Category Archives: gcse revision

Why Skipping Breakfast In The Morning Can Boost Productivity And Results

Check out the video below. I explain why skipping breakfast in the morning can boost productivity and results…

Give it a try. See how you respond. Drink water but avoid sugary drinks. If you really need to eat something, eat a small piece of fruit but try to avoid it. I would like to see how you react to this. For me, it has improved concentration and boosted productivity. I also work for longer hours too!

It might be a little awkward at first but it’s just your body adapting. Remember your body is used to eating breakfast day-in-day-out for the past 14/15 years or so. It can take a few days/weeks for your body to adjust to this new pattern. Once it adapts, you no longer require breakfast and you’ll feel more energised in the morning.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my Youtube channel. They’ll be more videos like this to come.

The Best Memory Retention Techniques

Hey guys…

Check out my new video on the best memory retention techniques. You can use these techniques for maths as well as other subjects:

For a full list of TAPS in maths, download my GCSE maths revision course from the homepage:

If you’re studying a GCSE language and would like to know more about memory palaces, see Anthony Metivier’s post.

Why You’re Conditioned To Underachieve In Your Maths Exams

I touched upon this issue briefly in my video, but I felt a more detailed explanation was necessary.

One of the reasons why you’ve been conditioned to underachieve in your maths exams is due to advice given by your peers and teachers. Us human beings have a tendency to imitate what others around us are doing. We see somebody or hear about somebody writing notes from a revision guide and we feel it’s the right thing to do. However, if somebody else is doing it, it doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. It’s kind of like the ‘if he/she jumped off a bridge, would you?’ Writing notes from a revision guide is one of the most inefficient activities you can do during revision. When you’re revising, you have to weigh up activity against time. Time is your most valuable asset and you cannot afford to waste it on activities that will not directly improve your grades.

The reason why note-taking is impractical is because you won’t remember everything you’ve written down on the first occasion. You could spend hours writing notes on a few chapters from a revision guide yet you’ll only retain 10% of what you’ve just written. It’s only when you revisit those chapters several times and make additional notes, it begins to stick. You’re probably experiencing this right now in your revision. Thus, note-taking is not a good memory retention tool from the outset (and remember, one of the key ingredients for exam success is memory!) In my revision program, I flip the typical revision process on it’s head. I advise my students to write notes at the end, just days/weeks before an exam. You may think we’re leaving it too late but believe me, this is when note-taking is at it’s most effective.

You’re conditioned to underachieve in your maths from an early age; as soon as you begin year 4/5. This is because the school divides the year group into sets of varying ability. For instance, the high attaining students are in the top set, average attaining students are in the middle sets and low attaining students are in the bottom set.

China, on the other hand, don’t believe in this philosophy. Their classes hold up to 50 students of mixed ability. I agree with this approach because it places everybody on a equal footing. Views such as “I’m in a lower set so I can’t achieve an A grade” do not exist. Instead, every student is pushed to achieve the best grades. That is why Chinese students do exceptionally well in their studies in comparison to British students. As a matter of fact, when Chinese students reach 16 years of age, they are already 3 years ahead of their British counterparts.

An experiment was carried out in Bohunt School (Hampshire) recently to see if the Chinese way of teaching would outperform the British set-up. You may have seen it on TV. The programme was called ‘Are Our Kids Tough Enough?’ and it featured on BBC Two. Five Chinese teachers took over a class of 50 year 9 students for four weeks. When the results were released, the Chinese teachers won by a clear distance.

Segmenting students based on ability is a dangerous thing to do because if you happen to fall into one of the average/low achieving sets, they’re instilling the belief in you that you’re ‘just an average achieving student’. By setting you lower level work and assessments, it’s difficult for you to strive for the best grades. After a while, you are convinced that this is the level you should be working at and the best grades are simply out of your reach. This belief stays with you throughout your school life and as a result, you only achieve mediocre grades such as B’s, C’s and D’s. Mediocre grades will seriously jeopardise your career prospects in the future.

This doesn’t happen to everybody, however. In rare cases, the student can overcome this perceived view about their ability. I was an example of this. At school, teachers used to say repeatedly that I wasn’t working hard enough (I’ll come to this in a minute) and I would underachieve in my maths exams but I never let this go to my head. I was confident in my ability and I ‘knew’ I was going to score top grades. This is because I understood the revision process really well. I knew what activities would directly improve my grades and which ones didn’t. There were students in my class who worked around-the-clock yet still underachieved in their exams and there was me who put in half the amount of effort and scored very good grades.

It’s crucial to have a positive outlook on your studies. Don’t let the predictions of others or teachers get the better of you. As soon as it does, you’ve already lost the revision battle and you might as well give up. Always strive for the best results because it’s not impossible. You just have to be focused, consistent and put in a bit of concentrated effort when it’s required. There was a student at my university who had failed his GCSE maths in the past. However, with a shift in mindset, he was able to score A/A* in his GCSE and A-level maths, and then study the subject at a top 10 university in the UK. This proves that you can achieve any grade you desire as long as you have a positive attitude and the right revision tools at your disposal.

A misconception held by the majority of students is that you have to work hard to get the best results. There is a common notion that the more you work, the better the results. However, the opposite is true. You can work less and score better grades providing that you focus solely on the the more important areas of your revision. Have you heard of Pareto’s law? Pareto was an Italian economist and he said that 80% of your results come from only 20% of your activities. This is a universal law and can be applied to revision and taking exams. Only 20% of what you do in your revision will contribute to 80% of your grades in the end. Do you ever wonder how some students can revise ‘last minute’ or days before an exam and still score a good grade? It’s because they’re focusing on just this 20% of activities in the run up to their exam.

Diya, an ex-student of ours, understood this 80/20 rule really well and this allowed her to go to Thorpe Park just 2 days before her final maths exam. It didn’t affect her at all because up to this point, she’d followed all of my revision principles. In the end, she still scored a solid ‘A’ grade (up from a C). Proof of this is given below. This is her tweet posted on the 7th June 2014 (her final exam was on the 9th June 2014):

Diya Sharma Thorpe Park

Diya Sharma Results

My revision program abides by this 80/20 rule. What I’ve done, in my program, is removed the activities that will not directly contribute to your end result such as writing copious notes and focuses on activities that will. You just simply have to follow everything I’ve set out in the program and results will drastically improve. It’s important that you follow this program, not only because it will boost your results in the long run but it’s good for your mental and physical well being too. It is unnatural for human beings to barricade themselves in a room, sit at a desk and write notes from a textbook. I strongly advise against this. You still need to mix with your peers and stay active. I used to do this myself during exams and I still achieved the top grades so there is no reason why you can’t do it too.

Why Traditional Note-Taking Is A Highly Inefficient Revision Process

Making notes on a revision guide is a highly inefficient revision process. As human beings, we have a tendency to imitate what others around us are doing. For example, if we see somebody else making notes, we believe its the ‘right’ thing to do. However, in my experience of taking exams, I’ve found that taking notes is one of the most unproductive things to do and here’s why…

Firstly, making notes does not necessarily mean the content will stick into your long term memory. If you read my previous post, you would’ve found that one of the key factors of exam success is long term memory. You’ve most likely experienced this yourself. Have you made notes on a certain chapter in a revision guide and in a couple of days time forgotten about the key concepts of that particular topic? and then have no choice but to return to that chapter and make additional notes? Then, it makes a vicious circle. This happens because the material is unlikely to store into your mind on the first occasion. It’s only when you read up on it a second or third time i.e. repetition it begins to stick.

Secondly, there is a danger that you can end up writing detailed notes. I used to do this myself. You feel as though everything in the revision guide is important and therefore, you have to jot it down. When you’ve finished the chapter, you take a look at your notes and realise that you’ve just made a duplicate of the text. What is the point of having two pieces of the same text? Again, highly inefficient.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that you don’t read through the material at all. If you do this, you are bound to fail but how you should approach it is, note-taking should be minimal at first; jot down a key phrase or formula. Most revision guides these days highlight the key concepts and contain summary sections. This is all you need as part of your note-taking in the beginning. Your most effective note-taking comes after completing the practice papers…

One of my favourite quotes of all time is from Bruce Lee; a martial arts instructor, philosopher and actor. He said: ‘Knowing is not enough. We must apply’. This can relate to anything in life, including taking exams. What he means is it doesn’t matter how much knowledge you possess. If you cannot apply this knowledge in the right way, you will not be successful. This is the main reason why so many intelligent students achieve average grades in the end – they cannot apply their knowledge effectively. They don’t know how to take the theory from the textbook and apply it in an exam context, which agrees with the mark scheme.

Believe it or not, when I was revising for my A-level maths exams, I did not go through all of the material in the textbooks. I knew the questions in the textbook were not a true reflection of what would appear in the exam so that’s why I didn’t spend hours and hours on going through the textbooks. Instead, I had a look at all the worked examples, made a note of any key formulas/methods and went straight for the exam papers. From the past papers, I could see the kind of questions that would come up, whether I could spot any patterns, how I would be graded and what specifically the examiners were looking for etc. In the end, I achieved over 90% in my A-level maths…

Ultimately, you’ll be graded on how you relay the information from the textbook to your exam paper and not how much you know. That’s why you should spend the majority of your time on practice papers and the mark schemes. I can go on and on about this but I would recommend that you download my ‘GCSE Revision Tips’ guide. In there, you’ll find the most critical areas you should focus on during revision. I also provide a revision schedule, built around your school timetable, so you can achieve top grades in your exams whilst having the time to do other things as well. To download this guide, visit:

Why You Should Work Back To Front When Revising For Your GCSEs

Most students will dive in and ‘get their hands dirty’ when they revise. They will purchase the first revision guide in sight and set off with their revision. The problem with this is they’re not thinking about the long term strategy. What tends to happen is revision gets messy and as a result, progress declines.

The first thing a student should do is create an exam timetable. You will not be issued with a statement of entry to all your exams until late in the year but don’t worry, it’s quite straightforward to create your own exam timetable. What you’ll need to do is find the exam boards of all the exams you’re going to take in the summer (just ask your teachers) and look up (by visiting each exam boards’ website) the dates of when these exams will take place. Once you’ve compiled your list, you need to arrange them in a chronological order – earliest to latest.

Base your revision schedule around your final exam timetable. You should revise subjects in the same order as your exams. Also, you should revise every subject at least once a week. This is important for memory retention. Some students follow the ‘one subject a day’ rule but if you weigh up the number of subjects you’re taking with the number of days in a week, they don’t match up. The subjects will roll-over to a second week. Most students study 10 GCSE subjects so adopting the ‘one subject per day’ rule means you won’t return to a particular subject until a week and a half has gone by. Remember, you have to read over a particular subject every so often for memory retention. Repetition is a key learning method you found in my maths report.

Common sense will tell you that you have to pair-up certain subjects. Pair up subjects which are closely related. As you read in my report, the brain can easily store content when information is closely linked. Therefore, it wouldn’t be wise to study conflicting subjects such as science and geography on the same day. If you’re studying double science or triple science, then you can combine these. Another obvious pairing is English and English literature. You would only need 2 or 3 suitable pairings and that should be enough to squeeze all your subjects in, in a given week. Please bear in mind you should dedicate one day a week to maths and you should avoid pairing it with other subjects. If you really have to, pair it with a science (ideally Physics) because they’re fairly similar in nature. On your “maths day”, I strongly advise that you follow my revision strategy. It is guaranteed to boost your end result.

Once you’ve designed your revision schedule, then you should think about the resources you’re going to use. Bear in mind that you’re only going to study a single subject on approximately 4 days a month (based on my calculation above) so revising from large textbooks (300 pages long) would not be efficient. You will not get through it in time for the ‘exam phase’. The ‘exam phase’ usually begins on the 1st March. At this stage, you don’t want to be working through any textbooks. Your revision should consist of solely past papers and perfecting your exam technique. You would only use your revision materials/textbooks as a reference point if you’re unsure of a particular question or answer in a practice paper.

Can you see how we’re working from back to front here? We started at the final exam timetable. Then, we let this dictate what our personal revision schedule will look like and lastly, the resources we’re going to use. That is the key to drawing up an effective revision program. If you don’t do this, you will invest in the wrong textbooks and revision will be inefficient from the outset. You won’t get through all of you revision materials in time for the exam phase (1st March and onwards) and thus, you won’t dedicate enough time to your exam technique. As a result, you will underperform in all your GCSE exams, let alone maths.