Studying for your GCSEs can be a daunting task. At this level, Chemistry covers many different topics and it can be hard to know where to start. We have compiled a guide on what you’ll learn and some tips on revising, so you can get the best grade you can.
Depending on your school the specific curriculum at GCSE you follow can vary, but the core topics are the same.
At this stage in your education you already have a grasp of the basics and will start to learn more in depth chemistry.
You will learn about atoms, their structure and the periodic table. Knowing the structure of atoms is an essential base for any experiments you want to do in the lab for your practical work. Atoms come in many different structures and can also combine to make compounds.
You will also learn about chemical changes and the reactivity of metals. Some metals will react with water or over substances and the reactions can be violent! 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.
You’ll also gain some knowledge that will be useful for the future even if you don’t become a chemist. You’ll learn about sustainable development, use of water reducing wastage of resources.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the amount of information you’ll need to learn. Taking it chunk by chunk will make it a lot easier to remember and preparing your revision techniques in advance will put your mind at ease.
At GCSE level the chemistry you learn can be pretty advanced so it's best to revise new knowledge as and when you learn it rather than leaving it all to the last minute. Make sure you really understand a concept before you move onto the next one. This way you'll just keep building up your knowledge and like a real building, you need to ensure the foundation is strong! If you don't understand a concept don't ignore it, work on it and ask your teacher for more help.
Learning your course bit by bit will take the pressure off in the lead up to your exams. Here are some of our tips to get you prepared:
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Create a Revision Timetable
Building a chemistry 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.
Draw out your calendar yourself or print one off, decorate it however you want to just make sure it's neat! You could use different colours for different subjects (yes, don't ignore your other subjects!), or different colours per chemistry topic. Don't forget to add in your fun activities. Got hockey practice on a Tuesday? Put it on the timetable! This will help you visualise your time and remind you that it's not all work and no play.
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.
Practice makes perfect
One of the best things you can do is to do as many GCSE Chemistry past papers as you can. Past papers are an essential tool for revision. Getting used to the past papers will help you to understand the way your subject is structured.
Practising past papers will help you get familiar with the:
- Exam format - is the paper divided into different sections?
- Question style - are the questions multiple choice?
- Time pressure - how much time should you spend on each section?
Past papers are also a great way to notice any holes in your knowledge. If you get stuck on a question you can make sure to revise that topic later. You can use the papers to practice demonstrating what you actually know. What you think you know in your head and what you can actually put down onto paper aren't always the same, best to find this out before the exam!
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Work with your Classmates
If you find your work too much to tackle alone, then why not enlist the help and support of other students? Create or join a study group and connect with your classmates for support! This will allow you to fully prepare for your GCSEs as well as enrich your learning by exploring the thoughts and ideas of others.
Interacting with other students will also help you improve your communication and collaboration skills.
Plus you and your classmates can test each other’s knowledge and level of progress!
Don't Push it Too Hard
If you’re feeling stressed, tired and that you can’t take on any new information take a break. There is no point forcing yourself to study for hours upon hours as this will not result in a positive outcome.
Taking regular study breaks and exercising is proven to engaging your brain in studying and improve your exam performance in the long-run. Exercise is a powerful tool which can boost your brain’s ability to be productive.
Find Your Learning Style
Everyone is always looking for the best way to study but the reality is that each person is different. Once you understand your learning style and revision techniques by deciding if you are a visual, auditory, reading or writing learner, then remembering and recalling new information will become much easier.
If you do struggle with reading textbooks then maybe this isn't the learning method for you. Supplement your class learning with different methods. Try searching on YouTube for online chemistry tutorials (there's plenty) or use sites like BBC bitesize to learn in a more fun, dynamic way.
Mix up your study habits and methods by listening to podcasts, watching videos or documentaries, studying in a new location or even something as simple as using different colours for your study notes.
Your brain will recall where you were or how you revised for a topic which will help you remember more information. Give it a go!
Through revising you will also find out if you work better studying during the night or in the morning/daytime. This will help you organise your time better too; you can adapt your revision timetable depending on your preferences.
Use Mind Maps to Connect Ideas
If you find it difficult to remember tons of new study notes, Mind Maps may be the key to improving your memory. The theory behind mind mapping explains that making associations by connecting ideas helps you to memorise information easier and quicker.
There are many more benefits to using Mind Maps for learning including being able to map out your curriculum, develop GCSE concepts in-depth and create sample exam answers. Remember that in your exam you will be expected to hit certain key points to get the marks. Mapping out sample answers can help you get in the practice of answering in this way.
The day of your exam can be the most stressful of the entire examination experience but there are ways which you can minimise your anxiety such as avoiding panicking friends and giving yourself plenty of time to get to the test centre on time.
Remembering all of the work you have put in and how well you have prepared will give you a confidence boost for the exam.
Also don’t underestimate the power of eating a healthy breakfast the day of your exams! You don't want to be thinking about your stomach when you're writing out a chemical equation!
Whatever methods you choose to revise just make sure you give yourself time to prepare. Not only will you save yourself stress you’ll give yourself the best possible chance to achieve the grades you deserve.
Good luck and happy revising!