How to get a Level 9 in GCSE Maths

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Amy studied at the University of Bristol and is our revision blog guru. She only graduated recently so understands the pressures of being a student better than most, and is here to share her wisdom so that you revise effectively, smash your exams, succeed at school and write cracking university and job applications.

Whether you consider yourself a Maths genius, or find that algebra makes your head spin, the top grades in your Maths GCSE are well within your grasp. To get a Level 9 you need to be aiming to score around 90% in your exam (in June 2018 candidates needed 84.2%), so you’ll need to structure your revision effectively and make the most of all the resources available to you if you’re to get there.

Save My Exams offers GCSE Maths past papers for both Edexcel Maths exams and their OCR equivalents, so you can get the crucial practice you need. But that’s not the whole story when it comes to a hitting that Level 9 – read on to find out what you should do to achieve the very best grades available in your exams.

1. Make a list of all the GCSE Maths topics you’ve studied

When it comes to GCSE Maths you have three final papers, and within them there’s a lot of stuff to cover. It can be really easy to forget about topics and let them slip under the radar, especially if there are particular areas where you feel stronger or weaker.

At the very start of your revision process, it’s absolutely vital to list everything you’ll have to cover, and mark things off as you revise and re-revise each one. It’s a really good place to start when you do your GCSE Maths revision, and will help you structure and organise your revision over the course of your exams.

2. Learn your formulae

The only formulae given to you in the exam paper relate to the curved surface area of a cone, the surface area of a sphere, the volume of a sphere and the volume of a cone. These will be provided within the relevant questions. The rest you’ll have to learn in full, and this is really important. You’ll have to know your formulae if you’re going to get a Level 9.

Revising not only the bones of the formulae, but also how to use them practically and the kinds of questions for which you can expect them to come up, is also crucial. You’ll only get really comfortable with knowing and applying formulae if you give them a lot of focus and practice.

3. Show your workings

A big part of any GCSE Maths paper is showing your workings. You have to show your processes and display clearly how you got to the answer you did. Doing so can make a real difference to your mark; as if you don’t accurately show your workings, you may lose important method marks, even if you get the answer right. If you show your method, even if there’s a slight error along the way and you end up with the wrong answer overall, you could still be given some credit for being on the right track and thinking logically.

Similarly, showing your workings and writing them out can help you avoid those small errors that could lead you away from the correct answer. This also applies to the calculator papers, as they help you keep track of your thinking when you come to check your answers at the end.

Ultimately though, you will lose marks if you make a mistake, so accuracy is vital. Get into the habit of checking your working as you go along, and remember that if it doesn’t look or feel right, it probably isn’t.

The model answers section of Save My Exams is extremely useful here. Our model answers are designed to show you exactly what the examiners want to see in terms of your working, and how to lay things out clearly and efficiently. Don’t leave anything to chance and make sure you set yourself up to get all the marks you deserve.

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4. Practice GCSE Maths Topic Questions

Our topic questions are designed in the style of the standard Edexcel or OCR Maths past papers but, as the name suggests, specifically focus on certain topics. This mean you can zero in on particular areas that you’ve just revised, or that perhaps need more work.

Few resources allow for such an effective and focused revision strategy, getting you up to speed in every area of the extremely varied Maths GCSE with targeted practice.

5. Focus on problem solving

Once you’re comfortable with the ‘basics’ and are consistently working accurately and getting questions correct, we’d recommend spending a disproportionate amount of time practicing the Problem Solving type questions.

These include problems with multiple steps (such as the sine/cosine rule questions) and problems where algebra is thrown into seemingly straightforward topics (like probability, standard form or recurring decimals). Being super confident in answering these questions will make a huge difference when aiming for that Level 9.

6. Practice GCSE Maths Past Papers

Past papers are, of course, the holy grail of all your exam preparation. The merits of past papers are well covered on our site, but it always bears repeating just how helpful they are.

In preparing you for the style and nature of questions, what you can expect to come up, recreating the exam conditions as best you can, they are invaluable — but they’re also finite. We suggest leaving them until you’ve revised everything, so you can have a go at answering all the questions and do them under timed conditions.

Ultimately, as with all exams, if you’re well prepared and start revising nice and early, getting a Level 9 is a manageable and achievable goal. Good planning, good preparation, good luck!

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