If you are just about to face your GCSEs this summer, it can be tough staying indoors revising whilst everyone else seems to be enjoying themselves. This advice is about how to revise smarter and giving yourself time to relax.
Tip 1 Prioritise
What grades do you really need? What did you get in your mocks? How far away were you from the grade you needed? You should have an idea of how many marks you need to gain to get the grade you want. It is then a case of looking at how to gain those extra marks. This is where you need to prioritise. In mathematics, for example, look at where you have made mistakes on your mock paper and where you can easily gain marks. Do not spend hours on trying to understand something for grade 9 students, when you only got a grade 3 in your mocks.
Don’t forget to practise your basics. Too often I see students ignoring mistakes they have made on simple questions, because they think they know it, only to make the same mistakes again. If you still don’t know your times tables (and I see many year 11s who don’t) make sure you know how to list them quickly. You should do this at the start of the exam and use it for reference as and when needed. A lot of time can be wasted counting on fingers every time multiplication facts are needed and mistakes can easily be made. https://keshmaths.com/gcse-maths-takeaway-3/ and http://www.mathsgenie.co.uk/gcse.html are useful sites for revision.
For English revision, you can also look at your mock papers and look at comments made by the teacher. You should have an idea what is expected of you in response to each question. If you are not sure, have a look at mark schemes, which will give you examples of graded answers. http://www.aqa.org.uk/subjects/english/gcse/english-language-8700/assessment-resources is a useful place to look.
An effective way to revise for English is to remind yourself what you are expected to do for a question, practise the question under timed conditions and look at a mark scheme to give yourself a grade. It is worth looking at examples of higher grade responses so that you know what you should be aiming for. Most revision guides will have practise questions and mark schemes in them. Don’t forget to practise the writing tasks under timed conditions too. Think about how you can easily gain marks. Simply adding punctuation can make a difference. Note down the different types of punctuation at the top of your paper and make sure you use them in your writing. DO plan. DO make sure you organise ideas into paragraphs on your plan.
Tip 2 Make your revision active
Simply reading what you need to know and highlighting relevant facts is not necessarily going to help you. You need to actively engage with the information you have read. With mathematics, this is more straightforward. There are plenty of free websites that give video tutorials and sample questions for you to practise.
For English, you may need to be more creative. Try making quiz cards for different language techniques. For example: ‘Q. What is a simile?’ –‘A. A simile is where one thing is compared to another using words like ‘as’ or ‘like’’. ‘Q. What is its purpose?’ – ‘A. To help give information about something unknown to the reader by comparing it to something with which the reader is familiar’. You can do this for other language techniques and quiz yourself or get others to do so. You can also do a ‘language technique search’ of stories or news articles for examples of the technique being used. Mnemonics are useful ways of remembering facts. Mnemonics are memory devices. Examples of Mnemonics:
- acronyms, such as PEA (point, example, analyse) or AFOREST for language features of persuasive texts
- making up songs about what you need to remember http://mrbruff.podbean.com/ gives some examples
- making up drawings or diagrams http://blog.iqmatrix.com/wp-content/gallery/shakespeare/macbeth-style-william-shakespeare.jpg
shows an example of how diagrams can be used. http://www.shmoop.com/animal-farm/napoleon-pig.html shows an example of how drawings can be used
- acting out scenes with friends
Making up mnemonics can help you think more deeply about what you are studying and can therefore embed information more firmly in your brain.
Practising questions (as above) and self-marking using mark schemes can also help ingrain expectations.
Tip 3 Avoid distractions
This would seem obvious, but it can be hard to do. If you are used to having your phone glued to your side, then ignoring it may be a challenge for you. It is worth knowing that it can take the brain 10 minutes to refocus after spending as little as 2 minutes on a different activity – such as checking your phone or social media. This can quickly eat into the time you’ve given yourself for revision.
Tip 4 Relax
Make sure you give yourself relaxation time. Your brain needs time to recharge. The NHS recommends taking a break every 45-60 minutes to maintain a healthy balance. Do factor in the 10 minutes it takes to refocus though.
It is a good idea to use relaxation as a reward for all your hard work. We all work better when we are given incentives. Try to make the most of your free time and do something you enjoy so that you relax properly rather than stressing about looming exams.
Tip 5 Look after yourself
You will perform better when you are revising if you look after yourself. This means looking after your mind as well as your body. Your body needs the right sort of food to get you through all the work you need to do. A healthy, balanced diet will help you work more efficiently. Eating sweets will give you a sugar high, which may help very briefly, but then you will have a sugar low, which will make it harder for your brain to function.
Your brain is largely composed of water, so keep it hydrated. Make sure you drink plenty of water to keep it functioning efficiently.
It is natural to feel stressed when preparing for exams. Stress can help you by making you push yourself to work hard. However, it must be managed. If you are getting headaches, losing sleep, or having more arguments with those closest to you than normal, then these are signs that stress is taking over. Exercise helps relieve stress. It can also take your mind off things and make you feel more positive. If you are struggling with stress, or are feeling down about things, it is important that you confide in someone you trust. There are plenty of people out there who can help you.
Tip 6 Plan for after the exams
There is life after the exams. Plan what to do with all that free time you will have. It will give you something to look forward to and help keep you going.
Good luck with it all and roll on the summer holidays!