6 June 2023
If you’re working towards your GCSEs, it’s completely normal to feel a bit nervous about what’s around the corner. After all, this is likely the first time in your life you’ll ever have had to take formal exams and preparing for them might feel a little overwhelming. The good news is, that with a little bit of planning and a few tried and trusted revision techniques, it can be much less daunting than you might think. To help you on your way, here are five tips to help you beat the revision blues, from your LHS teaching staff.
Have a plan
Before you pick up a book or even think about studying, get yourself organised and create a plan of action. This will make you ten times more confident before you’ve even get going. Start with the basics. Have you got somewhere quiet and well-lit to study? Is your phone on ‘Do Not Disturb’? And do you have everything you need? Make sure you’ve got a tidy, organised workspace ready with all the notecards, books and pens and pencils you need.
Next, create a revision timetable. Check the exam timetable and work backwards. Don’t try to set yourself long unmanageable revision sessions. We recommend trying the Pomodoro technique. Set a timer and work for 25 minutes on one topic, taking a five-minute break once this goes off. Do this four times before taking a longer 30-minute break, making space for fresh air, mealtimes, and downtime in between. Even starting with one revision session a day after school can help you create good habits. Just scale up from there and block out more time the closer you get to your exams. It’s important to create a schedule that works for you – and is realistic. But remember, consistency is key.
A quick Google search will tell you that there are *many* tried and trusted revision methods out there. But you need to find the one that works for you. And before you ask, no, effective revision isn’t about sitting down for hours on end reading a textbook until you fall asleep. There are much better ways of ‘making it stick’.
Note-taking is a great way to get started. Get a set of revision cards, pick a subject, and write up all the key facts from your class notes or revision guides. Try to limit each subject to four or five cards maximum to avoid information overload and use highlighters or different coloured pens to emphasise key points. You’ve then got yourself a set of handy flashcards you can revisit every couple of days to help absorb the information in a digestible way.
In fact, mixing up topics and rotating what you study is known as ‘interleaving’ and it’s a proven way to help commit facts to memory. You may also want to share your flashcards so that friends or family members can test you on key facts.
Other revision resources you might want to look up include:
- Brainscape – make digital flashcards to help support your memory retention and study on the go (without the paper trail)
- Seneca – test your knowledge with this online tool that adapts as you learn (with bonus memes to make you laugh as you go)
- Quizlet – with flashcards, practice tests and games to help you learn in a way that best suits you
- BBC Bitesize – a firm favourite but we couldn’t write a blog about revising without mentioning this, could we?
Practice makes perfect
When you’re feeling ready, you can put your revision to the test by attempting past papers. This will help you to better understand what you’re doing well and where you might need to spend more time. You can find the ones relevant to you by doing a Google search for WJEC past papers for your GCSE subject or speak to your teacher who might be able to offer some examples. Don’t put added pressure on yourself – it’s rare that anyone comfortable feels that they know all the answers on their first attempt. Practice makes perfect.
But if you want to go one step further, you can read examiners’ reports which will help you find out how to get those all-important extra marks. You can search for WJEC GSCE English Language examiners’ report, for example, and see how past papers were marked and what you need to do to get that mark you’re aiming for. And if you have any questions, bring them to your next lesson. You don’t have to do this alone – our teachers are here to help.
If you’re still unsure, don’t feel under pressure to rush your decision. Take your time and remember that it is not a ‘first come first served’ system at LHS. If you’re uncertain about your career ambitions at this stage like many, choosing a balanced combination of GCSE options and working hard to do well will still set you in good stead for the future.
And it goes without saying that at LHS, the year 8 pastoral care team are with you every step of the way. Ready, alongside your parents and carers, to advise and help you make the right choice for you.
Looking after your physical and mental health in the run-up to your exams will help you to feel better and perform at your best. We understand that taking exams for the first time can feel really overwhelming and the pressure can make you feel like you should be revising 24/7. But focusing on effective study time, making time for meal breaks, downtime, exercise, and sleep is more likely to create a much better outcome. If you aren’t eating properly and not allowing yourself any time to relax and recharge, how can you expect to perform at your best? Of course, everyone reacts differently to exam pressures and if you feel the worry and stress are getting on top of you, do reach out and talk to someone. There are some excellent websites and apps you can also access including Young Minds, or you can speak to our Learning Support team.
Focus on yourself
It can be easy to start comparing yourself to other people during exam season or get swept up in conversations with your friends about who’s hoping for what grades, and what they’re planning on doing next. But stay focused on your own goals and try to shut out all the noise. It’s good to support your friends and keep each other motivated but ‘comparison is the thief of joy’. Remember, everyone has different skills and abilities. The key is to do what is right for you.