Exam RevisionHow to Revise for the 2021 GCSEs

How to Revise for the 2021 GCSEs

Learn our top tips for GCSE revision.

Your GCSEs are a stressful time — there’s very few of us who are going to argue about that. But a considered approach to revision can make a huge difference in your mental preparation for the task in hand. And revision can be boring, right?

Variety - as they say - is definitely the spice of life when it comes to GCSE revision. And there are tons of tools out there that can help make revision interesting; we might even go as far to say that revision could be fun. OK - let's not push it. But revision, if you approach it positively, can feel satisfying, rewarding, and can go towards settling your nerves for the big day. So, here are our tips to help you revise for your GCSEs without dying of boredom and despair.

Be organised and have a GCSE revision plan

We know - we sound like your folks - but organisation helps you make the most of the time you spend staring at those books. And recognising balance is really important. (We’re not talking about headstands - although the extra blood to the head is proven to help you focus!) No-one can be a revision machine. All work and no play maketh Jack a dull boy and all that. Of course, you need to assign a substantial quantity of time to your revision, but you need to balance that with your leisure time. So, write out a revision timetable. And stick to it.

If you’ve not made one before, check out Eve’s tips for juggling the work/life balance with some great suggestions on how to decide how much time you might spend revising each subject. She shares an example revision timetable here.

Give yourself a break!

Along with the work/life balance, you should schedule regular breaks throughout your revision timetable. There's only a certain amount of time that your brain can actively concentrate. Of course, everyone's brain is different, and everyone's concentration-span is different. But, as a rough guide, 25 minutes is probably a maximum. Doesn't sound like much does it?

But it's how you use those 25 minutes that counts. Have you heard of the Pomodoro technique? Basically, a Pomodoro is a 25-minute measure of time. The idea is that you revise for 25 minutes, and then you take a 5-minute break. That’s one Pomodoro.

During your 5-minute break, take yourself outside or grab yourself a coffee. Chill out for 5, and then do another Pomodoro. After your 4th Pomodoro, you get a longer break. This video could be your personal Pomodoro timer.

Use online study aids

There’s only so long you can focus on repetitive tasks. And if you’re just staring at your Spanish verb conjugations on the page hour after hour, you’ll probably find that your brain goes a little verb-blind. So, mixing up your revision methods really helps.

Quizlet offers real variety in learning techniques that help you to revise in a way that keeps you interactive, active, and scoring points. If, for example, you're revising for GCSE Spanish: try out some interactive Flashcards that test your knowledge. Quizlet gives you a feedback score so that you can try to improve each time.

Have competitions with your friends and try to hit the top spot, and you’ll hardly even notice that you’re revising and re-learning the bits that you’d forgotten. The "Learn" study mode challenges what you know and throws quiz questions at you. For GCSE Spanish, you're asked to translate some of the most commonly-used phrases that appear on your exam paper.

If you're revising for GCSE Biology, you'll find multi-choice questions for some of the most challenging aspects of the subject that you're likely to see on the exam paper on the big day. There’s a wealth of ways to learn and revise on Quizlet, including:

  • Flashcards
  • Learn
  • Write
  • Spell
  • Test
  • Match

as well as some great games. The Gravity game is one of our favourites - you have to try to stop the asteroid from crashing into the red planet by getting the answer right before it lands. Honestly - revising has never been so fun and interactive.

Try it yourself

Check out Quizlet's GCSE revision resources

Discover more resources in Quizlet's GCSE Resource Centre

Practise with past papers

There’s a nice bit of alliteration for you. But, sometimes, knowing what to expect is the best form of preparation. Past papers are widely available online —  just make sure that you link to the correct examination board as there are several across the country.

Practising with past papers helps get you familiar with:

  • The question style - if you know roughly what to expect, you'll be halfway there
  • The exam format - don’t get caught out or surprised by unfamiliar formats, especially if you know you’re thrown by routine change.
  • Time pressure - it's worth practising against the clock even if you're in the comfort of your own home or the library. Sure, take your time and practise the Pomodoro method to help you revise facts and figures; but knowing how long a question paper should take you is really important to make sure you don't run out of time on the big day.

Get together with friends

This definitely doesn’t mean that you hit your boxsets! Working with a friend can help keep revision interesting, as long as you're both disciplined enough to focus. Use the Pomodoro method to focus your revision time and use your breaks to chat, mess about, and get into trouble!

Finding a revision buddy means that you can test each other. And explaining difficult revision points can really help your own understanding. One of the things about explaining is that it challenges what you know. You often find that the penny really does drop when you have to describe an equation or quiz each other's knowledge of the necessary facts.

Understand your learning style

Maybe you already know what type of approach helps you learn. Perhaps you feel like you pick up ideas and techniques better in discussion sessions or hands-on experiments in class. Or maybe things really sink in when you do quizzes or write essays. Whatever your particular learning style, it’s important to make use of that approach when revising.

The principal learning styles are:

  • Kinaesthetic (or physical) - you pick up new skills and understanding from being hands-on. You probably enjoy experiments in the science lab, making things, and playing musical instruments.
  • Visual - you understand new things when you can see them. You might count on your fingers or draw diagrams and mind maps so that you can lay out all of the facts in front of you.
  • Aural - you learn through listening, often using sound and music.
  • Verbal - you prefer to learn using words - either through speech or writing.

You're probably a mix of those, but there will be a particular type that's most suited to you. When you revise for your GCSEs, it’s advisable to know your style and make the most use of that approach. But, like with all of our tips, it's worth mixing things up a bit to keep things interesting.

On the day of the exam

You’re probably going to be nervous. It’s normal, and everyone feels it. Keeping calm is the priority, so:

Avoid all those friends who might fret or might flap

And eat a good breakfast:

hunger's a trap.

You’ve worked and you’ve toiled,

revised every night,

Don’t lose the faith,

The end is in sight.  

Breathe nice and deeply

To focus your mind:

Now is the moment -

Leave doubt behind.  

Happy revising, and good luck!