Date of Publication: 07 July 2021
Wondering how to revise for your GCSEs? You’ve come to the right place.
And before you even think about asking it, no – it’s never ‘too early’ to start thinking about how to make the most out of your revision time.
From creating a realistic revision timetable to using mind maps and flashcards to consolidate your knowledge, we’ve got a long list of some of the best revision techniques for GCSE students to make your study time as effective as possible.
The key to success is starting early: not only will you have more study time, but you’ll also do so in a more balanced way, setting clear study goals and planning out revision sessions in advance – so that you don’t end up feeling overwhelmed.
Best Revision Techniques for GCSE Students
In this section, we’re going to provide you with the most effective revision techniques to help you prepare for your GCSE exams.
Read them carefully to see which ones you think may be right for you, and try them out as you go to find the ones which are the most beneficial for your learning style.
Set revision goals
The best revision techniques for GCSE begins with establishing exactly what you want to achieve with the time that you have. In this case, setting goals is a great place to start, as you’ll have a clear direction with which to take your revision.
Begin by writing down all the GCSE subjects you are revising for and the grades you hope to achieve. Then, add any additional goals you want to achieve during your revision period, such as “I want to ensure I’m getting at least 30 minutes of outdoor exercise each day,” or “I want to maintain a healthy study-life balance.”
Once you’ve written down your revision goals, stick them somewhere visible, such as on the wall in front of your desk, or as post-it notes around your room. Establishing these from the outset will help you focus your efforts during revision, and stand as a welcome reminder as to why you’re studying so hard on days when you’re lacking motivation.
Don’t forget to use mini goals throughout your revision
When it comes to revising for your GCSEs, it can be hard to stay focused on your studies, especially if you’re spending months and months preparing for your examinations. However, setting mini goals throughout your revision schedule can help keep you feeling inspired and stop you procrastinating.
Goals give you a clear direction to focus on – one that’s measurable, has an endpoint, and will provide you with a sense of satisfaction (or even a mini reward). You’re much more likely to stay concentrated on your revision if you’re working towards something you genuinely want to do or achieve, which can help you stay focused for the long-term.
Therefore, you should regularly dot ‘mini goals’ amongst your revision timetable, giving you a short-term aim to focus on. These could be daily, such as; “today, I want to create 3 x mind maps so that I can an episode of my favourite show on Netflix,” or, more infrequent; “if I complete six topics this month, I’m going to schedule an afternoon off revision to catch up with friends.”
It doesn’t matter what your goal is. As long as it’s something that really gets you feeling motivated and geared towards working hard, that’s all that matters. Just remember to write them down and keep them somewhere visible so that you can turn to them whenever you are lacking motivation.
Create a realistic and flexible revision timetable
One of, if not the most, effective revision techniques that you should abide by during your GCSE revision is to create and stick to a study schedule. Having a timetable which guides your study time will add structure and organise your time in a way that ensures you cover all the topics you need to, while also making time for social and leisure activities.
The key to ensuring you cover enough content during your revision period is to break each subject down into individual chapters and modules that you need to revise for. As you map out your topics in this way, slot them into hour-long sessions within your timetable. Just don’t forget to colour-code them by subject so you can easily see how much time you’re spending on each and ensure an equal balance between them.
Now, before you head off to start creating your revision timetable, it’s important to note that you need to create one that is both realistic and flexible. There’s no point saying you’re going to revise for twelve hours every day of the week for six-weeks straight – because it simply isn’t sustainable. There are limits to how much revision can be effectively completed in a day, so you need to balance your revision time with leisure activities.
Having a healthy study-life balance means you’ll be much more productive and motivated in the long-term, making your revision far more effective in helping you achieve those goals you set out in the first instance.
Plan your study time out depending on what you think will work for you. For example, if you’re at school five days a week, schedule an hour or so of revision in the evenings, with more planned for the weekends. Alternatively, if you’re on study leave and have an empty week to fill, make sure you schedule full days of study that’s peppered with breaks throughout and fun leisure activities in the evenings to de-stress.
Remember that the time taken to revise different topics may differ from subject-to-subject. Therefore, you need to have some ‘spare’ study slots for modules that you may need to spend more time on, especially if it’s a subject you know that you struggle with.
No matter how you structure your time, as long as you have a revision timetable that works for you and includes enough time for you to cover all your topics – it doesn’t matter how you get there. Everyone’s schedule will be slightly different, and it’s important to find a routine that works for you.
Take some time to understand your learning style
When it comes to finding the best revision techniques for students, it all begins with understanding how you learn best, e.g. what your learning style is.
There are lots of different learning styles out there, with many turning to the VARK theory to understand their preferred learning style. In essence, the VARK theory identifies us as being one of the following learners: visual, aural, read (or write), or kinaesthetic.
Usually, most people have an inkling into what type of learner they are, based on the methods of learning they’ve found most beneficial in the past. For example, reading learners will find that they learn best by note-taking in class, while visual learners will memorise content far better from images, diagrams, and classroom demonstrations. However, if you are unsure what type of learner you are, you can easily find out by completing a short questionnaire online.
Once you know the method of learning that suits you best, simply tailor each of your revision sessions by choosing the techniques that will make remembering the information much easier for you. You’ll find that your revision becomes far easier, engaging, and effective on the whole.
Organise your notes ahead of time
To ensure you can kick-start your revision in the most efficient way possible, it’s a good idea to (if they aren’t already) organise, label, and clearly order your subject notes so that they are easy to read through and use as part of the revision process.
When you sit down on your first few days of revision, the last thing you want to have to do is waste time finding and filing all your class notes together for you to then begin your revision. Taking the time outside of class to condense and organise your notes into a formulated system will have endless benefits, both at helping you to reconfirm your understanding of the content after class, but also making your revision far more manageable.
There are some clever methods for knowing how to take notes, including using colour and illustration to make skimming and scanning them much easier, helping you to take notice of the most important sections and terminology.
Make sure they are all filed and organised in the same way to avoid confusion. And make sure you have the same ‘style’ of notes for each topic within your subjects. From here, you’ll find it much easier to condense your notes into mind maps or flash cards – where you can keep all your subject knowledge and terminology in one place.
Make self-care one of your biggest priorities
There’s no denying that revision for your GCSEs can feel incredibly overwhelming, especially as those all-important examination dates draw closer. That’s why it’s essential for you to maintain a good self-care routine during your revision period.
Much research has looked into the effects of examination stress on academic performance, with studies indicating a positive correlation between the two factors. So, if you want to perform well in your GCSE exams, you need to strike a careful balance between studying and focusing some time on yourself.
When creating your revision timetable, make sure you put in regular breaks and the occasional ‘revision-free’ day for you to enjoy leisure activities, such as playing sport or seeing your friends. Of course, as your exams loom closer, you’ll want to revise a little bit each day, but you should still ensure regular revision breaks are included to let yourself decompress and refocus your attention.
Use mind maps to connect ideas
When it comes to your revision, do you find yourself struggling with remembering lots of new information? Or understanding how different topics relate to each other? Well, mind maps may be key to helping you excel!
In essence, the theory behind using mind maps is that making associations between related ideas can help us to memorise information quicker and faster – making it a very effective revision technique.
Mind maps begin with one central theme or topic. From here, you can then create branches from this central idea with other related ideas that you want to develop or visualise. From these branches, you can add further detail and information, with keywords helping you to summarise information, include key terminology, and visually connect ideas between one another.
Having a topic summarised into a mind map on one big sheet of A3 paper can be hugely beneficial to information retention, especially if you also use visual aids to help summarise processes or definitions.
Once completed, stick them up on the walls around your study space. When you walk into that area, you’ll be reminded of the content and find it easier to memorise.
Condense those mind maps into flashcards
When it comes to preparing for your GCSEs, all of the best revision techniques revolve around taking textbooks’ worth of information, and then condensing it down as much as possible until you can memorise the whole thing from just a few prompts.
That’s why, once you’ve created your mind maps (or another method of summarising your notes), you should then condense them once again into flashcards.
Flashcards are an incredibly useful and versatile revision tool for GCSE students. From condensing information to helping you learn vocabulary for different subjects, they can be so purposeful.
Their quick-fire question design allows you to test your subject knowledge quickly and easily – with their portable design making it easy to transfer chunky textbooks of information into bite-sized snippets.
They can also be incredibly helpful for those of you revising for a language test. Writing the English word on one side, with the other language on the other, you can quickly run through a speaking quiz with ease.
Flashcards can be created either digitally or by-hand. There are plenty of online resources like Quizlet that allow you to input your information and save it for a later date, while handwritten versions can be great for taking out with you and quick-fire testing when you have a spare few minutes.
Complete as many past papers as possible
Another highly effective revision technique to help you prepare for your GCSE exams is to get familiar with past papers. After all, there’s no point learning all that content if you don’t know how to apply it to the exams.
Past papers can be great at helping you become familiar with the format of exams, including the different types of question styles and time restraints. Then, when it comes to the real thing, you’ll know exactly what to expect.
But aside from this, completing past pacers can also be a good way to test your current understanding of a subject and identify any gaps of knowledge or areas that you’re struggling with.
As such, you should complete past papers around halfway through your revision schedule, once you’ve covered all the topics in a subject at least once. Then, you can understand which areas you need to go back to for revision, and how long you may need to revise that particular topic.
Most exam boards will have downloadable past papers on their website that you can print off and complete at home. If you’re not sure which exam board you are with for your subject, or are struggling with finding them, ask your teacher who will be able to help.
Lastly, mix your study habits up to keep it engaging
Finally, one of the best revision techniques for GCSE students to bear in mind is to try and keep your revision engaging. Your GCSE examinations take months of preparation, and you need to maintain strong motivation throughout the revision process if you want to achieve your goals.
Mixing up your revision techniques is a great way to stay engaged, motivated, and inspired while revising for your GCSEs. If you spend weeks and weeks sitting at your desk in your bedroom creating flashcards, you’re bound to lose interest. But by trying something new, you’ll keep your brain alert and active.
For some ideas on how to keep your revision engaging, try using one or some of the following techniques:
- Watch video demonstrations or documentaries
- Listen to podcasts
- Schedule a group study session
- Mix your study time between at-home and at a library or local café
- Write about your topic as if you were telling a story
- Try teaching a topic to a friend or family member who has little to no knowledge of it
- Create a presentation, rather than revision notes
There’s no denying that the thought of having to sit your GCSE examinations can make you feel immense dread. Exams can be a worry. And when we worry, we can struggle to think and retain information clearly.
Starting your revision early in preparation of your exams can make the experience far less stressful. You can create a flexible revision timetable that allocates enough time for all your different subjects and modules, while also scheduling plenty of self-care activities and leisure time.
Take the time to familiarise yourself with our list of the best revision techniques, so that you can begin implementing them early-on as part of your routine. You’ll find it much easier to stay calm, motivated, and engaged with your learning – which are all essential traits for a successful revision period. Good luck!
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