What Is A GCSE?

GCSEs or General Certificates of Secondary Education are the exams students take in a number of subjects during their secondary education.

Students usually take GCSEs at age 16 but students older than age 16 can also take GCSEs. Students who wish to pursue A Levels usually require these qualifications.

Out of all the subjects, GCSE Maths is one of the most crucial tests students must take. The importance of a GCSE in mathematics can be reflected upon by the fact that nearly 97% of the jobs now require the candidate to pass GCSE in mathematics and with a decent grade too.

Why Is Maths GCSE So Important?

It is difficult for students to guarantee a safe job in future if they fail the GCSE maths exam. Surprisingly the percentage of students who pass GCSE Maths is 60% out of which only 10% achieve the top grades i.e. A and A*.

There is a reason behind many students failing to score a good grade. One of the most important reasons is the strategy which they adopt while preparing for GCSE maths exams.

Students lack the guidance needed to help them prepare for the test. They are not familiar with the correct ways of effective revision. Neither they do not know how to find the resources and how to use them to prepare for GCSE Maths. Nor do they understand how to divide their time to prepare for different parts of the GCSE.

The Impact Of Maths Revision GCSE

This article and others related to this will guide you to help prepare for the GCSE in the best way possible. You will not only learn the key factors needed to maximize your preparation and therefore performance in the test, but we will also teach you how to be among the top 10% of high achievers.

In order to succeed in the GCSE Maths test, the most obvious skills for you to master, are your math skills. Before you start your preparation, you should ensure that you are familiar with the common core math concepts and that you have good problem-solving skills.

If you think you lack good problem-solving skills, trying solving math worksheets found online, play math games, go through your school maths textbook and just try to clear up all your mathematical concepts. There is also the option to find maths tutors on Superprof including the usually cheaper choice: an online maths tutor.

There are several free online math tools available, that will help you brush up on your core maths concepts such as fractions, geometry, subtraction, multiplication, probability, addition and subtraction, word problems and other common core mathematical topics.

Apart from the above mathematical concepts, it is your planning, motivation, memory and practice that will eventually define how you are going to perform in your GCSE Maths, whether you are taking GCSE Maths in your school or as a private candidate once you are older than 25.

GCSE maths can help you secure a job
Learn to master numbers for GCSE Maths.( Image Source: Unsplash)

GCSE Maths Syllabus - What to Expect

All the GCSE tests, especially GCSE Maths set out a standard criterion which is based on conceptual understanding, skills and knowledge.

Most of the mathematical topics in GCSE Maths tests revolve around the basics taught to students at key stage 1, 2 and 3.

The GCSE Maths syllabus focuses on not only imparting mathematical skills to the student but also enabling students to become fluent in their understanding of mathematical knowledge and concepts. It helps students apply mathematical techniques to real-world problems.

The following are the core mathematical topics involved in the GCSE maths syllabus:

  • Calculation and structure: This could include subtopics such as integers (both positive and negative), along with the skills for recognizing the relationships between operations and inverse operations. Other than this, the concept of prime numbers, divisors, multiples, HCF or highest common factor, LCF or lowest common factor, prime factorization etc. is also important.
  • Fractions, percentages, and decimals: This involves mathematical skills to work around terminating decimals and their related fractions. Identifying fractions in ratio problems along with interpretation of percentages and fractions as operators is also a part of it.
  • Measures and accuracy: In this topic, you should ensure your grip of different units such as units of mass, time, length, money along with other measurement units. Round numbers, approximation, estimation, significant figures an accuracy including lower and upper bounds, all come under this.

 In addition to all these, concepts of Algebra are also crucial. These might include the topics like:

  • Algebraic vocabulary, notation, and manipulation: Understanding algebraic notations and the algebraic vocabulary is as important as understanding algebraic concepts itself because if you are not familiar with the notation and the words, you won’t be able to understand certain questions and hence won’t be able to solve them either.
  • Learn all the algebraic notation and learn to apply numerical values in formulae and algebraic expressions. Simplification and manipulation of regular algebraic expressions along with algebraic fractions and surds and all the methods applied on them should also be on your fingertips.
  • Inequalities and solving equations: This is one of the most fundamental topics of algebra. Learn to solve quadratic equations, linear equations, simultaneous linear equations in one or two variables.
  • Sequences: Master the skills of generating terms sequences from different rules such as term-to-term rules etc. Cover Fibonacci sequences, geometric progressions, quadratic sequences and linear sequences.
  • Graphs: You should know the basics of graphs such as coordinates, axis, and how to plot them with the help of an algebraic equation. Learn to plot graphs of straight and parallel lines, parabola, hyperbola, ellipse etc.

And more extensive mathematical topics such as:

  • Ratio, proportion, and Rates of change: Learn the use of scale factors, maps, diagrams, ratio notation and easy but tricky skills of reducing ratios to simplest forms, or changing between standard units etc.
  • Geometry and measures: Have a firm grip on topics of points, vertices, edges, lines, planes, perpendicular or parallel lines, angles, polygons, triangles, medians etc. The geometry theorems should be at your fingertips.
  • Vectors: Practice vector questions and the methods to solve two or three vectors.
  • Probability and Statistics: Practice lots of probability questions. Learn to find the frequency of occurrence of events and outcomes etc. Use the techniques to apply the idea of fairness, randomness and equally likely events. Learn all the core statistics concepts such as distribution, sampling, mean, median, mode etc. 
What does the GCSE maths syllabus include?
Study less, study smart. Save time and practice more. ( Image Source: Unsplash)

How to Tackle GCSE Maths Problems

It's all good and well knowing what to expect, but how should you go about solving these problems you encounter?

Here we will talk about tackling some of the problems you will encounter while taking your GCSE maths exam.

We will adopt a logical approach to solving mathematical problems allowing us to develop our scientific minds, and with some practice: solve problems from memory, instead of referring to textbooks! We will also keep you informed of the many useful websites and excellent resources that you can make use of during your revision.

Aside from revising, the trick to learning how to succeed in maths is practising all the skills you learn, from primary school through to your GCSEs, A Levels and beyond, so that you know how to break down problems into smaller questions that you can answer until you've found an overall solution. It may not seem like it at the time, but all of your Maths teachers have been working on developing your skills over time, using the knowledge you learn as a foundation for the next important Maths lesson.

Improving your mental math ability will let you solve problems more quickly!
Once you've learned basic math skills like addition and subtraction, you start attempting trickier problems! source: Pixabay

The key thing to remember is this: however difficult your problem is: whether it's an algebra question, a question about inequalities, fractions or coordinates: each "type of problem" has the same steps to solve it and, deep down, you know these steps because you've spent many years working up this.

You just need to develop your reasoning skills, so that you can make a conscious and confident approach to which set of steps to take.

Maths Revision GCSE Complications

One specific area that many students struggle with at GCSE is quotient equations: this can more easily be expressed as just "an equation with a division operation in it".

This is a special rule in Calculus, which has the purpose of differentiating quotients of two functions.

When tackling this kind of complicated Calculus question, there's something you need to remember:

A quotient (ie: a fraction) is zero only if the numerator (top half of the fraction) is zero, and the denominator (bottom half of the fraction) is not zero.

Why is this? Because you can't divide by zero, and that's all a fraction (or "quotient") really is: a way of expressing a division operation!

Although complex, this sequence of operation can become second nature if you practise it again and again. Use revision websites and Maths quizzes to your advantage and help your brain to feel more comfortable with this type of question. The last thing you want is to turn up on the day of the exam and to go immediately into panic mode because you are overwhelmed by the numbers and signs on the page in front of you... once you convince yourself that you can't answer a question it is hard to go back.

Just remember, break it down into simple terms and chunks. Why not even try to think of numbers not as just figures, but as objects to blocks. By using your imagination and picturing the questions in a logical way, it could help you to arrive at the answer quicker!

So now we know that we can work out the best way to solve the problem. See specific examples to put all of this into context here.

Best Resources for Maths GCSE Revision

As mentioned above, in order to start your GCSE maths revision, you need to adopt a certain strategy to help you revise in the best way possible.

Before we jump to the part where we provide you with the best online resources for GCSE Maths test preparation and revision, let us discuss the core factors needed for you to maximise your maths revision.

  • Planning: Be sure to start your revision with a structure or a plan. The best way to plan is to, first of all, organize your study space, then get yourself a schedule and gather all the resources you’re going to need.
    Get a revision guide to help you stay on track with all the topics which you need to cover. Once you have everything ready, make a schedule such that you are able to complete all the revision by the date of your exam. Keep track of time and plan how much time would a topic take. Remember these words by Benjamin Franklin:

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”

  • Motivation: Sticking to the plan you made requires motivation. Revision might become hectic for you and you might feel like giving up, but it is your motivation that will carry you till the end. Find out ways to motivate yourself.
  • Memory: If you have a good memory, you have a chance at a good grade in GCSE Maths. Use mnemonics, flash cards and tricks to help you remember the mathematical concepts you learn.
  • Practice: We all have heard “practice makes perfect” and it's very true for GCSE Maths preparation. The more you practice, the more adept you get in solving tricky mathematical questions. Get some past papers or online worksheets and solve them as much as you can!

Now that you know some basic revision techniques, let us discuss some online resources from where you can prepare for the test.

Books To Help With GCSE Maths Revision

Following is the list of some of the best books out there that you can buy for your Maths GCSE preparation, revision and practice:

This fit for purpose textbook contains all-in-one exam preparation resources for Higher Level GCSE Maths, tailored to the national curriculum courses. As well as being a printed book, it also includes a free Online Edition to use on a PC, Mac or tablet device.

CGP explains every topic clearly and concisely with plenty of tips and worked examples for you to take away and use in your revision. Each mini-section ends with a quick test and a selection of exam-style questions, with detailed answers at the back to get you used to using questions and answers to better your exam technique and overall skill.

At the end of the book, you'll find two full practice exam papers.

This book, designed specifically for GCSE students of Maths, is packed with practice questions for pupils taking the Higher level GCSE Maths course.

The textbook covers all the key topics for the current exams with each of the exam boards used across the UK. There is a range of exercises to test your maths skills, with answers at the back so you can easily check your work and find out where you're going wrong! This will significantly help you to improve your answers when it comes to the big day.

Here, there are seven manageable 'day' sections, which set out how much time you should spend working on them. The timed revision programme covers essential GCSE topics in double-page spreads and is encouraging as it teaches you how to use the resource to its best. Each section indicates how much time should be spent on them and combine clear and concise explanations, flow charts, spidergrams and illustrations with progress check questions and answers so that you can be sure that you are on track with your revision.

This CGP textbook consists of topics divided into sections for easy digestion. Covering numbers, graphs, algebra and geometry and measures, this useful resource tackles all of those tricky lessons that many students need a little extra help with. Use this during your independent revision sessions to get yourself used to the questions you might face in your final exams.

Online Resources For GCSE Maths

If you are looking for some online resources, try these:

The Student Room is an online forum for students which counts over 1.8m members worldwide, allowing you to discuss a range of topics with other pupils from countries around the world. Whether it's revision, lifestyle, university or relationships - there's an opportunity to chat about them all!

What's more is that this website, which caters for students from GCSE level (and it's international equivalents) upwards, offers free revision help to students via a range of easy to use tools. There are revision guides and past papers and there is information on exam reforms and what you should be prepared for on results day.

If it's one particular subject you want help with, like Maths and its sub-topics, you can browse the materials and tools by subject.

Yet another free website that is perfect for Maths students of GCSE-level age is StudyMaths.co.uk, which (as its name suggests) is dedicated to pupils of the subject. Here, you can find GCSE revision help, exam-style questions and answers, worksheets, games, a question bank, good-to-know formulae and there is also a glossary.

Some overlook the idea of brushing up on Maths terms as they see the subject as just being about numbers. In actual fact, knowing your mathematical terminology can be really useful for an exam so that you know what topic of Maths the question relates to.

So, don't delay! Go and visit the 100% free website for your revision, taking on the mathematical words and their meanings.

While it isn't known for being a revision website in itself, the exam board website and its benefits to you as a student shouldn't be overlooked. The site publishes details of your course and exam such as the course materials, publishes resources and news surrounding this area of the curriculum as well as offering past papers and the marking scheme.

Consulting past papers is strongly recommended because, otherwise, you could wind up entering the exam with no idea of what to expect. By seeing questions that have been asked of students at your level in the past, you can better understand what to revise, how best to present your answers and, more importantly, how to get those extra marks.

Getting a few extra marks can be so much easier than you though, some marks are given simply for getting a part of your working out on the paper correctly. Don't forget, they may not seem like much but they all add up and could make the difference between one grade and another!

It is strongly advised to thoroughly read and take on board the examiner's notes to see their reasons behind giving and deducting marks.

Math Quiz is a website that focuses primarily on providing online tests for learners of Maths, covering GCSE level, A Level, and degree level course content.

The structure of the site is very clear and, once you have chosen your level (GCSE, in your case), you can browse a list of topics to test yourself on. If you've used the resource before in preparation for your mock exam, you may not want to cover old ground (although going over topics is never a bad thing). You may like to know that the website indicates clearly in red when new tests are available for you to tackle so that you know you are always taking steps forward rather than sitting in the same spot.

Finally, once you have chosen which topic you wish to work on, you can select your level, Higher or Foundation, and can choose your difficulty level which ranges from normal to challenging.

Although primarily aimed at teachers, the TES website can offer you some useful materials to work from. And if it's good enough for your teacher to download resources from to then pass onto you, then why not pip them to the post and find some helpful documents yourself?

The website offers resources such as quizzes and games for teachers to use in class but much of this content can be used by you at home to test your knowledge on the range of topics covered. Remember to use the website alongside other resources that are designed with pupils in mind.

Start your preparation by ensuring that you have a firm grip on all the concepts, topics, formulae and theories. Once you are confident that your concepts are crystal clear, start your revision with the help of the above-mentioned books.

Practice as much as you can. The online resources will provide you with mock GCSE quizzes. Take these quizzes to evaluate yourself and then work on your weak points.

Where to Find Maths Revision GCSE Past Papers

One of the best ways to practice for any test is by solving past exams. Past papers not only help you get familiar with the test pattern but they also enable you to get better and better, by practising as much as you can. You can also evaluate yourself with the help of these tests.

Use these past papers as a mock exam. Set a timer and try to solve them within the time in which the actual GCSE Maths would be conducted.

You might not be able to complete the mock test within the required time, but this will only motivate you to keep practising until you are able to solve the test in much less time.

Where can you find GCSE maths study material?
You can find tonnes of study material online. ( Image Source: Unsplash)

Now before you start the preparation, you have to get yourself registered with an exam board that offers maths GCSE. Some of the GCSE Maths exam boards that are regulated by the Office of Regulators of Qualifications in the UK are:

  • Pearson
  • Edexcel
  • Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC)
  • Assessment and Qualification Alliance (AQA)
  • Council for the curriculum, Examinations, and Assessment

Once you choose a board, you can easily find their past exams for practice. Past papers are the best revision tools you can find. Do not solve past papers with an expectation of the same questions being repeated in the test you will take. This does not happen. Only use past papers to identify your weak points in your revision for GCSE Maths.

Most of the boards have past-paper search engines on their website from where you can find past papers instantly. You can also obtain their marking scheme to evaluate yourself once you solve the past papers.

Your syllabus may vary depending on the board you have registered yourself with. Consult your maths tutor to confirm which tier you are sitting and what syllabus you need to follow before you start looking for past exams. Following are some sources from where you can find past papers: -

        Pearson and Edexcel

While choosing a board, be vigilant as some state schools only consider specific boards. The curriculum, as well as marking strategy, may also vary from one board to another.

Once your revision is done, and you get your hands on the past papers, solve them under trial run and see how you perform under pressure.

Take note of how much time you spent on a particular question. If you are spending more time than actually needed, you need to practice more and more until you can solve the same questions quicker.

If you do not learn to manage time, your performance in the exam may suffer despite a good revision.

So, practice hard and make sure you can solve basic maths without a calculator. Learn all the tricks and tips to play with numbers quickly and you will perform much better. 

Exam Timetables And Marking Criteria 

Timetables for GCSE Maths also vary depending on the board you have chosen. It is important for you to get the timetable before you start your preparation.

This way you will be able to plan your revision keeping in mind the time you have until the final exam.

In order to save you the hassle of finding timetables, we have provided the timetables for GCSE Maths 2018 of some of the famous boards down below:

Go through these timetables to get an idea of the months during which you can take these tests. Look for GCSE Maths and your respective tier etc. and start your preparation accordingly.

The months in which these tests are conducted, usually remain the same every year with only a slight change of dates. So, if you are planning to take GCSE next year, you can start planning from now on.

Marking criteria is also crucial in your path to success in GCSE Maths. If you are unaware of the marking criteria, you will not perform to your fullest.

It is prudent for you to go through the marking criteria and base your practice on it. And just like every other thing, the marking criteria also varies from one board to another. 

When can you take your GCSE exams?
Give your best!. ( Image Source: Unsplash)

Passing GCSE Maths with outstanding grades is not difficult, provided that you are equipped with all the necessary skills, training and practice.

Have a plan, stay motivated and execute your plan in a timely manner. Stay confident during the test and give it your best. Putting in just a little more extra effort can set you apart from the average students.

Most of the GCSE tests do not allow a calculator. If you are weak at doing calculations without a calculator, you might have a hard time during the test.

Try memorizing all the tables and learn tricks to solve small yet complex mathematical problems quickly without a calculator.

Only certain type of calculators may be allowed. Even if they are allowed, try not to rely on them and try solving basic maths in your brain. You can save time this way.

Get your hands on any revision resources you can get. Find online books or buy them from a local bookshop. Ask your teachers for worksheets etc. and try to grab knowledge and concepts from wherever you can!

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