What does it take to come out the other side of GCSEs with top marks?
If you're just starting Year 10 or Year 11, you're probably wondering what to expect. What will the workload be like? When should you start your revision? And how many hours of cold, hard slog are you going to need to put into your homework?
Well, if you're going to ask anyone, we reckon the GCSE students who have just picked up their results are a good place to start.
As you know already, our GCSEs forum is full of them. Here's what they have to say on bossing your GCSEs.
1. Make life easier by making notes as you go
Make all of the notes that you need as you learn everything. Trust me, you don't want to be making notes two days before the exams.
Don Pedro K.
You need to make good notes in class that you can revise from or get a revision guide (I would dedicate my three science GCSEs to my revision guides – they were fantastic).
Be as organised as you can throughout the entire year. Don't throw out any of your notes, you'll need them.
2. Pay attention in class!
Pay attention in lessons, do your homework, and keep your work organised throughout the year – it should make revision easier later on.
Listen in class, do your coursework because it helps a lot with your grades and also don't overwork yourself because it can do a lot more harm than good if you work yourself too much.
Sometimes the teachers will spout something that sounds like nonsense and you'll go, "Why would I ever need that?" and then you go into the exam and the paper in front of you asks a question that is completely off syllabus but you know what, you can do it anyway because you remember your teacher telling you about it.
3. Start your GCSE revision early, but not too early
I started revision for my GCSEs in January, and then I started revision with a timetable and everything on 1 March. However, I had to go over some of the things I'd done in January because I had simply forgotten it. This shows that you don't want to start too early because you'll just forget it all.
Don Pedro K.
Even if you want the top grades, it's perfectly possible to start revising in February and still have enough time for all your revision to fit in perfectly.
I started revising about a month and a half before my exams and I was not stressed, nor did I have to cram. I covered everything in every subject within the two week period of Easter, leaving me oodles of time to keep going over it and doing past papers.
4. Perfect your GCSE revision technique while you're still practising
Try revising thoroughly for all end of topic exams. In my school, we have a test at the end of each science topic and at the end of each history, geography, maths, French and German topic. That's about eight tests a month throughout Year 10 and Year 11. I revised for each of those tests like they were my real GCSEs, including writing notes in a large notepad. This really helped me out when it came to actual revision time.
Revise for your mocks like it's your real exam so when the time comes you already know most things; you shouldn't be looking at a page you've never seen before in your final revision.
Take every exam, test and piece of work seriously because it all pays off in the end. Take your mock exams seriously so you can get a clear idea of how to improve.
5. Ask for help if you need it
Ask teachers for help and don't feel shame because, be honest with yourself, what's more important: getting laughed at by friends for being 'stupid' or doing the exam and coming across that question your teacher explained to you and going, "YES"?
Don't be afraid to ask for help. If you're struggling academically, talk to your subject teacher. Teachers are wonderful people who want to help us, they don't want to see us fail. Year 11 is so important, don't mess it up because you're too scared to request help. If you're struggling emotionally, talk to anyone – teachers, friends, parents. Just because other people are finding it easy, doesn't mean you're weaker or less able than them.
6. Stay cool
Don't panic. If you're calm from the beginning then you can do your work with a clear mind so you have a good understanding when it comes to revision.
Don't stress. Don't worry. Stay calm. Just make sure you listen to your teachers. Start revising well ahead but also revise well in a way that is good for you. Make good notes in classes and do a lot of past papers.
Take time out, immerse yourself in the social aspect of school... form as many friendships as you can, join new extra-curricular activities. It's lovely to have a break from the academic side of school. It's also handy for future university applications.
Obviously work hard and make sure you get grades that you're happy with, but remember that GCSEs aren't the be-all and end-all. Most universities don't really care what grades you got at GCSE as long as you've got your five pass grades (including English and Maths), and that your predicted grades for A-levels are good.