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.