Last Minute Revision Tips For GCSE Students
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.
The GCSE exam period is almost upon us, so by now you’re probably chin deep in revision. As the exams creep ever closer it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and under pressure. Rather than stressing though, it’s more productive to plod on with your revision calmly and methodically, so you’re feeling well-prepared and confident when you walk into the exam hall. If you’re struggling to think straight under the weight of exam pressure (we get it), here are our last-minute revision tips to help you focus your efforts and get through the next few weeks.
1. Focus on what you don’t know
With just a short time to go before you sit your exams, it’s best to focus on the areas where you’re feeling less confident. It can be disheartening focusing on the trickiest areas of your syllabus, but getting your head around problem topics could make a real difference to your grades. Identify your biggest areas of weakness in each subject this week, so if you need to ask your teacher to explain something or provide some additional resources, you have plenty of time to do so. You want to have a solid grasp of every topic before you walk into the exam. Don’t leave any gaps!
A good way of working out the gaps in your knowledge is by completing our topic question packs. You’ll quickly be able to spot the areas that need more work when you compare your scores across each topic.
You also know, deep down, whether there’s an area you often avoid when revising because you find it difficult. This week, make it your goal to face those tricky topics head on.
2. Consolidate your knowledge
By this stage in your revision process you’ve probably got lots and lots of written notes, covering each topic in your syllabus in great detail. Detailed notes are a really useful resource, but as your exams get ever closer it’s a good idea to start consolidating your knowledge by condensing the key points you need to remember onto an A3 or A4 page, and answering practice questions to test what you’ve learnt.
Making crib sheets for each subject on a piece of A3 or A4 paper, which contain key words, formulae, dates, facts and figures, will give you an ‘at a glance’ overview of that subject, which is an excellent resource to take with you and look at just before you walk into your exam.
You can then consolidate what you’ve learnt by applying it to an exam context, by practising past papers and topic questions. This is an essential step, as knowing lots of facts and figures won’t be helpful if you can’t apply that knowledge in the way the examiner wants to see. Pay lots of attention to the language the mark schemes use as you mark your work, so you can replicate it in the exam; and if you want to look at some examples of how to answer questions, check out our model answers.
3. Familiarise yourself with the exam through past papers
Following on from our last point – practicing past papers is really important. Not only is it a great way of testing what you’ve learnt, it also means you’re familiar with the exam format, the types of questions asked, and how to approach different questions depending on how they’re worded and how many marks they’re worth.
Timing is also really important. Practice past papers under timed conditions so that you’re used to answering all the questions thoroughly within your time limit. Learning the content is important, but don’t underestimate the value in doing past papers in these last few weeks before your exams.
Ideally, you want to have completed all of the available past papers for each of your subjects before you walk into the exam hall.
4. Ask others to test you
Testing yourself using past papers and topic questions is one thing; asking a friend or family member to test you is something else, but is just as valuable.
Make flashcards by writing key words or dates on one side, and definitions or explanations on the other. Then, get somebody to test you both ways: either by trying to recall what happened on that date or what the word means by giving you the explanation, or trying to recall the explanation by giving you the date or keyword.
Explaining concepts to somebody else in this way is a brilliant way of committing them to memory, so this interactive revision technique should prove both engaging and effective.
5. Believe in yourself
This might seem a little bit saccharine; but truthfully, at this late stage in the game, a great revision technique is simply to exercise a little bit of self-belief. You’ve been learning about these topics in lessons for months now, and have been doing lots of revision on your own and in class to prepare for your exams, which counts for a lot.
Don’t get complacent; but if you do feel the panic revising, do try and quell it by reminding yourself of all the things you do know, rather than the things you don’t. At the end of the day, you can only do so much revision per day, and there’s only a certain number of days left between now and your exams. Be focused and work hard, methodically and consistently between now and your exams; then, when you walk into that exam hall, simply try your best, believe in yourself, and have confidence in your knowledge and your ability to succeed. You’ve got this!