I know, I know, it’s only January yet and GCSEs will probably feel like ages away to some of you Year 11s. So far into the future that you don’t need to worry about them? Well, sort of. You definitely need to start thinking about them if you’re hoping to get higher grades than you’re currently working at. And if you start thinking about them now, you won’t need to worry about them later. It’s simple really. I’m not claiming to be any sort of study expert, but having done my GCSEs last year, I thought I’d share some of my tips to make this stressful part of the year easier for those of you doing their GCSEs.
Spread Your Work Out
It’s easy enough to say that you will spread your work out, but actually doing it is a whole other story. Following your mock exams, identify your weaknesses and address each one. Don’t wait until the week before GCSEs to start revising! If you start reading through your notes now, you’ll feel so much more prepared when it comes to the exam period. I can’t emphasise this enough. While others are cramming, you will know the subject inside out. Revise regularly, starting now, and I can guarantee you will feel less stressed when exam season comes around. Another benefit of spreading out your revision is that you’ll actually retain the information a lot better when you’re going over it on a weekly basis.
Leading on from my first point, go over topics that you are struggling with rather than working on those you know you’re good at already (which is so tempting!) Make an effort to understand those parts of the syllabus in with the help of websites, textbooks and teachers. That’s by far the most important thing about your mocks; your grades don’t matter in the long-term and are only an indication of how much work you need to do.
Rather than work through each subject in the order you were taught it, work through the bits you find hardest. I guess you could pray that the hard bits won’t come up in the exam… but it’s best to know everything on the specification. Besides, predictions are never entirely accurate so leaving something out is a wholesomely bad idea.
Spending hours on making a revision timetable is utterly pointless if you don’t stick to it… which is what I did. You’re much better off spending those hours revising instead. From now up until May, try and fit in a few hours of revision a week, but never force yourself to work when you’re not feeling up to it. When you’re feeling super energised and motivated, go ahead and revise for three hours (with breaks in between, of course) but be careful not to burn yourself out.
I didn’t really learn how to work smart until I started sixth form and had so many different things to juggle that I had no other choice. What do I mean by working smart? Well, predominantly it’s about not engaging in pointless tasks which you aren’t learning anything new from. Don’t watch revision videos absent-mindedly and pretend to yourself that you’re revising and don’t copy mindlessly out of the textbook because you’re wasting your own time and gaining nothing from it. I sound harsh, I know, but only because I’m guilty of doing this myself and it’s my biggest regret. When you’re revising, move away from distractions and sit somewhere you know you’re not going to fall asleep. Two hours of focused revision is so much better than four hours of distracted revision.
Find What Works for YOU.
Everyone else might be making mind maps and flash cards, but if that doesn’t help you learn, then don’t bother doing it! If making notes and drawing diagrams really helps you get the information in your head, then do it; don’t feel that you have to do be revising using the same techniques as everyone else.
There are a few things that I would recommend you all do, however.
- Check the Spec. Make sure your teacher hasn’t left anything out (it happens!) Try and organise your folders so your notes are in a sensible order – but don’t spend hours doing it and please don’t do it during your actual GCSEs…
- Past Papers. Only do past papers when you have revised the topic first. That way, you can do them without looking at your notes, in timed conditions, and marking them will help you pinpoint your weaknesses.
- Learn the Mark Schemes. I understand that you will be doing the new GCSEs, but there is still a lot of overlap in terms of the content. With long-answer questions, I highly recommend that you look at the mark scheme and learn the keywords and points you need to mention to get the marks. I found this incredibly helpful for subjects with 6 mark questions (Computing, Biology, Physics, Chemistry…)
Take Care of Yourself
A bit of a cliché one to finish off on, I know, but it’s the most important one. At the end of the day, if you aren’t feeling your best, you’re not going to perform to your full potential. Make sure you’re taking enough breaks in between your revision, and do not compare your level of revision to your classmates. In the run-up to exams, make sure you’re getting enough sleep and are waking up refreshed and ready to learn. Staying up an extra two hours to revise till one AM is never worth it. Besides, if you spread your work out and start today, you shouldn’t have this problem anyway.
Another thing… don’t lock yourself in your room for the entire day! Remember to take a break: go outside and take a walk, chat to your friends and family and try to eat healthy. I have lots more simple self-care ideas to help you destress over on this post.
I’ll be over the moon if this post helps even just one of you. For those of you who have already done your GCSEs, what is your biggest piece of advice for Year 11s? Share your tips in the comments below so we can all help each other!
Also… my next post (which will be out on Thursday) is going to be a Q&A! You can submit a question anonymously here about anything study/ school-related. I’m looking forward to reading and answering all your questions.