When Should You Start Revising For Your GCSEs?

In GCSE by Think Student Editor1 Comment

In this article I’ll be taking a look at the best time to start your studying, talking about when to revise, when NOT to revise, and the Do’s and Don’ts of planning your revision.

You really should start revising two or even three months before your GCSE exams – so ideally around the 10th of March. However, I reckon you can just about get away with a single month of revision. This compact revision would have to be extremely intense, and would tire you out for your GCSE exams. I’ll go into more depth later in the article, so keep reading.

When Is The Best Time To Start Revising For Your GCSEs?

Best Time to Revise For GCSE
The best time to start revising for you should allow you enough time to cover everything you’ve learnt. This will obviously be different for everyone, but there are a few pointers that are similar for everybody.

For example, the recommended time for revision is a subject per week. Because most students study between 8 and 12 subjects, this means that you need to revise for two to three months. 

This means starting on (or around) the 10th of March. 

This is the average recommended time, but it will be different for everyone – some students will find it easy to revise, whereas others will take longer to process the same information.

Starting two or three months in advance is definitely a good starting point for planning your revision. It’s a nice, round amount of time that is easy to fit your GCSE subjects into.

I’d recommend counting the number of subjects you take, determining the amount of time you want to spend on each subject, and multiply those numbers together!

This will give you the amount of time you think you need to revise for your exams, and so from that you can work out when to start in accordance with the start of your exam season. I suggest you add a week or two onto that total, though, just to make sure you’ve given yourself enough time to comfortably revise everything you need. This way, if at the end of your revision you feel like you haven’t quite grasped a concept (or a whole topic, for instance!) you have time to catch up.

It also allows time for any mistakes you make in your planning, or any unforeseen events that might crop up in your timetable.

The absolute minimum time you should start revising for your GCSE’s is a month away. This is because you need time to safely learn all of the facts and figures for your exams, and you can’t fit all of that information in your brain in a month!

However, if you do start this late, you better make sure that you are implementing the absolute the best revision techniques!

If you find yourself in the situation where the start of your exams is less than a month away, don’t panic – there are still steps you can take to help.

You can never start revising too late, as revision always improves your knowledge and understanding of your subjects.

Therefore, even if your exams are right around the corner, start revising! If you have left your revision so late as to the actual morning of the exam, you have to ensure you are doing the right things during the very short amount of time you have left. You really should go and find out the things you should be doing on the morning of your exam if you are unsure.

Make sure that you’re doing everything you can to boost your confidence for that final exam, as more studying is almost never a bad idea. 

Talk to your teachers about what you should be doing, too. They will have a good idea of how to help you revise efficiently, as they know your capabilities and limits as a student.

So, in conclusion – the average recommended time to start your revision is two to three months before your first exam (starting on the 10th of March). 

This gives you enough time to go over everything you need for your exams, whilst also being close enough to the deadline that you’ll remember it all!

However, every student is different. If you feel that you need more or less time to revise, then adapt your timetable to fit you! The two or three months example is just that – an example.

Why Can’t You Just Pull an All-Nighter Before Your Exam?

Doing GCSE Revision All Night
Above all else, do not do this! This is an awful way to revise, and I highly recommend you do not attempt to pull an all-nighter! 

Trying to cram a lot of information in at once may feel like a smart idea, but it is the complete opposite. The facts and figures you need to know will be stored in your short-term memory rather than your long-term, and this means that you won’t be able to recall them for your exam!

Not only does pulling an all-nighter not work, it also leaves you with no sleep for when the exam comes. This will result in drowsiness as you attempt to regurgitate information for your exam, and it will lead to mistakes! 

The most effective way to revise is little, but often. This is because the repetition of your revision will help your brain to remember it better, and this means a better chance of success in your exam.

This is the complete opposite of revising all night just before your exam, and so you can clearly see that pulling an all-nighter is a bad idea!

If you are feeling panicky, and you don’t see any other option available other than an all-nighter – don’t do it! Revise as much as you can, but don’t stay up too late.

However, if it is your exam literally tomorrow and you have remembered absolutely nothing, you must stay up because your brain needs at least a little information to recall in the exam. If you do decide to pull an all-nighter, I highly recommend you read my article on the things to avoid while studying  so the revision is actually effective.

Instead of an all-nighter, many people have a massive “cram day” on the day before an exam. In my article Should You Revise The Day Before An Exam?, I explore how effective this strategy really is.

It’s better to revise a little bit and have a clear mind on the morning of your exam than to stay up late and be super drowsy! Besides, there’s always a short period of time before your exam in which you can get some last-minute revision in.

It can help you get in the right frame of mind for your exam, and it’s a much better alternative to being dangerously tired! Try to revise as much as possible before it gets to this situation – to avoid losing valuable marks in your exam!

If you are reading this on the morning of your exam and you have already gone and pulled an all-nighter. It may be too late for you to perform well in the exam – however, it may not be, providing you do the right things in the morning. If your morning routine isn’t already rock solid, you MUST go and find out the right things to do on the morning of your exam.

Do You Only Need To Revise In The Last Year Of School?

GCSE Secondary School
You don’t need to revise in your last year of school, but it is definitely recommended if you want to get anything above a pass in your exams! 

However, should I be revising throughout Year 9 and Year 10?

We know revision is important, and especially so as you draw ever closer to the start of your GCSE’s. Because most students take their GCSE’s in their last year of school, it makes sense to start studying there.

However, getting into good revision habits earlier on in school can stand you in good stead for your GCSE’s, as you’ll be naturally accustomed to the hard working grind of revision.

Hopefully, if you start your revision early on in school, you’ll also retain some of the information. This means that when your GCSE’s roll around, it’ll be a lighter workload as your revision will be partly done for you.

But, if you’re reading this article, it’s most likely that your GCSE exams are coming up sooner rather than later.

So in answer to the question, yes – revision with the aim of success is only necessary in your final year of school.

In fact, it’s only absolutely necessary a month away from the start of your exams – but that’s a very risky move and you might end up with more GCSEs with passes than A*’s.

Any amount of revision is a good amount of revision, and it tends to be that the more you do, the better your results (as long as you’re revising in the right way).

When Should You Start Revising For GCSEs

This graph represents the recommended effort you should put into your revision in the last year of school (Year 11) – for both MOCK’s and GCSE’s. You’ll see that the effort for your GCSE revision is higher than that of your MOCK – this is because GCSE exams are the ones that really matter. The dip from December to January is to give your brain a break before the intense revision of GCSE’s.

So yes, lots of revision will help you in your GCSE’s, but the recommended time to start your revision is two to three months before the start of your exam (around the 10th of March).

This recommended amount of time spent revising has been found to be perfect for most students to cover all the parts of their subjects, and so much more revision really isn’t necessary.

Obviously it will help, that’s not what I’m saying – I’m saying that unless you fancy many monotonous hours of long revision for a year of your life, I’d stick to the two to three months recommendation!

Your two or three months of revision could become obsolete if you are making major mistakes during your revision time. Find out all of the things you should be avoiding while revising so you don’t accidentally put yourself at a disadvantage!

Can You Start Revising Too Early?

Revision is intended as a way of going back over everything you’ve learnt to strengthen your knowledge and understanding.

Therefore, it makes sense to focus your revision relatively close to the date of your exam. This way, the material you revise stays in your brain for the time up to your exam. 

Starting your revision ridiculously early can lead to you forgetting the early parts you studied, and this means more chance of mistakes in your exam!

Starting your studies too early runs the risk of it turning into useless time wasted. You need to revise smartly according to the date of your exam, otherwise you might forget what you’ve learnt! 

This is why it helps to have a good, strong, smart revision timetable set up for the days and months preceding your exam. It will help you to see what you have to revise, and it will help you see when you have to revise it!

Again, if you’re struggling to come up with the perfect timetable for you, make sure you chat to your tutor or teacher – they know you and your learning capabilities the best, and can help you out.

Having said that revising early is dangerous, it all depends on the capability of you as a learner. If you learn quickly, then you’d be better off starting your revision closer to your exam date. 

However, if you’re a slow learner, then I’d recommend starting your studies earlier on. This is to allow yourself enough time to go over everything you need to know, so you can recall it all during your final exam.

It also depends on your memory – if you can remember things for ages, then maybe starting your revision earlier is the right choice for you.

If you tend to forget things easily, try revising closer to your exam date – this way, the information is fresher in your mind, and you’re less likely to forget it. 

It’s never a bad idea to start your revision early, but take care you don’t start TOO early – it could lead to your forgetting of facts and figures essential to the success of your GCSE’s.

Is There Such a Thing as Revising Too Late?

Firstly, if you are wondering whether or not revising the day before your exam is a good idea or not, I have an entire article that answers that question in detail – so I won’t get my teeth sunk into that one here.

There is most definitely a thing such as ‘too late’. Leaving your revision to the last minute can have seriously negative effects on the outcome of your GCSE’s. 

As I’ve previously stated, you want to give yourself the most amount of time possible when revising for your exams. This is because you want to make sure that you can remember and apply the information you’ve learnt from your studies.

Therefore, not giving yourself enough time to revise can be seriously bad for your GCSE’s! Not doing enough revision will increase the likelihood of you making mistakes in your exam. More mistakes = bad grades! 

Leaving your studies way too late can lead to a panic-induced cramming session. This is where you try and take in all the information you need to know at once, but end up worse off than when you started!

This is because all the facts and figures you revise will be stored in your short-term memory instead of your long-term memory. This means that you won’t be able to recall them all when it matters most – in the middle of your exam.

It will also tire you out due to the intense stress and heavy workload, leaving you drowsy and worn out for your exam. This can lead to you making even more mistakes!

When Is It Too Late To Start Revising For Your GCSEs

This graph shows a student who has left their revision much too late for their GCSE’s. As you can see from the sharp spikes during the MOCK and GCSE periods, there is little to no revision leading up to the exams. You will also notice that there is, on average, less revision done for the exams.

So yes, there is such a thing as revising too late – but only if you go about it the wrong way. Don’t try and cram it all in at once! 

If you find yourself in the situation like this, make sure to focus on the areas you know you need to improve on – this way you revise effectively and efficiently, as opposed to going overboard and bombing in your exam.

What Can You Do If You’ve Left It Too Late?

So your exams are just around the corner, and you still haven’t started revising! Have no fear, there are a few things you can do to help.

Don’t panic. The worst thing you can do in this situation is panic. It makes you overly nervous, stressed, and anxious, and this can lead to mistakes that could easily be avoided! 

Start revising, no matter how close you are to your exam – revision is a key factor in the success of your GCSE’s, even if it’s just one night. 

If you’re struggling to find the motivation to revise, make sure to focus on your end goal, whether it be college, celebrating, or just being done with GCSE’s – this way, you’ll always be working towards something you want.

It also helps to set yourself short term targets, as this will keep you focused on the task at hand – helping you to stay motivated for revision for your exam.

It’s important to stay calm and just try your hardest if it ends up too late, as this is the way most likely to improve your performance in your exam.

Staying calm will give you a clear head, and result in clear decisions for both your revision and your GCSE exam.

Don’t over revise! It sounds counter-intuitive, but revising too much too fast can actually be detrimental to your GCSE! Over revising is certainly one thing you must avoid during exam season, however, I have identified 20 more things you should avoid during exam season over on another article.

The information (because you’re trying to cram it all in) doesn’t stay in your long term memory, and so doesn’t stay in your mind for your exam.

Efficiency Of GCSE Revision Over Time During One Session

Here is a graph of revision efficiency throughout a period of revision. You can see that the longer you revise for each session, the worse your brain gets at processing the information. This is why it’s better to revise little but often, to ensure maximum efficiency from your revision. At 10 hours in a row revising (it sounds extreme, I know) your brain retains close to no information.

It’s much better to revise only what you need, as then you can be awake and alert for your exams.

This also includes no all-nighters, as these are possibly the worst way to revise. In almost every case, do NOT pull an all-nighter before your exam! 

If you are wondering whether you should revise the day before your exam, I have an entire article answering the question “Should You Revise The Day Before An Exam?” in lots and lots of detail that you should most definitely check out.

So remember – stay calm, start your revision, and hope for the best in your exams. You can always learn from leaving it too late, so don’t do it again!

Depending on how late you have left it – the things you do on the morning of the exam will sway your performance in the exam massively. Therefore, you cannot afford to screw up your morning routine on the day of the exam. You really should go and found out how to make your morning work for you on the day of the exam. Doing the wrong things on the morning of the exam will almost certainly cost you the grade you want.

Can’t You Just Revise For The Subjects You’re Not Good At To Save Time?

Best Time To Start Revising
When revising (as I’ve previously mentioned) you should try and revise for every subject to ensure a nice, rounded set of results.

The reason you want a balanced set of results is because colleges look for rounded students – lacking in a particular subject will not help you out when applying for those top spots. 

Having said this, it is more than okay to have some subjects outshining others! This just shows what topics you’re proficient in, and colleges will see that in reference to what you want to do after GCSE.

However, this also means that it’s okay to revise for those particular areas you’re not so comfortable with, as it’s important to make sure no subjects are falling behind.

Any amount of revision is a good use of your time – therefore, revising for your worst subjects isn’t such a bad idea.

But make sure you don’t fall into the trap of solely revising for your worst subjects! This in itself creates a problem, as subjects you are good at fall short of what they should be.

Definitely revise for the subjects you’re not good at, as you obviously need to improve on them for your exam – make sure to give them extra time in your subject revision timetable.

If you want to know which GCSEs universities, colleges and employers value the most, you should definitely check out this article on How Important Are GCSEs?

In conclusion, while it is important to revise for the subjects you’re not good at, you also need to make sure that you’re giving your other subjects the right amount of revision time.

How Much Revision Should You Do For Your Exams?

GCSE Revision Textbooks
Throughout the course of your revision, you should attempt to cover all that you’ve learnt in your time at school. This means every topic, for every subject! 

It may seem like a lot now, but I can promise that halfway through you’ll be thankful you did it. Even though there is a lot to cover, it’s important to go over everything to ensure you’re comfortable in that final exam.

But, if you’re running out of time (like many students do) you should try and focus on the topics you’re not quite so comfortable with. That way, you can attempt to round out what your final grades will look like.

This means, unfortunately, that you’d spend your time revising things that you don’t like. Because you wouldn’t enjoy the topics you were revising, they wouldn’t be taken in as well. Therefore, you would make more mistakes in your exam!

Basically, it’s better to give yourself more time to revise, so you can go over everything you need to know before the start of your exam. 

It helps if you come up with a plan for your revision, so you can clearly see what needs to be revised and when. Applying it to a calendar format is especially useful as you can choose the days in which you carry out your studies (good example here).

As long as you leave yourself enough space to comfortably revise all the topics you need, then you have nothing to worry about.

However, revision can be dependent upon the person carrying it out – some people learn faster than others, and some people can remember things for a lot longer than others. 

Make sure that your revision is tailored to you – and by this, I mean make sure that you think you’ve got enough time to safely learn it all.

If one of your classmates has learnt the whole of the biology syllabus in a week, ignore them – everybody’s different.

If you’re having trouble coming up with the right timetable for you, ask one of your tutors or teachers to help – after all, they probably know you best.

It is important to remember that someone implementing the wrong revision techniques will need to do a lot more revision than someone who is going to implement really good revision techniques.

Why Is Revision So Important?

How Important Is Revision For Your GCSEs
Revision is essential to the success of your GCSE’s, as it will massively boost your knowledge and understanding of the topics you learn.

Revision will strengthen the connections you make between the facts and figures you need to know, and this will in turn make it easier for you in your exam.

Stronger links between information means that you’re less likely to make a mistake in your exam, and this means a higher chance of success!

We know it works, because millions of students around the world revise for their GCSE’s, and we’ve seen the difference it can make to your final grades.

I myself have seen the evidence, too. I’ve taken exams that I haven’t revised for before and they did not go the way I had planned. Revision, as I’ve learnt, is an essential part of the success of your GCSE’s. 

Good revision habits are great skills to have later on in life too, after GCSE’s are far behind you. There are many instances in life where efficient revision is essential to your success. 

For example, a driving test requires adept knowledge of the road, and this will only come through your own knowledge and understanding – something that can be improved by revision.

Revision is important whenever you’re trying to better yourself towards an end goal – in this case, GCSE’s. It’s crucial to utilise revision if you want to see the success of your GCSE exams.

Does The Amount of Revision You Do Really Affect Your Results?

How To Plan For Your GCSEs

The amount of revision you undertake for your GCSE exams will affect the outcome of your results. As we’ve seen, revision is essential if you want to succeed, but how much is too much?

Revision is a great way of preparing for your exams, and the more you do is usually the better. This is because the repetition of the information will help get it stuck in your brain.

And, as everyone knows, practice makes perfect. 

Try and revise as efficiently as you can to make the most of the time you have, as it is not always about the amount you do. There are of course many questions relating to when you should do your revision – one such question I have answered is “Should I Revise The Day Before An Exam?”.

Sure, doing lots of revision will certainly boost your grades, but it’s also about revising as efficiently as you can to maximize the amount of learning you can do.

This means revising in ways that allow the most amount of learning in a certain amount of time. For instance, revising by reading books probably isn’t as effective as writing down your own notes on a topic.

Because revision efficiency is a factor in the outcome of your results, it means that the amount of revision you do may not always affect your results much (if your revision technique is poor). Therefore, make sure you know what you should be avoiding during revision sessions – as to increase the efficiency of your revision. 

Non-efficient revision means you’ll have to revise lots more for your GCSE exams, whereas efficient revision means you won’t have to revise as much, because you’ll get the same amount of learning done.

But be careful! Revising too much can cause unneeded stress and angst, and make you tired and drowsy! The stress that over-revising will cause can lead to mistakes in your revision planning – and eventually your exam! 

Over-revising can make you feel super tired and burnt out. Being tired on the morning of your exam is not a good sign, as it might mean low concentration – and so more mistakes! This results in you having to employ a perfect morning routine on the day of your exam.

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Lara Francis
Lara Francis
2 years ago

WOW! I cannot believe how much information I’ve just read – Thank you so much and this will definitely help me this year with my MOCK exams :]