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Hello everyone. I am relatively new on TSR but in May / June of this year I sat my GCSEs.

thinking that some of them had gone pretty badly, when it came to results day I was pretty
nervous, not just due to my performance but also with the immensely high grade boundaries and
news reports of record drops in A*-C grades that morning. However, when opening my results,
what I thought was the impossible, became possible: I had gotten straight A*s. 10, this year, to be
exact, which were: English Language, English Literature, Physics, Chemistry, Biology,
Mathematics, Spanish, Geography, Art and Computing. I had already sat my Religious Studies
(short) GCSE in year 10, also achieving an A* in that, thus totalling 11.

I am not going to say that it was easy, because it wasn't. I revised for long hours, but I was
determined to get as many A*s as possible. However, if you guys are here, it shows that you at
least have some determination, and that is the best tool to help you achieving grades as high as
my own.

I should also add that I did not attend a private school. My school's pass rate was fairly low (at
53% last year and 60% this year). Also, in the latest OFSTED report, it got rated a grade 3,
classified as "needs improvement". I did not have any private tutors neither. I am telling you this
because a lot of people feel the need to spend lots of money on private education, or go to fairly
bad schools as I did. However, as I have proven, there is hope and as I said above,
determination is the best thing to have in these kinds of scenarios.

So, why am I writing this about me? Well, it's to provide myself with a little credibility and also
give a background on myself and I suppose some people find it a little interesting And why am
I writing this guide? Because I want to help you guys, of course!

The Guide
I am going to go through each individual subject because my revision techniques largely varied
between what type of content I was aiming to cover and learn. First, however, I am going to write
some general tips and organisation advice.

I began revising lightly in around November / December. This would involve doing around 2 or 3
hours a day of briefly looking over content. I started proper revision in around February / March
time, which would consist of around 4 - 5 hours a day on weekends and 3 - 4 hours a day on

Many people will probably have mock examinations in February time, perhaps a little earlier or
later depending on schools. The most important thing to do for mock exams is revise like they
are the real thing. For my mocks I sacrificed my entire Christmas holiday and worked for 5 hours
a day, every day. It gave me a bit of a head start and when I got my mock results back I knew my
areas of weakness and where I'd struggle in the real exam season (for me it was Maths and

I also need to add that, contrary to what I've just said above, do not do too much too early. You'll
burn out as I did and it is not a good feeling, so always be comfortable with the amount you're
doing and don't compare the amount of revision you're doing to others.

Organisation and Keeping Track

Around February time I began to make timetables for revision. I stuck my exam dates on my wall
in order to motivate myself every day of the impending doom. If your school hasn't given exam
timetables out this early, the exam board's websites have all of the dates over a year before
exam season, so no excuses!
A tip I'd have to give is to do a task based system. This is so important. For example, rather
than saying "1 hour of Biology", say "kidney filtration, carbon cycle and decay". This way, you
have to get done the tasks you set whereas if you set time based goals you may get half an hour
in and become bored, spending the remaining 30 minutes doing nothing. I'd advise to try and
stay to hourly blocks though (so don't set tasks which you know will take over 2 hours). Also, be
sure to have breaks in between (about 5 - 10 minutes) and be sure to drink plenty of water.

To organise myself, I used the free Google Sheets. I had a sheet for each individual subject and
listed all of the topic titles for every subject in their corresponding sheet. Then, I colour coded
each topic in green, amber or red. Green meaning I was confident and didn't really need to revise
that subject, amber meaning I want to revise it but it isn't a priority, and red meaning I am very
unsure and need to revise ASAP. An example of a subject is here:

I can provide this document if anyone wants but I just used the subject titles from the CGP

I also colour coded my exam timetable in the same way so I could see which exams I were most
and least confident for.

I'd definitely say that it's important to use a variety of techniques when revising so that you do not
get bored and tired of the same thing. Many techniques are stronger with individual subjects
(such as languages and flashcards in my opinion), so you will probably naturally vary your
technique anyway.

Flashcards are especially good for information recall, so I'd say most useful for a language (as
will be explained below). Put a question or word on one side, and try and recall the information
on the back and vice versa. It'll help you to remember the information, I promise!

Put a topic in the middle of the page and write as much as possible as you can about that
particular topic around the bubble. Make it colourful and do little drawings as it'll make the mind
map stand out and therefore you will be able to recall the information much better.

There are two ways to make notes: computerised or written. I personally preferred to use a
computer when making notes because I hated my handwriting however hand written notes are
generally easier to remember and are therefore more effective. For Geography, I made an entire
revision guide using the computer and that was all I did (I remembered the information as I was
making the guide). There is a trap with notes, however: firstly, don't just re-write your revision
guide out. Try and write in your own words as it'll help the information to stick more. Secondly,
don't do notes on things you're already confident with for the sake of sticking to an order. It's

I know that all teachers will tell you this is pointless, but I personally found it the most effective
way of revising. I'd read a certain topic every night for over 120 nights and eventually it all stuck. I
also found that reading a topic aloud from the revision guide and trying to recall it helped me a
lot. However, this probably won't be the same for most people, but it did help me so try it out if
you haven't yet because your teachers have said it's pointless.

This way of revision was my favourite. Me and a group of friends would get together and talk
through topics and ask each other topic questions. This was most effective for the sciences. This
can be a dangerous way of revising, though. You need to do it with someone who will not distract
you and will actually get something done. 2 people I'd say is the most because after that the
group gets too big and too distracting.

A good way to revise is to record yourself speaking about a certain topic and then when in the
car or when you have some free time, listen to it back. Most of us humans tend to hate the sound
of our own voices, and that's why you'll do good at remembering what's on the audio.

Another good way to revise in regards to listening is to listen to podcasts. iTunes has lots and
MrBruff often does podcasts for English. When on the way to school or in the car on a long
journey, I would often listen to a podcast and I feel as though it really helped me.

Revision: General
Past Papers
Past papers will always be the best way to test yourself and get an accurate idea of where you
are in terms of your study progress. I'd recommend doing these for pretty much every subject.
However, for the new specification (Maths and English), I'd recommend definitely doing them
once you've covered all of the topics and revised as much as possible as only one specimen
paper is available per subject, so it needs to be used correctly! For most other (currently)
unreformed subjects, I'd recommend doing the past papers every so often to ensure you are
making expected progress. Past papers can be found on the exam board's websites.

As mentioned below, this is one of your best friends. It's basically an exam board published
"checklist" of each topic. The exam board will only test you on this content, so if you download
the specification and ensure you have covered everything in it, you shouldn't get any nasty
surprises in the exam. I printed it off for each subject and highlighted parts which I needed to
revise (some of the specification isn't covered in the guides!) or weren't familiar with. It really
helped me especially for the sciences.

Controlled Assessments
I mentioned this above but I just want to reiterate the importance of doing well on your controlled
assessments. Ensure that you have got the grade in your controlled assessments that you
actually want as your final grade (for example, if you want a B overall in Biology, ensure you have
at least a B in the ISA). However, definitely try and get as high as you can regardless of your
overall target grade. I flopped one of my Spanish exams and got a B and an A*, but my
controlled assessments were full marks so those pulled that B up allowing me to get an overall

Revision: Subject by Subject

In here, I will list each subject and then talk about it a little bit. I will explain which techniques I
used and I will also list any websites and revision guides I found particularly useful. I should also
mention that for my revision I made no properly written notes. Revision is very personal, so don't
feel pressured in to doing what everyone else thinks is right.

I should also add that if you are confident with a topic, do not feel as though you need to revise it.
A lot of my friends wrote notes for subjects and did it in order of the textbook. This technique
is pointless and time wasting. If you're confident with a topic, skip it. End of.

For maths, I primarily used videos on YouTube, rather than a revision guide. I found it much
easier for someone to talk about a topic to me than read it from a guide. The best website I found
was M4ths.com, which had a video for every GCSE topic. I know that the system has changed to
the grade 9 - 1, but the techniques will still be applicable. Also, I bought a whiteboard so I could
work through with the man on the videos. A lot of the videos were worked examples, so I'd pause
the video, try myself first, and then see if I got the right solution. I recommend doing this for every
topic you are not confident with.

Once fairly confident with most topics, past papers are your best friend. These can be found on
the exam board's websites (the old GCSE papers will be applicable to the new system). Do as
many of these as possible as it really helps. From doing past papers I was achieving 95 - 98 on
each paper which I was confident I also achieved in the real exam. Questions are often recycled
so if you're lucky, you'll get in there and see a question similar to one you've already done in a
past paper.

Sciences (Physics, Chemistry and Biology)

Physics was by far my worst science. In the real exam, however, it ended up being my best UMS
score, so what I did really helped. I did AQA as most schools do. The best website for this
is MyGCSEScience. The best revision guide in my opinion are the CGP ones, for each individual

For these, I would sit down at my desk, get a piece of paper (or whiteboard), and watch a
MyGCSEScience video. Whilst the video was playing, I would make brief notes and try and
memorise what was on the whiteboard. After the video had stopped, I would rewrite all of the
information to ensure I had properly learned all of the content on a particular topic. This was a
very quick process and not anywhere near as tedious as getting a notebook and writing notes for
each topic.

For science, I also read the revision guide. Yes, I read it. Many teachers will say that "reading is
not revision" and it "doesn't go in". Granted, read it once and a very little amount will go in.
However, if you constantly re-read the same topic over a number of nights, it'll eventually go in.
So, every night, starting in around February, I would read around 20 pages of the revision guide
on a certain unit (so B1, C1, etc). Then I'd repeat this for several nights until I could recall the
information. I ended up reading 20 pages for 120 nights in a row, and I honestly feel like it helped
so much. This will not help everyone, and will vary in success for everyone, but 20 pages a night
is about 20 minutes. It's nothing. Sometimes, I felt too tired and demotivated. This is why I
downloaded an app called HabitBull on my iPhone, which basically forced me to make it a habit
and do it every night, so try it!

Other effective revision techniques for these subjects were also social revision and reading aloud
(these are explained in the "techniques" section). Moreover, the specification is another great
friend that the exam board have been kind enough to give you. This is essentially a tick list which
can be found on your exam board's website. I printed the specification off and ensured I knew
everything in there, and I do advise doing this because the CGP books do leave out the finer
details which can be 1 mark questions in the papers.

Once you're confident with every topic, past papers are your best friend again. Do every past
paper at least twice because a lot of questions are recycled. For example, in C2 they always ask
a 4 mark question about rates of reaction, and if you can go into that exam knowing the 4 points
the examiners are looking for, then you've bagged it. Doing exam papers also helps you to learn
how to structure your answers properly so that you're setting yourself up for success.

PS: Your ISA matters. A lot. In my ISAs I achieved 49, 49, 50 in Chemistry, Biology and Physics
respectively. This came out at 100 UMS for all three (each exam is worth 100UMS, so out of
400UMS total, 360 is needed for an A*). So, that meant that with 100UMS already bagged, I only
needed 3 As on each of my papers (87 UMS in all 3 will have given me an A* overall). Therefore,
you need to try your best to get that A* in your ISA. I can help if you need more advice

Languages (Spanish for me)

The best advice I can offer for languages is using flashcards. If you find the specification there
should be a word list. It's usually very long (mine was 3000 / 4000 words). However, these are
the words which are going to be used within your exam paper, so, in theory, if you learn the
translation for every word then you should be able to understand your exam easily. The best way
to do this is to put the word in Spanish (or whatever language you study) and its translation in
English on the back. Repeat this several times until you are confident with it and repeat every so
often to ensure you haven't forgotten it. For the flashcards, since there are so many words, I'd
advise using an app on a tablet or computer. I personally used Chegg and Quizlet on my iPad,
however there are many more such as Memrise. I have also heard that Anki on the computer is
very good.

Also, to help myself learn sentence structures and verb endings (in Spanish, the adjective comes
after the noun whereas in English it comes before) I used Duolingo. This is a free service and I
found it very good for grammatical structure and general understanding. Check it out

Past papers for this are not as important in my opinion. I did a few near to the exam to familiarise
myself with question types as well as highlighting words I weren't familiar with, but it didn't form a
large part of my revision.

English Language
English language, for me, was the most difficult subject by far. Coupled with the subjective nature
and an extremely weak department at my school, I found it very hard and tedious. I know that the
structure has changed and I am not fully familiar with it, so I won't do a question by question
guide but I will give general tips and advice.

The best way to revise for this subject is Mr Bruff. Watch all of his videos, they are very good.
The revision guide he made was also helpful.

I'd also say that a little goes a long way. For example, when getting an analytical question, think
about saying a lot about a little. It's tedious I know but if a picture shows that waves are crashing
upon a grey cliff face, think about why the weather is portrayed in this way and why the colours in
the photograph are so bleak. Is it because the writer wanted to show the destructive and
unpredictable nature of weather? Is it because the writer wanted to show the dull nature of the
coast line? Who knows, but try and think outside of the box and give unconventional
interpretations (as long as you can back it up!).

For creative writing, I'd say to take risks. Question 5 in my exam paper was about pushing
yourself to the limit and why the experience had stayed with you. Immediately I knew everyone
would write about physical limits and how they pushed their body onwards through a military
exercise or something like that. Instead, I decided to do emotional limits, and how an experience
that traumatised me had stayed with me throughout my life. It wasn't the strongest piece of
writing I admit, but it was something I knew would be different and would make the examiner pay
notice. In my letter I also used words such as "swag" to create humour about current teen
culture. Do something different and be spontaneous. There's nothing wrong with that but don't
force it in, make sure it fits.

English Literature
English Literature is pretty much analysis and essay based. The best advice I can offer here is to
use Mr Bruff on YouTube again (as he has guides going through many different novels). Also,
you need to ensure that you're familiar with your book and poems, more so with the newer
specification. I read my books about 6 times each (very excessive reading, I know), but it
ensured that I was as confident as could be when going in to that exam. When analysing, try
again to say a little about a lot and give uncommon interpretations which go beyond the standard
teachings that you get in school. Moreover, use technical terms (such as superlative and
hyperbole) and ensure that you analyse a range of different literary devices, including structure
as well as language. Also, do as many past paper questions as possible. With English Literature,
your enemy will most likely be your timing. It's very hard to get in to the exam, choose a question,
and then write a 3 page essay in 45 minutes. Therefore, the best advice I can offer is to time
yourself because it'll help you to develop the skills necessary to be able to think and write a
coherent answer in a short amount of time.

This will be pretty short. For Geography, all I did was make computerised notes and read them
aloud. I did AQA A, so the amount of revision guides were pretty limited. Therefore, what I
decided to do was get the specification and make my own revision guide (if anyone is on the
same exam board just ask and I will try and find it. No promises, though, I may have deleted it!).

When I had done that, the most important thing to remember was the case study information. To
memorise specific facts about a certain case study, I would use my flashcards, as explained in
the techniques section, until I was confident that I could recall the information.
The best way I revised for computing (OCR) was by using YouTube: ComputerScienceTutor. I'd
revise in a similar way to the sciences - sit down, watch a video, make notes, see what I'd
remember, rinse and repeat. It really helped because I had a very bad teacher. I'd also say that
controlled assessments are very important for computing: since they're worth 60% if you get A*
A* in them you can come out with a low A in the exam and still get an A* overall.

Also, it's important in computing that you understand the concepts and how they link together. It
can get quite difficult at times in terms of remembering things such as network hardware and
purpose etc., but it can be done with perseverance. Furthermore, I'd also say to practise practise
practise by using past papers. There is always a 6 mark algorithm at the end of the paper so
you'll need to practise using pseudocode or a language and get to grips with how to structure
your answers and how to gain all of the marks.

Well, there it is everyone! My major long guide to how to do well in GCSEs. This was pretty much
everything I did so if you work like me then all of these tips will be good. If you've made it this far
down the post, then I imagine you're pretty motivated to get some good results. I will continue to
update this guide with more information and am open to any messages or questions that you
guys have.

Thanks for reading!