My Top Tips for GCSEs
It's that time of the year again... exam season...
I’m in year 12 at the moment, so the biggest exam period i’ve experienced are GCSEs, last summer. I feel like I learnt a lot during exams last year that I wish I would have known sooner because it felt like walking into the unknown at the time, despite how many mocks we did! So I thought I’d share some of my top tips for the lead up to and during exams, in the hope that they might help some of you.
1) Break it down. Break your revision down into chunks, and take regular breaks. I find after a while I drive myself crazy reading the same thing over again for an hour trying to get it to stay in my head, but it just doesn’t. Listen to yourself, take breaks when you need to. Of course that doesn’t mean go to the other extreme of doing no work. Balance your time.
2) Choose a focus. Try to avoid revising massive chunks of information within a subject. Have a look at the specification and highlight a few things from the list that you're going to focus on for a bit. Try and choose your weaker areas by looking at past practice papers you've done. You won't learn if you keep doing what you already know!
3) Choose what works best for you. Who ever said that highlighting isn't effective?! I love a good colourful poster personally, but there are so many methods of revising. Revision cards (there are some good apps you can use for cards) - you could stick these around the house as well, books, past papers... i'm sure you've been told about loads, so don't chose a method based on what your friend is doing, you know yourself better than anyone.
4) Spend time with your friends and family. I know you’ve got exams coming up, and I know they probably seem more important than anything at the moment, but looking after your emotional health includes continuing to socialise with people. Don’t isolate yourself from everyone, keep communicating with people around you!
5) Keep active. Exercise and keeping active is a really great way to get your mind of things, relax and calm down. I used to use dance to channel any worries or stress that I was feeling during exams. Leave time to keep doing the things you love.
6) Sleep. Please sleep. Don’t stay up all night revising, it won’t work, and equally, don’t stay up all night watching things on youtube. I know the ‘suggested watching’ options at the side are tempting, but be strict with yourself, don’t fall into the trap! Try to avoid scrolling thought social media and staring at your screen before you go to bed as well. Your brain needs a rest.
7) When you’re in the exam, Read the question. Don’t rush. I am notorious for not reading questions properly. Read the question carefully and highlight the key points. Then read it again and make sure you haven’t missed anything. I’m always worried i’m going to run out of time so I rush and often skim read… DON’T SKIM READ ANYTHING! Take your time, it will pay off. (also try not to ramble, just answer the question! ... I lose most of my marks wasting time repeating myself for 20mins!)
8) Be organised. I found making timetables to be a really useful way of organising my time and splitting it between breaks and revision. You could even give a copy of the timetable you make to a parent or career so that they can help you follow it as well… it’s always good to have someone who can help you feel motivated sometimes… i know it’s hard! Make sure that you have all of the equipment that you need for the exams! Organise your pencil case or bag the night before so you’re not panicking in the morning as well. Finally, when you’re in the exam, do it in the way that’s best for you but I would advise having some organisation to the order you do questions in and if you have to skip a question, make a note of it on the back page so that you know where to go back to if you have time at the end. Try to avoid jumping to random questions without thinking... know the structure of the paper before the exam and have an idea of the order you're going to do the questions in.
9) Keep your mornings as calm as possible. I found it made me lot more panicked to look over pages of notes on the morning of the exam. Instead, I would advise that you look over a few notes before you go to bed the night before and then a few in the morning before leaving. but try to avoid cramming as much as you can into your head 5minutes before the exam starts because it will make you more worried. Also, try not to revise on the way to school. Leave this time to relax and clear your head. Finally, get to school in good time so that you feel calm before lining up to go in.
10) Keep things in perspective. Exam results don’t determine your future, nor do they define who you are. Work hard and do your best, but try not to overthink things and become stressed or worked up about getting a certain grade. Your health is far more more important than your exams. Please take care of yourself and don’t lose sight of what really matters.
11) Look after yourself. This is a stressful period of time and it can become very overwhelming for a lot of people. If you feel like it's all getting a bit too much, talk to someone you trust and use the support network at home or at school to help you. Talking about how you feel can be really helpful in any overwhelming situation. Ask for help if you feel you would benefit from it. Don't bottle up your feelings, remember you are more important than a number.
12) Be Kind to yourself. You DO know what you’re doing and you CAN do it. Believe in yourself. Go in with a positive mindset and come out knowing you did the best that you can. Trust your ability and trust yourself to make the right decisions. You've come so far, and you should be so proud of yourself.
13) Enjoy Learning. This is probably one of the most important ones to me, and something I wish i’d been told sooner. GCSEs are some of the hardest exams you’ll do, because there are so many of them and you’re probably doing a few that you really don’t like. This can be really hard with some subjects if you feel like you’re just not getting it, but where you can, try not to think of the exam. Try to just enjoy learning the information instead of thinking that you’re learning this just for the sake of an exam. School is there to provide an enjoyable learning environment and that’s exactly what it should feel like.
14) Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t compare your predicted grades before the exam. Don’t compare your answers after the exam. Don’t compare the amount that you wrote. Don’t compare your mock results. Don’t compare the amount of revision you did. Don't compare the way you revised. Don’t compare yourself to others.
15) Keep going. You are going to come across obstacles. There are going to be topics and questions that you don’t understand and struggle with more than others, but keep going. Persevere. Try and overcome the obstacles you come across and turn them into challenges. Challenges are good. If there’s a difficult question in the exam, don’t panic, have some water and breathe. Move on and come back if you need to, but give yourself space and don’t give up! You’ve got this.
Good Luck Everyone and have a well-earned relaxing summer!