Studying for your GCSEs might seem scary, but there are plenty of steps you can take to make sure you're prepared for your exams. We have compiled a guide on what you’ll learn and some tips on revising, so you can get the best grade you can.
At this stage in your education you already have a grasp of the basics and will start to learn more in-depth chemistry. Knowing what to expect on your course is a good way to prepare for your course and there's no better way than looking at the curriculum.
You will learn about atoms, their structure and the periodic table. You will also learn about chemical changes and the reactivity of metals. You’ll get to test these out in the lab too. As well as chemical changes there can be energy changes. These can either be exothermic (reactions which create energy and transfer it to the surroundings) like combustions or oxidations or they can be endothermic (which take energy from the surroundings) like a thermal decomposition.
As well as the chemical theory, you’ll be taught practical skills in the lab and be taught how to conduct an experiment from planning it to writing an analysis of the results.
While it might seem overwhelming at the start you'll learn the curriculum bit by bit building on your knowledge as you progress.
There are many mistakes that students make on papers, but there are ways you can avoid them. One common error students can make is writing a description when they’ve been asked for an explanation. A description alone will not get any marks.
To avoid this, make sure you read the question carefully and identify the correct command word. Underlining key words and circling command words can help you focus on correctly answering the question.
At this level you should be working on demonstrating your knowledge, and even if you know the answer you have to use the correct vocabulary to show this. Make sure you get into the practice, in your revision and on your past paper practice, of using the correct scientific vocabulary to explain your answer.
Not Just a Memory Game
The application of knowledge and understanding of science is particularly important in GCSEs.
During your revision make sure you really understand each topic. Don't move onto the next topic until you are confident that you know the last one, and could apply it to different contexts. Your exam isn't going to go in chronological order so don't just rely on memory to get you through.
The key to learning your topics, and we mean really learning them, is to constantly test your knowledge. Re-read the specification, refresh your knowledge with online quizzes and do all the past papers you can find on your topic until you're sure you know it inside out!
Practical work forms a key part of the specification meaning that exam questions will draw on the knowledge and understanding that you’ve have gained through practical work in the lab.
You should have a really good understanding of the practical work you’ve done in class and be able to use it in the exam.
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In your revision, focus on the reasons for carrying out a particular practical technique, or the use of a particular piece of apparatus in an experiment. This will help develop your understanding of these methods and be able to write about them in your exam.
Brush up on the scientific vocabulary that applies to this practical work so you can easily write about it in your exam. Proper use of appropriate scientific vocabulary will demonstrate your understanding of scientific ideas and techniques.
Thinking you know something and being able to accurately put it down onto paper are not the same thing. Practice this technique by picking your favourite topic and explaining it to a friend. You'll find that's it almost impossible to do this succinctly without using the appropriate vocabulary and key terms.
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Building a revision timetable can add structure to your revision techniques and help you identify which topics you need to prioritise.
Creating a revision timetable is a great way to organise your study time, plus it also helps boost your motivation to revise for your exams.
Hang your revision timetable somewhere visible in your room and once you've done a revision session or covered a specific topic tick it off the timetable. Having a visual reminder of all the work you've put in will give you a confidence boost before the exam.
Take the first step by setting your GCSE study goals to build a strong foundation for success.
Find out about how the GCSE Chemistry exam is graded.
The action of making notes is crucial. But copying out the textbook word for word doesn’t count. You need to understand, rather than memorise.
Be systematic and follow the syllabus topic by topic. Don’t move on until you really understand. If you don’t understand the fundamentals at the start you might not understand something later on so don’t skip it. Knowledge works by building. You learn something and then you just keep adding to it, but for this to work the start of your knowledge has to be solid.
If you are unfamiliar with any topics consult the relevant section in your textbook or your class notes. GCSE science textbooks are usually fairly good, but if you need a different explanation go online, you’ll find plenty of resources there.
Once you get to the end of a section, run through a few practice questions either online or at the end of chapters in your textbook if there are any. Or if you have relevant questions in a past paper use those.
While you are making your notes, make yourself a few flashcards or posters summarising important formulas and how to use them.
Write a key-point or topic on one side and write and explanation on the other. Test yourself by looking at the key-point side only and seeing if you can explain it without looking at the card!
Create a glossary while you’re at it: this will help you remember any definitions you need to know. Definitions and the correct vocabulary are essential in your chemistry exam to get the marks. Even if know the answer, without the correct vocabulary you won't hit the key points that the examiner is looking for. Using the right scientific language is about demonstrating your knowledge. Don't lose marks just on your choice of words!
Using Past Papers
Using past papers is a fantastic way to find out how your revision is going, where you need to improve and for getting to grips with exam technique.
Past papers are an essential tool for revision. Do every past paper you can find, as many times as you can. Getting used to the past papers will help you to understand the way your subject is structured.
Past papers help you get used to the structure and wording of the exam. Get really familiar with your past papers, it’s essential you know the structure so there are no surprises on exam day.
Make sure you get your head around the structure of your chemistry paper and ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is the paper divided into sections?
2. Are the questions multiple choice?
3. How much time should you spend on each section?
4. Have you covered all the sections in your revision? Make sure there’s no holes in your knowledge.
If you keep seeing a question that trips you up, make sure you revise that topic. Don't just glance at it and think you know it, really make sure you understand the topic. Questions can be phrased in many ways or a couple of topics might be combined in the same question, so you need to really know the topic so you can apply it to different situations (and not just repeat information).
Revision isn’t so hard when you have so many resources to make it varied and most importantly useful! Combine different techniques to keep yourself on your toes and to keep it interesting. Remember, you should be revising all year long, not just in a panic before your exam.