May 2019 seems a long way off, but in terms of GCSE revision it is wise to start thinking ahead.
Preparing for your GCSEs is often compared to running a marathon, as you need to give yourself plenty of time for practice, training and deciding whether you are in need of GCSE tutition to support your learning. It helps to pace yourself both in terms of covering all the information you need to know and avoiding stress and anxiety.
GCSEs 2019 – getting started
Firstly, list every subject you need to revise and all the different topics within the subject. Next, buy a 6 month wall planner and write in all the different topics. Use different colours so you can clearly differentiate between subjects. There are GCSE wall planners on the market which come with stickers or magnets to make the planner more eye-catching and easy to follow.
Your GCSE revision workload might seem overwhelming at first, but as soon as you break it down into a timetable, you will be encouraged by how feasible it is with plenty of time ahead of you. Make sure that you also schedule in plenty of free time to relax.
Have a clear goal for each revision period. Try to make your revision session as active as possible by testing yourself at the end of each session to assess your progress.
Secondly, choose your revision area – this can be your bedroom, the local library or the dining room table. You may need to change the place where you revise, but it helps to have a set area so that you can focus properly.
Turn off any devices so that you are not distracted and ask a parent to keep them during your revision time – removing potential disturbances will make you more efficient and less likely to procrastinate.
One study found that there was a direct link between media multitasking and worse academic outcomes in teenagers, so it’s important you focus on your revision without getting distracted.
Revising for GCSEs according to your learning style
To succeed with your GCSE revision you need to be productive and for maximum productivity you need to know what kind of learning style suits you best.
This is vital for getting the best possible GCSE exam results. Often you will need to experiment with different revision techniques to see what works for you.
- Learning things by heart
Some students find it easier to retain specific information than others. If you struggle, try to learn one or two key facts about each topic and highlight them on flashcards. Examiners will be impressed if you can put in a few quotes and facts in a GCSE exam.
- Making notes
Making notes is a classic revision method. However, some students are able to write out information without taking it in or understanding it, so it is crucial to test yourself.
If you find that you are not retaining the information you are making notes on, then you need to change your revision technique.
- Social learning
Talking about your GCSE subjects forces you to question and strengthen your opinions which is a really helpful way of revising and retaining information.
It also helps for you to explain the topics you are revising to others as in order to explain it to someone you will have to fully understand it yourself.
A small group GCSE revision environment is ideal for this. As an added bonus you will also make some new friends who can support you.
- Mind Maps
Google Mind Maps and watch an online video about how to use them. Mind Maps are great to have up your sleeve if you have a visual memory. For example, you could draw and memorise a Mind Map for every essay topic.
When you are in the exam, start by drawing the Mind Map from visual memory at the top of the paper and then referring to it to write a concise, structured essay.
- Mock exam papers
Practicing completing old exam papers is vital as you might spot some similarities in your real exam to past questions.
Completing past exam papers also serves to reduce anxiety and calm nerves as you will be familiarising yourself with the style of questions so there won’t be any surprises.
- Working through problems
Some minds work better when they solve the problem and go through the working out, rather than just being told the result.
Some students find that listening or watching information on a topic helps them to memorise the information – an auditory learning style.
If you search online for videos you can find most topics covered – but do bear in mind that you will have to be strict with yourself so you aren’t distracted!.
You can also use audiobooks to listen to literature, which you should be able to borrow from your local library.
- Practical experience
Learning by doing means to experience things practically and this gives your brain something concrete to remember.
Completing an experiment to see the results visually or visiting a historical site or museum may enable you to recall the information better during an exam.
Finding the right time of day for your GCSE revision
Another factor to consider is what time of day you are more productive with your revision. Some students feel more mentally alert first thing in the morning, while others work best at night.
The very idea of setting your alarm to start revising early in the morning might make you roll your eyes, but this is worth experimenting with to see if it makes a difference. It would be a shame to miss out on a really effective revision session simply because you hadn’t tried it.
Many of the world’s most famous and successful people swear by getting up early to increase their productivity.
Find your perfect GCSE revision environment
- Room temperature
The key to good concentration is to be comfortable. Your aim is to be wholly focused on your revision.
Some people find that working in a room which is too warm makes them lethargic and sleepy, while others find that they can’t concentrate if the room is too cold, particularly if they have poor circulation with cold hands and feet.
- Silence or music
Silence makes some students feel agitated or more likely to daydream, while others need the silence of a library to be able to focus.
Experiment to find what works best for you and remember to be honest with yourself! Just because you love listening to a certain type of music doesn’t mean that you will be able to revise to it.
If you need music to stimulate your mind and keep you focused, try classical music or jazz – the lack of lyrics within some classical or jazz music can prevent you from becoming distracted.
What not to do when you revise for your GCSEs
There are some habits which are easy to slip into which can really hinder your GCSE revision efforts. To optimise the results of your revision session, try to avoid:
- Keeping your phone by your side – a study found that even the mere presence of your phone reduces your ability to focus. It can also lead to feeling of anxiety through FOMO (fear of missing out)
- Late night cramming – studies find that memory retention is better when learning is evenly spaced out. In addition, you will not be alert in your exam if you are lacking in sleep. This could also lead to you misreading an exam question
- Procrastination – start your revision early and avoid last minute panic by consciously removing distractions. Just think of the long summer ahead post-exams
It is worth trying out the different tips and techniques highlighted here to find out what is most effective for you. Even if your current revision style works well for you, you will at least have the peace of mind that you are doing the best you can to optimise your chances of exam success.