Preparing for the GCSE mathematics exams

By | February 11, 2018

This week marks 100 days to the first GCSE mathematics exam of 2018.  This week I am doing workshops with year 11s on the best way to prepare for the GCSE examinations.  I’m not claiming this to be a definitive list of actions that will ensure success but I do think the actions outlined here if you do (or in some cases don’t) follow then you will be closer to success than failure…

First of all some don’ts…

  • Don’t leave your preparation too late – it may be 100 days till your first exam but those 100 days will pass quickly and you have other exams to prepare for as well.  The earlier you start, the better prepared you will be
  • Don’t just read a revision guide or read your exercise book and think that is enough – the only way to learn mathematics is to do mathematics
  • Don’t just concentrate on things you can do – it is nice to do things you can do – its easy and self affirming.  However if you find it easy, you already know it.
  • Don’t ignore the advice of your teachers – the best way to learn from mistakes is to learn from other peoples mistakes and believe me your teachers will have made loads in their life!

Now some do’s…

  • Know your enemy! Know the gaps in your mathematical knowledge and understanding.  Given a list of topics you probably know your gaps but use assessments and mocks from school to help identify them.  I’ve produced a revision list which (I think) covers all the topics that could be examined in your GCSE.  You can download them below:

Foundation Tier:   GCSE Revision List FOUNDATION TIER

Higher Tier:   GCSE Revision List HIGHER TIER

  • Start your preparation NOW.  Plan a revision schedule – don’t be too brutal though and make sure you fit in some time off and some rewards (like some time watching TV or going out with friends).  Too much revision and you will burn out and this is a big reason to start early!
  • Get prepared – make sure you have the right equipment – pens, pencils, ruler, scientific calculator, protractor, pair of compasses
  • Make sure you have resources ready to use – your school exercise books should be your best revision guide.  Invest in a decent revision guide/workbook (my school use the CGP revision guides).  Ensure you know where to get access to past papers – your school may provide these for you but many are available (with mark schemes) online free of charge from the exam board websites.
  • Remember that whilst you may be doing the Edexcel GCSE (for example) all the exam boards follow the same set of topics.  Whilst they may structure how their papers differently, don’t neglect other exam board past papers – they will give you useful practice.
  • Focus on what you CAN’T do!  It sounds simple but it is crucial!  Use my topic list to decide what you need to focus on and concentrate your efforts on these topics.
  • Revisit the topics you have already revised.  I don’t mean do things you can do, but if you’ve covered a topic (lets say factorising quadratic equations) which you’d identified as a gap, and you think you’ve cracked it, leave it a week and revisit it.  The more times you re-learn something, the better it sticks!
  • Do little bits regularly!  There are so many free resources out there for you to use and a little bit, often, is the best way to revise any subject.  I recommend the following… ALL of which are free!  In each case click on the picture to link you to the recommended webpage.

My own revision calendars offer you the opportunity to do a little bit of daily revision with a wide variety of topics

Maths Genie is a great site where you can download past papers from all the exam boards as well as loads of other revision resources

Just Maths – a great site where you can download topic specific questions from the sample papers from each exam board that were prepared before last years exams (the link below takes you to the Higher Tier questions but there is a link on this page to take you to foundation questions)

Corbett Maths is a fantastic website which has online tutorials for each topic and sub-topic covered at GCSE as well as practice questions.  The five-a-day page also allows you to get regular, daily practice from a range of topics.

Hegarty maths, just like Corbett maths, has some great online tutorials for the range of topics you need to know before you sit your GCSE.  This is the free site which Mr Hegarty developed before his more advance (and very good) paid for site.  You have to register with an email but the site is free.

The most important thing to remember about revising for mathematics is….


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