GCSE Revision Tips
If you’re preparing for your GCSEs at the moment, you may be feeling under pressure, as it is important that you are able to get the best grades that you can. With this in mind, revision is key, as good preparation really is the only way that you will ever be able to get the grades that you need.
Take a look at these GCSE revision tips and techniques for focused, productive revision sessions that keep you on track, and help you on your way to a successful GCSE results day.
The first thing that you need to remember is that no way of revision is going to suit everybody. What works for your friends might not work for you, and you might find that you need to try a number of different methods before you can really find one that suits you.
You should never settle to one method if you don’t feel as though it is working, as this is nothing more than a waste of time. Instead, try different things and see whether it makes it easier for you to remember key information.
At first this may feel like trial and error, but eventually you should find that your time is better spent, and your grades will rise as a result of this.
1. Draw up a revision timetable
Building a revision timetable can add structure to your revision and help you identify which GCSE subjects and topics you need to improve on.
Creating a timetable is a great way to organise your study time, and will help motivate you to revise for your exams. With careful planning, you won't miss anything important or find your revision time overwhelming.
A timetable also allows you to be as productive as possible with your revision, and boost your confidence when you come to take your exams.
To create an effective revision timetable, start by gathering all the information you need, including exam dates, lesson timetable, work time (if you have a job) and social time with your friends/family.
Block out any times you can't study, and then pick a date you're going to start revising. Think about priorities, as some subjects/topics may take you longer than others.
Plan out each session, and decide how much time you're going to spend on each topic and spend on breaks. When you've completed it, print it out and put it up where you can see it. There's no point making it if you can't see it!
Although sticking to it may be hard, make sure you tick off each topic as you cover it, as this will give you a sense of achievement.
2. Use mnemonics
Mnemonics can help you remember lists and names for most subjects.
Common examples are topics such as the planets, colours of the rainbow, or the wives of King Henry VIII. This is perfect for subjects where you need to remember a lot of things off by heart, like science or history, and it can help to make things more interesting. Many people find that the mnemonics that they learn when they are at school can still be recalled decades later – which just shows that it really does work.
Take the solar system for example: ‘My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming Planets’ is a mnemonic that names the planets in order of distance from the sun. You know that Mercury rather than Mars comes first because both words have ‘y’ in them.
The order of King Henry VIII’s wives is notoriously difficult to remember, but using a mnemonic it becomes easy: ‘A Big Secret Concealing Her Past.’ The first letter of each of these words corresponds with Aragon, Boleyn, Seymour, Cleves, Howard and Parr.
3. Revise with friends
Revising with like-minded friends means you can bounce ideas off each other. If you’re having trouble understanding a difficult concept, someone else explaining it to you can make all the difference.
Likewise, teaching someone in your group something that you’re revising, firms up the details in your mind and consolidates what you know.
Holding a study party is a great idea if you have a few of you who are studying for the same subjects. However, it is important that you make a plan, and be sure not to get distracted. These exams are important for all of you, and this means that you all need to do your best to revise when you have the chance.
3. Allow plenty of time
Possibly the worst thing you can do is start revising late.
Leave plenty of time to cover everything you need – it’ll take the pressure off you a little and builds in time for anything unexpected like illness or lack of sleep. As mentioned earlier, it is always worth making a revision timetable before you start anything at all.
This means that you can plan in when you’re going to revise, when you’ll have meals, and when you will do other things with your friends. You should never make revision your sole activity as you will burn out – always make time for breaks, and get out of the house at least once every day.
4. Take care of yourself
If you haven’t had enough sleep, there’s no way that your brain is going to absorb information effectively. If you’re having trouble sleeping, switch off all technology an hour before going to bed and let your brain relax.
In addition to sleep, you should also take some time to assess your diet and exercise regime. If you have finished school then you may not even be having PE classes anymore, and exercise is important to deal with stress. You should try to get out for a walk whenever you can, even if it’s only ten minutes around the block every couple of hours.
When you’re revising, you might find that you are tempted to snack – and it’s usually unhealthy foods that people reach for. Instead, have some healthy snacks available such as fruit or nuts, and make sure you eat three good meals a day. You have to feed your brain, or you won’t be able to remember information effectively.
5. Attend extra workshops at school
Your school will probably run workshops on specific troublesome topics near exam time.
Attending these could help you understand complex areas, especially if these sessions are more informal than routine classes. You might find that you need to stay at school late, or even attend at the weekend, but the overall result will be more than worth it.
6. Draw a mind map
A great way to absorb information if you’re a ‘visual learner,’ drawing a learning map results in a graphical representation of your notes.
So it could be the key points of a topic and how they interlink, or if you’re studying science a learning map could illustrate the steps of a particular experiment.
The main idea is to draw rather than write, which engages a different part of your brain and helps with the learning process.
7. Take lots of breaks
Ideally, try not to revise for more than 45 minutes at a time, otherwise you'll begin to lose the ability to take in new information.
Move away from your revision area, and make yourself a drink, go for a walk,have something to eat, etc. It doesn't matter what you do as long as it's in a different room or space. Remember you need to keep up your sustenance and give your brain a rest from absorbing knowledge.
Each break should last at least 15 or 20 minutes, giving yourself a chance to refresh and recharge your brain ready for the next session. Forcing yourself to study for long will start to produce a negative outcome, so never feel guilty about stepping away from the books and taking some time out!
8. Make the most of technology
Technology brings with it great ways to revise, and using it could work to your advantage. You may for example find podcasts online with people speaking about your subject, or YouTube videos.
The more ways you are able to see the same information, the better chance you have of taking it in, and this means that it is always worth seeing what is available.
You might find little quizzes that you can do, too, and these should help you to remind yourself of the key points – in a fun way, that you could try with your friends.
You can also type up your notes to put on your devices, which means that you could carry them round with you – therefore helping you to make the most of any time that you might need to spend travelling.
Apps are another way of getting ahead of the game, and there are many great ones out there to help students with their revision. These include Penultimate (to make handwritten notes), Revision App (to make revision flash cards) and Quizlet (to make quizzes with your own information).
9. Do lots of past papers
Completing past papers is one of the best ways to understand what is required in the exam.
You might see a pattern emerging as you work your way through them. The question structure could be similar over several years, and with specimen answers available you can often get inside the head of the examiner.
Unfortunately, there is no alternative to putting in time and effort when it comes to revision, but hopefully these tips will help with motivation and lead you to success.
10. Revise in a designated space
Simply sitting in front of the television with a revision guide won’t be enough to get the information into your brain – so you need to find a space where you can relax, free of distractions.
Ideally this will be in a separate room, but if this isn’t possible then putting a desk in another room will be fine – so long as family know that you are trying to work while you are there.
If people know when and where you are working, they will be able to support you in the best possible way.
11. Find out how you learn best
There are many different ways you can learn things when revising, so it's important to find out how you retain the most information. For example, you might be a visual, auditory, reading/writing, or social learner.
It doesn't matter which way you do it, as long as it's a style that suits you!
12. Use different study methods for different stubjects
This may seem obvious, but using the same revision techniques for all your subjects may not always work out for the best.
Each subject presents its own revision challenges, and once you understand how to approach each one, you will find just how successful your revision time can be!
Flashcards, online quizzes, mind maps, and reading aloud are some of the things you could try to help you retain more information.
13. Mix things up
After a while, you may feel that your revision timetable starts to become a little stale.
This is the point where you should introduce some variety, and try other methods of studying, such as listening to podcast, watching documentaries, try a different study area or change the colours on your revision notes.
This will encourage you to try other things, and find a new way of studying that might suit you better.
For more help and advice with your GCSE revision, take a look at our Revision Tips blog post - best of luck with all your exams!