Study Advice I've gathered from my GCSEs
Mathematics; English Language; English Literature; Religious Studies; Geography; Fine Art; Graphic Design; Biology; Chemistry; Physics
- Learn how to do a Stem and Leaf Diagram. Remember the Key. There is always one of these and it’s usually easy.
- Don’t forget about the equations at the front of the exam sheet. You usually need them at least once, so keep an eye out for Prisms, Spheres and other aspects of the formula given.
- Practice is really the only way to learn Mathematics. Keep practicing ideas, if you have a textbook, answer all it’s question.
- If you don’t have a textbook, look up equations online.
- Learn the official names for Angles, Circle and Triangle theorems. This means phrases like corresponding angles or explaining that a tangent is at 90 degrees to radii.
- Know your way around your calculator. Self-Explanatory, you need to know how to type Pi or sin.
English Language and Literature:
- Annotate all over the page you get for the poem. The more notes you have the better as there will definitely be loads of points that are too weird to actually use in an exam.
- Don’t lose the anthology or poetry book! I did this and had to go a month without one. It means you lose your notes and have to rewrite them all out again.
- Learn the links between your poems. The links are very important as they constitute a lot of your exam.
- Listen to class discussion closely or talk to friends. Sharing ideas helps in poetry, as everyone notices something different.
For Speaking and Listening:
- Find something you want to talk about. If you are aiming for a C or B grade, talk about something you are comfortable with. It will make you less nervous speaking it on the day
- Bring water. Water is useful for all exams but especially this one and language speaking. I only talked for about four minutes but my throat got really dry.
- Don’t worry if you stutter, pick it back up. I had to start again twice because I blanked and my teacher said I still got an A or possibly A*. Literally everyone makes a mistake.
- Practice. Practicing with your friends is great preparation as they will notice little things you do wrong and you’ll be less nervous.
For Literature Essays:
- Read the book fully. In Year 10 I didn’t actually read the end of Of Mice and Men and I didn’t know Lennie got shot. Read it in small chunks, even though you cover it in class, you might notice more when you are alone.
- If you are comparing two books in your assessment, find strong links between them.
- If you have a controlled assessment and you know the subject, write out an essay or at least a detailed plan. I did this and memorised the first section.
- In your final exam, plan. I keep saying plan, but planning is the best way to remove mistakes and create a structure.
For writing coursework:
- Hand it in early, so you can improvements from your teachers. English teachers are some of the busiest teachers and there is always a line of about six Sixth form students outside their classrooms. Finish it as soon as possible so you can have time to improve your work.
I did Christian Ethics and St. Marks Gospek
- Learn the basic concepts of the religion. For Christianity, Loving others, forgiveness and saying something is God’s will are basic ideas.
- Learn the key terms. For 1 mark and 3 mark questions there is usually a mark for each term in them. By terms it can be things like Somatic Cell Therapy, Detterence or Reconciliation.
- Learn the basic outline of all the stories you study. At the end there is usually a 6 or 8 mark question which asks for an outline. e.g.: ‘Summarise the events of Holy Week’.
- Quotes. Quote every time you make a major point. Quote or give a concept. Most questions need a link to Christianity in order to be worth anything.
- You will have to say things you disagree with. The evaluative questions require reasons for and against. so you might be for Nuclear Proliferation but go against it as you can think of more reasons against Nuclear Weapons.
- All your reasons need to be Christian. Your conclusion also needs to have Christian evidence in order to gain 6 marks in Evaluation questions
- For Geography you will have the answer Long answer questions, so it is good to learn how to structure, punctuate and fluently write an answer. The questions where this is needed are highlighted.
- Keep your maps and sheets! Out of all my subjects, Geography is like the second biggest offender for workbooks full of paper. This includes maps of where cities are but also important images like the water cycle or formation of a spit. It’s way easier to keep and annotate these rather than re-draw all of them.
- Do the coursework. I have a friend who didn’t get to hand in her coursework, I was nearly the same. I only managed to get in on my last day and it really freaked me out.
Try to get it in early so you can amend it, even if you are predicted lower grades you could get an A or A* for coursework. It makes the exam feel less daunting.
- Use past papers for questions. We only had the exemplar as it was a new course and you could tell the difference. If you don’t get them in class, find some online and do the practice questions.
- Plan your long answers. There can be 10 mark questions, there will be a mark for grammar and structure. Write little notes in the corner so you get enough points and write your best. Your paper does not need to look pretty.
- Start Early. Art is great because you have one less exam in exam season. The problem is that you have to pay a lot of attention to it earlier. Finish as many pages as you can in Year 10, you don’t want to have to return to them in Year 11 when you have exams.
- Prioritise it in January- March. You can revise for your exams later but the Art finishes earlier and cannot be redone after March/April.
- Cover lots of media. Even if you’re amazing at collage or painting, do several types of media. You get more marks for some good and loads of terrible than loads of fantastic art in one form.
- Make annotations that matter. Say why you like the thing even if you don’t, always talk about inspirations and what you’ve learnt from your piece.
- Bring White Paint and your own paintbrushes. You don’t need them every lesson but we always ran out of white paint and all the little paint brushes had been ruined by younger years, so be prepared if you don’t have good collections.
- Have a glue stick. PVA is gross and ruins your sketchbook.
- Go through the textbook in Year 10. The stuff in Graphics seems to be really vague, i.e.:Aesthetics, or really specific, i.e.: Paper properties, printing techniques. Learn the specifics as for most of Year 11 you’ll be doing the coursework.
- For your coursework, choose something you know you can make. Choose something suitable for your skills, I choose to make a book as it was more creative orientated but people more orientated to computer designs and specifics created boxes.
- If you are doing Art, another Technology or anything with loads of coursework, try to get ahead while you can. Work Earlier and don’t mess around during the planning stage. Not only does it make practical quicker, it takes less time editing it later.
- You may have to take days off in order to finish you coursework folder. My Art Exam and Graphics deadline were a week apart. I had to take two long weekends off to complete it.
- If you have lunchtimes or after school sessions, go to them. There’s a lot of things you don’t have at home like a laser cutter, 2D design or saws.
I took the AQA course, taking Biology, Physics and Chemistry as a separate course.
- Buy the textbook for your course, especially if you are doing Triple/ Individual Sciences. Some of the information you need is missed because you are ill, away or your teacher doesn’t go into depth.
- The textbooks aren’t very in depth though. A lot of textbooks are made for C grade aims. If you want an A* you need to listen to your teacher.
- Try to learn from as many sources as possible. As i said, textbooks and teachers miss things. There is online videos and BBC Bitesize is a good site.
- Flashcards. Flashcards are good for all subjects but are the best for Science.
- Bring a calculator to your classes and exams. Not just Physics, all three need some maths.
- Use Youtube videos. Picturing the reactions is annoying and the videos and animations help. Just search Gcse Chemistry *insert subject here*
- Learn how to balance equations. People either love them or hate them and I hate it. Make a little table or diagrams below the question if you can’t.
- Learn the Maths part of Chemistry. Meaning Percentage Yields, Energy Calculations, Concentration of a solution. If you get this down that’s at least 3 marks if not 6 on the higher papers,
- Powerpoint. I used Powerpoint like Flashcards, making a slide with information and then questions. This was good as you don’t have to draw all the diagrams and can just copy them from the internet.
- Use Flowcharts. In Biology there’s more processes you need to learn, i.e.: the movement of blood, a reflex reaction.
- Talking of Reflex Reactions, memorise that. It seems to have appeared in every Exam I have taken.
- You will still need to do Math in Biology but it will usually be easier.
- If you get a question with a picture, use the picture to your advantage. This also happens with graphs, where you should quote the data.
- Understanding. A lot of harder questions require you to understand the concepts. Don’t just memorise facts, try to understand how things work.
- Be precise. Especially with Lens diagrams and Refraction. The mark scheme requires your diagrams and numerical answers to be almost perfect.
- For the last minute revision its best to look at the calculations you’ll get on the formula sheet in the exam. These lead to the key concepts you need and mean you can recognise which to use in the exam.
- Learn the units. Kind of enough said really.