Year 11 is often quite a stressful and complicated year for students. It’s everyone’s first time doing important external exams, and the whole preparation process can be a lot to navigate. This article will provide you with an extensive guide to GCSE preparation, including recommended revision techniques and when you should start revising. You’re at the right place to find out all you need to know.
The GCSE revision process is different for everybody, but it’s important to give yourself the best chance at feeling fully prepared when the exam season begins. Don’t leave it all up to the last minute, set mini goals throughout the year so that you don’t end up with impossible amounts of revision to do. When your exams are approaching, start trying to do a few practice papers each week so that you get better at exam technique.
Whilst this may have given you a brief summary of GCSE preparation, you should continue reading this article to find out additional tips, as well as a lot more in-depth advice.
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How much preparation should you be doing for your GCSEs?
Many students believe that they should be revising for their GCSEs every day. However, this isn’t always the case and can actually do more harm than good. You need to find a balance between studying and allowing yourself time to relax and unwind.
The amount of time spent on revision will be different for everybody and it will depend on the sort of grades you’re aiming for. No matter how much you want to do, it’s important to plan out the topics within your subjects and how much time you are going to allocate to them, so that you can make it much easier for yourself later down the line.
Earlier on in Year 11 it’s a good idea to spend some time each week making flashcards or preparing other revision resources, doing more at this stage isn’t really necessary (though this will depend on individual preference). However, if you do want to start revising early in Year 11, then maybe just stick to doing an hour or two a week. Additionally, remember that if you’ve already spent quite a while doing homework then you should probably leave revising to another evening, don’t overwork yourself!
Later in the year, more revision will need to be done so make sure to fit at least a couple of hours of revision into your weekends. When your exams are only a couple of months away you should be putting into place a revision timetable and dedicating a big enough proportion of your Easter holiday to it.
When should you start revising for your GCSEs?
Some people will say that you should start revising as soon as possible, but whilst logically this may appear to make the most sense it’s not really an efficient way to do it. You may hear that a few people are starting, or have started, their revision in the summer holidays after year 10!
The most important thing to do in the summer holidays is to relax and enjoy time with friends and family so that you are ready to start school again in September feeling well-rested. There is no problem with doing small amounts of revision here and there, such as practicing some French vocab or preparing a couple of future revision resources, but certainly don’t tire yourself out by revising each day when you could be enjoying a hobby or meeting up with people.
The key thing to remember is that you should be spreading the work out over several months rather than trying to cram it all in at the last minute. This will mean that you can revise more effectively and that you will feel more confident about taking exams.
You should at least start revising two or three months before your GCSE exams. It may be possible to squeeze all your revision into a single month, but with this little time your revision would have to be extremely intense and could result in exhaustion. If you are aiming for top grades, you might want to start revising a bit in the Christmas holidays or from January, to allow for plenty of time to reach your goals
To find out more about the ideal time to begin your revision, check out this Think Student article.
What’s the best way to revise for your GCSEs?
News flash: there’s no one best way to revise for GCSE exams! There’s certainly isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution and so you’ll need to spend some time trying out different methods to find out which ones work for you. Below, I have listed 4 revision methods and strategies that you should try:
It’s a good idea to set up a revision timetable to stay organised. A revision timetable will give your study time structure and enable you to plan your time so that you cover all the material you need to while still finding time for social and recreational activities.
You could create a revision timetable simply on paper, or on a spreadsheet, or you could try using a mobile phone app designed for planning study schedules. When creating a revision timetable, make sure to leave 5-to-15-minute breaks between each block of revision. Remember to also leave big chunks of time for relaxing or seeing friends. To find out more about how to create the perfect revision timetable, check out this Think Student article.
A popular revision method is testing yourself using flashcards. For GCSE pupils, flashcards are a very practical and adaptable revision tool. They can serve so many purposes, from condensing information to assisting you in learning terminology for various subjects.
You can test your topic knowledge quickly and easily with their quick-fire question format, and its portable design makes it simple to break up dense textbooks of material into manageable chunks. They might be particularly helpful if you are studying for a language exam by writing the English term on one side and the other language on the other. If you want even more convenience, there are several online services and apps for creating and storing your flashcards digitally.
Are you having trouble recalling a lot of new material or understanding the connections between various topics? Mind maps might be a great method for you! With the use of keywords, you can summarise information, incorporate crucial terminology, and visually connect thoughts as you branch out from the central topic.
Information retention can greatly benefit from having a topic summarised into a mind map on one large sheet of A3 paper, especially if you add visual aids to help summarise procedures or definitions. When finished, stick them to the walls surrounding your study area. You’ll be reminded of the information and find it easier to remember when you enter that area. Mind maps also help you to identify any gaps in your knowledge.
Getting familiar with past papers is another highly effective revision technique for preparing for your GCSE exams. After all, it’s pointless to learn all that material if you can’t apply it to the exams.
Past papers can be extremely useful in familiarising yourself with exam format, including different types of question styles and time constraints. Then, when the real thing arrives, you’ll know exactly what to expect.
Most exam boards’ websites will have downloadable past papers that you can print and complete at home. For AQA, you can find their past paper and mark scheme page here. If you’re not sure which exam board you’re with for your subject, or if you’re having trouble finding it, ask your teacher for help.
For even more exam revision tips, have a look at this Think Student Article.
Which GCSEs are the most important?
The most important subjects are English and Maths, which are required for most courses, apprenticeships, jobs, and university degrees. Before you can get into these, you will usually need a grade 4 or higher in Math and English. So, if you can get those grades, you will likely have a larger number of opportunities.
Some sixth forms and the majority of colleges provide a variety of Math and English courses for students who need to retake one or both of these subjects after the age of 16. Whether you enter an apprenticeship, sixth form, or college, you must continue to study Maths and English alongside your other studies until you reach the age of 18 or achieve a grade 4. If you want additional information about which GCSE subjects are compulsory, read this Think Student guide.
Should you revise the day before an exam?
Yes! You should definitely do a little revision the day before. It’s critical to make the most of the time you have left to ensure you remember everything. It’s effective because it stores all your last-minute information in your short-term memory, allowing you to recall it during your exam. Furthermore, revising the day before your exam will most likely boost your confidence as you notice how much you remember.
However, make sure to not over-do it! If you revise for hours on end or late into the night, you’ll be exhausted the next day and will likely be slower and less alert when answering questions. Try to get plenty of sleep so that you can function to the best of your ability the following day – and ace your exam!