putting everything off and scheduling 9 hours on a Sunday is not feasible! Include all your subjects, even the ones you think you don’t think you need to revise for. Schedule 30 minute revision slots, with decent breaks in-between, and create variation in this schedule. Frequent and focussed short bursts are much more effective than last-minute cramming.
  • Remain mindful and present in class. Make notes, be an active participant in group discussion and ask questions. Read and reread your class-notes so the topics don’t run away from you.
  • Discover which learning-styles work best for you. There are fantastic resources available these days, from online sites to paper revision guides and YouTube tutorials – some distil the information into skeletal bullet points whilst others elaborate on each topic with vast amounts of detail. You can also lean upon audiobooks and film adaptations too to bolster your knowledge of texts and plays.
  • Have a go at past papers and be proactive in marking your own work. It is difficult to emphasise how beneficial it is to look at the mark schemes for each paper, particularly for essay-based subjects like English and History. Many students do not believe that stating something so obvious will get them a mark so do not bother, yet sometimes it is the obvious that the examiner is looking for. Mark schemes can also help with structuring your question responses.
  • Identify which topics within each subject you find most challenging, and which ones you find easier. Can you skill swap with a friend and help each other? Are you stronger with quadratic equations, but struggle with Venn diagrams, for example? Teaching someone else a topic helps instil your own understanding of the subject – if you can teach it, you understand it. Revising doesn’t always mean working alone at your desk. Find ways to collaborate, but stay focussed!
  • Discover ways to switch off that are related to your exams. Listen to podcasts or read interviews with people you come across in your courses. You may find that an author on your set texts list has done a great Desert Island Discs episode or a historian produced a fascinating documentary on one of your exam topics.
  • Keep a structured day, but take time for self-care. Try to not use your phone until noon as this can really affect your concentration and motivation – get one or two revision chunks done before you start scrolling. Aim to regulate your sleeping pattern, particularly in the month or so leading up to the exam-period.

    Good luck! 

Written by Gillian, a Bonas MacFarlane GCSE tutor.