GCSE Maths exams and revision: AQA explains what you need to do

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Our series on exam advice continues with tips from AQA on GCSE Maths

To help you make the most of your remaining revision time, we’ve worked with exam board AQA to create a series of exam advice articles.

In each of these features, you’ll find advice and easy-to-follow tips written by one of AQA’s subject matter experts.

Read on to get the inside track on GCSE Maths, direct from the people who make the exams

AQA logo byline
AQA logo byline

DO practise the easy things

  • There may be lots of questions on an exam paper testing topics you understand well. It’s important to get lots of practice at these questions and minimise the risk of making silly mistakes and losing unnecessary marks.

DO break down longer questions when revising

  • When practising longer problems it may be a good idea to ignore the question for a minute or two and simply work out everything you can from the information presented.
  • For example, write down all the angles you can work out on a diagram and then look at the question to see what it’s asking for. Very often you’ll find that you’ve already found the answer, or you may be just one step away from it.

DO get to know your calculator

  • Two of the three GCSE Maths papers expect you to be able to use a calculator effectively and efficiently.
  • Practise using the trig functions and carrying out longer calculations using brackets etc.
  • Know how to set the mode of your calculator so you calculate and get answers in the format you expect.

DO lots of practice. Then do some more. And then practise some more

  • There’s very little in maths that you can learn from reading. You need to get on and do some questions.
  • This might be past papers or groups of questions on a topic you know you need to work on, or material you can find online. Just do lots of maths!
  • Go back over papers you’ve already done and have another go. You’ll see yourself improving and build your confidence.

DO make sure you read the question properly… then read it again

We see lots of examples every year where students have done some accurate work, but haven’t answered the question asked.

  • If an answer is asked for in particular units, give your response in those units, otherwise you’ll lose out on marks.
  • Similarly, if an answer must be to a number of decimal places or significant figures, make sure you give the answer in the requested format. Again, you’ll lose out on marks if you don’t.

DO show your working. Well-structured answers with the odd word of explanation will help you answer questions

  • It’ll make it easier for you to follow your working and make the right choice for the next step in your answer.
  • Showing your working shows the examiner you’ve understood the task and explains your thought process.
  • Using the appropriate processes to answer the question could still earn you marks, even if you get the final answer wrong.

DO keep going right to the end of a paper

  • You’ll be able to pick up lots of marks for partly answering questions, even if you can’t get to the end.
  • Try to do something on every question – both in the exam and when you’re revising.

DON’T answer questions in a haphazard fashion or get lost in your own working

  • Last summer, on the some of the longer questions of the non-calculator paper, students’ answers weren’t always easy for examiners to follow.
  • Make sure your working follows a logical progression. If you can’t follow your working, the examiner will also probably struggle, which could cost you marks if your final answer isn’t correct.

DON’T assume the answer your calculator gives is always correct

  • You can still make mistakes on a calculator. It’s easy to make slips, so always think whether the answer you have makes sense.

DON’T just guess an answer on multiple choice questions or jump to the first answer that may be right

  • Take a little time to look at the options, scribble down some working if it helps, and come to a decision on the right answer.
  • Remember that often the ‘wrong’ options are chosen because they’re common mistakes.

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Good luck from AQA

AQA believes everyone has the potential to achieve, and we make sure our qualifications give all students the opportunity to show what they can do and progress to the next stage of their lives.

Our subject experts worked with The Student Room so we can reach as many students as possible with advice on how to approach your revision and exams. We wish you well in the weeks ahead, and don’t forget to look after yourselves too: eat well, sleep well and tell someone how you’re feeling if there are days when things don’t go so well or you don’t feel so good.

 Good luck!