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Our Complete Guide to Maths Help for Taking GCSE Maths

From Wajeeha, published on 20/09/2017 Blog > Academia > Maths > GCSE Maths Revision: Everything you Need to Know

GCSE’s 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.

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.

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 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.

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 sub topics 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.
  • In-equalities 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 idea of fairness, randomness and equally likely events. Learn all the core statistics concepts such as distribution, sampling, mean, median, mode etc. 

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!

The trick to learning how to succeed in maths, is practicing 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.

Improving your mental math ability will let you solve problems more quickly! Once you’ve learnt 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 its an algebra question, a question about inequalities, fractions or coordinates: each “type of problem” has the same steps to solve it. You just need to develop your reasoning skills, so that you know which set of steps to take.

GCSE Maths Revsion: Quotient Equations

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”.

Here’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!

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 Revision Guides/Online Resources for Maths GCSE 

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 maximize 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.

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

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

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 GCSE Maths Past Papers / Exam boards

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 practicing 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 practicing, until you are able to solve the test in much less time.

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 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/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 till 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. 

 

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 calculator. If you are weak at doing calculations without 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 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 book shop . Ask your teachers for worksheets etc. and try to grab knowledge and concepts from wherever you can!

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