Already Behind With Your GCSE Work? Here’s How To Turn Things Around

If you’ve just started year 10, you’ll probably be realising that GCSEs are a big step up from the workload and responsibility you’ve had so far at school. And if you’ve begun year 11, you’ll know that this only increases! 

So although we may only be a few weeks into the new term, it’s quite possible that you’ll already be feeling snowed under. This is normal, so don’t worry if you feel overwhelmed. Given the learning disruption during the summer term, it’s perfectly understandable if you feel under pressure to catch up.

But fear not! By putting in some extra time and effort now you’ll be able to get on top of your work and feel in control of your studies again. We know you can do it, and in this blog post we’ll tell you exactly how!

Get organised

One of the toughest things about getting to grips with GCSEs is learning how to balance so many subjects. If you’re not organised, finding time to revise for all of them as well as remembering your homework can feel overwhelming. And if you don’t manage your time well, you might well find you get one stellar grade at the expense of the other nine. Luckily, we’ve got a few tips to help you stay on top of all your subjects:  

  • Dedicate a new folder to each subject: ring binders and digital folders! By keeping your studies in separate places it will be easier to keep track of and easier to pick up again when it comes to revising for exams. Then, at the end of the day, you can close each folder – literally and mentally – with peace of mind! 
  • As soon as you get set homework or learn about upcoming tests, write it down. Then, when you’re less at risk of forgetting the details, you can create more organised to-do lists. Use a separate list for each subject, or for each day – whatever works best for you. Just make sure you prioritise the tasks according to which deadlines come first.
  • If you’re not fully prepared for your lessons, you won’t be able to get the most out of them. So write a checklist of everything you’ll need and refer back to it before you leave the house. In addition to all the usual items (pencil case, lunch box, bus pass, timetable), check what classes you have each day to bring the right books. And if it’s P.E., don’t forget your kit!
  • Make a study timetable using either a calendar app or wallchart. By assigning subjects specific slots of time in your week, you can be sure that you won’t neglect any of them and save time deciding where to focus your energy in the long run. Pencil in deadlines for homework and dates for exams and plan your time accordingly, as well as extracurricular activities and commitments so you can work around them. And don’t forget to block out time to relax!

Set yourself up for success

Remembering your books is one thing, but to be able to work effectively, you need to be looking after yourself. So if you find that healthy habits have slipped over the summer, your studying woes can be easily fixed. 

  • Set your alarm at a time that gives you enough time to eat breakfast in the morning and gather your thoughts and belongings (see that checklist!). This means you can start your day fully fuelled and on the right foot. 
  • And when it comes to concentration, eight hours sleep makes a world of difference. So make sure you’re factoring this in when you’re contemplating whether to go to bed or watch another episode!
  • A hearty breakfast alone won’t see you through the day. So since school dinners aren’t always an option with current restrictions, be sure to prepare a healthy packed lunch the night before. This will help you get far more out of your afternoon classes. And remember that water bottle! Roughly 2 litres a day will keep your brain hydrated. 

Look after your mind

At the start of any new term, there’s a lot to get your head around. But with all additional safety measures to get used to and news headlines to process, it’s a wise idea to be extra kind to yourself this term. 

Taking care of your mental health is essential for your wellbeing. And if you let it suffer, it will likely impact your grades too. So if you’re still feeling stressed about school after 8 hours sleep, a well balanced diet and plenty of water, read on… 

  • Mindfulness can help you to keep things in perspective, and improve your memory and focus. We’ve written more about the benefits of mindfulness here, but some simple techniques to get started include recognising when you have negative thoughts and practising breathing exercises. 
  • Practising gratitude is also linked to mindfulness. Start by writing a list of things you’re grateful for each morning, and make a conscious effort to celebrate every small victory. If that means having a night off studying when you pass a test – enjoy it!
  • You go to bed as early as you like, but if you’re still spending hours scrolling last thing at night, your mind will be racing when you do. Try putting your phone down – well away from your pillow – and picking a book up instead. And if you’re still over-thinking, try a digital detox on a Sunday to really unwind and reset for the week ahead. 
  • Remember all those folders? Put them away! As with your phone, it’s important not to let work become associated with the places that you eat, sleep and relax. So keep a dedicated space for all school-related items at home. Pick somewhere that you’ll be able to focus on studying when your timetable calls for it.

Identify your learning style

Everyone learns differently. So if you’re finding that you’re struggling with your studies and falling behind as a result, it’s worth identifying which method of learning suits you best so that you can adapt your study style accordingly. 

  • Visual learners prefer written and illustrated notes. They benefit from aids like mind maps, graphs and charts, with plenty of colour and highlighting! Take inspiration from our Revision Notes. And if you’re not a natural artist, download them as PDFs, print out and add to our ready-made diagrams!
  • Aural learners like to listen. If this sounds like you, maximise class time as traditional teaching styles suit you perfectly. When you’re studying at home, you could try recording yourself reciting your notes and playing them back. You could also discuss topics with friends, or explain concepts you’ve learnt to your family. Or, ask your teacher whether they have any relevant podcast or online lecture recommendations. 
  • Reading and writing suits others just fine. If this is the case for you, be sure to take plenty of your own notes as well as reading our Revision Guides. You could also organise charts and graphs into written statements, make use of the internet as a study tool, save handouts from class, and ask your teachers if there’s any additional reading material you could try.
  • Kinesthetic learners prefer to take a physically active role in learning. For Chemists, this makes the science lab your happy place. For less practical subjects, you’ll have to get a little more creative. Try turning studying into more of an activity by creating flash cards. English Literature students have the perfect excuse to put on a performance of a set text!

Chances are, you’ll need a blend of these methods. But if none of the above seem quite right for you, take a look at these recommended revision techniques from top Save My Exams students.

Speak to a teacher and set goals

Teachers are a goldmine of information: they’ve seen every question that’s come up in past exams and know the syllabus like the back of their hand. 

So if you already know where you’re struggling – maybe you didn’t understand a certain topic when it was covered in class, or the set homework is confusing you – don’t waste any time asking the teacher to explain so they can help you to get back on track.

Your teachers will also be familiar with your strengths and weaknesses. This means that they can help you identify areas you should prioritise and topics you might need to work more on. Then, you can update your study timetable to make sure you’re spending your time where it counts

You can also set goals based on conversations with your teachers. Make these targets realistic and set a time frame you want to achieve them by. Then test yourself using Past Papers and Topic Questions. This will enable you to measure your progress and take pride in your results. Remember: celebrate every victory!

Ask for more help!

Remember it’s early days. The term is still young and you’ve got plenty of time to turn things around yet. But if having talked to your teachers you find that you’re still struggling with a particular subject as the weeks go by, it might be worth asking for some extra help. 

Tutoring can be a worthwhile investment if you feel comfortable discussing the possibility with your parents. After this, we’d also recommend reaching out to your teachers at school as they’ll likely be able to recommend you a good one. 

Otherwise, there are plenty of accessible online resources on hand to help. Save My Exams is a great place to start as all our revision guides are created by teachers with decades of experience. BBC Bitesize also has lots of free content to fill up your study sessions.