How to revise for your GCSEs

Student reading outside

GCSEs. Hmm. They’re kinda soon. There are also kinda a lot of them. Peeking at your exam timetable and seeing up to 30 exams can make you want to put that nasty piece of paper down and never look at it again. You don’t really need your GCSEs right? Right?!

Well, it would probably be best to try to get a few. And it’s really not as hard as you feel it’s going to be. You can take solace in the fact that hundred of thousands of students have been through the exam period before and smashed it. And you can too!

You just need a bit of motivation, organisation, a bit of thought and our step by step guide:

Right, what are you actually revising for?

The first thing you need to know are the details of each exam, test or assessment. 

  • When are they?

You’ll have bloody loads of different exams, and it’s really important to get your head around when they all are so you can keep track of them all.

  • What format are they? (Essay, multiple-choice, short answer, practical?)

You can find this out by looking at the past papers for each one. It’s best to check this out before the exam so you don’t have any nasty surprises – ‘I thought it was a 15 minute multiple choice, but it was a two hour essay question!’

  • What topics will each exam cover?

Find this out by looking at the specification for each exam – you can find these on the exam board website. This way you know exactly what to revise and don’t waste precious moments learning anything that won’t come up in your exam.

  • How will they be marked? (What skills and knowledge is the examiner looking for?

After you’ve had a look at the specifications and the past papers, you can check out the examiners reports, which will tell you what examiners want to see.

Organisation is key

Not as tough as it might seem. 

You know what you have to learn. You know when each exam is. You know how much time there is. Nobody can revise all day every day so work out realistically what times you can revise. Divide the days up into sessions and start to allocate topics to those sessions – or you can use the TSR study planner, which will do this for you. 

Gather your notes

Find all your class notes and compare them to the exam specification. Is there anything missing? Maybe a day off school where you missed something important? If so, make sure you cover that before you even start your revision – you can’t revise something you haven’t learnt! 

Find your own style

You’ve never had to revise for this much stuff before – but there may have been times when you’ve learned something successfully, such as a GCSE short course or other assessment. If you can think of some, remember what method worked for you then. Can you use a similar approach now?

 If you’re really not sure, we’ve got a list of five ways to get your revision started (link). You can try a few different methods, such as flashcards, mindmaps or note-taking, and see what works for you. 

Revise. Test. Repeat.

Is your revision actually working? If it isn’t there’s no point in fooling yourself into thinking it is, however tempting that may be. You’ll only really know what you’ve learnt by testing yourself (or getting somebody else to test you) and being totally honest about the results. 

Start each revision session with a test on what you’ve learnt before. If you don’t remember something, go over it again – it’s time well spent as repetition of learning really works. 
As the exam gets nearer the tests should get longer, covering more and more until the day before when you should know most things.

Keep calm and carry on

Revision rarely goes exactly according to plan. Some days it gets very frustrating - you feel you’re just not learning anything, can’t settle down to work or keep getting distracted. These feelings are inevitable as revision can be a stressful time. 

Take a short break: clear your head, maybe do some exercise, drink some water, eat something, talk to someone – calm down and clear your ahead. You’re doing fine.

What works for you? What advice would you give to someone who’s never revised before?