Preparing for your final GCSE year

Thursday 10 January 2019, Applicant

by Charlotte Stevenson

Preparing for your final GCSE year

Charlotte Stevenson
Some of you may have taken GCSE's for your options for the past few years, others not, but the pressure is probably feeling a lot more evident now that it is your last year of GCSE's and hence a lot more work - with a lot of subjects to study and get to grips with at once, it can feel like there is a never ending stream of work to do and the nerves might build as a result.

My first piece of advice, and it might sound like an obvious one, is try not to be too stressed! Whilst the future will need you to have good grades, this is not all that matters. The main thing that matters is keeping a healthy balance and environment - one in which you can work your best,  but also enjoy all the fun that comes with being in your last year of high school, whether that be getting involved with projects to raise awareness for charities as part of the student council or as a prefect (I can't believe it's been so long since I was a performing arts prefect now!) or getting to spend time with your friends finding the perfect time for prom.

One of my most memorable moments from my last year of highschool is that the day after we finished our GCSE exams, me and some friends had pizza and lemonade after a huge water balloon fight/ game of hide and seek (we invented the rules up as we went!) that was one of my favourite moments other than prom.

So - to prepare for your GCSE's this year, you might want to bear a few of these in mind:

1. Study blocks 

After long days in school, there are likely going to be days when you have lots of home work to complete and also revision to do. As my teachers always reminded me, setting revision as home work doesn't mean do nothing - it means focus in on the things which so far you have found more difficult than others and getting them to a better standard, purely to help yourself find a firmer footing.

My point is, that after long days at school and any extra curriculars you are involved in you are really going to be tired. So the best way to go about getting your extra work and revision done, the best thing to do is split up your time and create study blocks. You can organise this so that it is the same every evening or so that you pick which work you do each day, it doesn't matter as long as you are picking the work you know needs to be done and dusted, as well as picking things not just because they are easy but because you know you genuinely need to work on them,

You can research different study methods. There are all sorts of them - some suggest a method kind of like doubling, where you work for 20 minutes and get a 10 minute break, followed by half an hour of revision and a 20 minute break etc. Personally, I used to find it easier to work for an hour and then have a half an hour break. This sometimes meant only getting two hours of extra work done a night including home work but it really helped me get to grips with all the content that I need to. If the time you are working with is used to focus in properly and study right, then you will make the most of that time and it will never be wasted. You can even make it fun - write out a schedule to go on your desk and tick things off as you go. Maybe even use stickers (if you're as much a fan of organisation as me, there is nothing more satisfying than placing a small gold star over each section of your time table once it has been completed for the day)

2. Colour coding + flash cards

They work at any level of study, but especially at GCSE these things saved my skin to say the least. Because there are so many subjects, it can be really easy to fall into the trap of becoming disorganised. A simple way to help with this is colour coding. There are all sorts of levels to this, whether it be using sticky tabs to find different pages or highlighting different themes or topics in different colours (you can organise a key for each subject) Make sure you divide it into a different system for each subject or topic you use it for so that it makes sense when you come back to it later.

Flash cards are also useful because they are easily transportable - you can read through things pretty much anywhere, some one else can use them to test you and they can also be divided into a colour coded system so that you know which are for which subject. They don't have to overly neat, just make sure that you fit in concise a format as possible all the most important information you need to know. Aim to stick to a certain amount of information - you only need so much from the text book to pass, not the whole thing, and you need to be comfortable translating it into your own manner and style of writing, so this can be really helpful early practice before you get into writing, planning and constructing answers to the bigger exam style questions.

3. Revision sessions + extra resources

As far as extra resources go, one of the things I found most useful at GCSE was the amount of information I could find through recommended books (especially with more academic based subjects such as history and science) and also, surprisingly, youtube videos. There are so many lectures and TED talks that cover opinions and facts from pretty much every subject. I studied an extra qualification in equality and diversity which hugely benefited from the amount of extra opinion I was able to gather through those who talked about their ideas and experiences.

In terms of revision sessions, it can't hurt to attend at least one in a subject you are struggling with. Even if you think that everything is clarified after you have asked the teacher, try doing a few example questions or past papers at home and then go through them with a teacher in an extra class. These extra sessions are built around your school schedule to suit you, so there is always bound to be at least one you can attend and every single one of them gives you the opportunity to go over something you might be a little un-sure of. You might think that with revision this will be fine, but it is better to start as you mean to go on. Getting that skill to the best it can be now will mean that it comes more naturally by the time exams roll around and you will feel much better for that and it helps stress levels for sure. Try attending one, like I said, and see if it's for you - even if it is only to find a place where someone can quiz you on what you already know or to get a quiet space where you can make a head start on some work, with the comfort of a teacher being nearby should you come across any problems you don't understand.

4. Healthy diet + sleep

It's annoying to be reminded, but as teenagers we are still growing so we need to make sure that we get a healthy diet and sleep. If we keep our body healthy, it is much easier for the brain to keep working at a good pace where it can focus and solve things sharply. A healthy diet can be as simple as making sure you get 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day (study snacks are a great way of doing this) Sleep wise, 8 hours a night is recommended so make sure you are taking all of the factors into consideration (e.g. needing to get up early for chores, exercise or travel) so that you can work around your health and home routine in order to keep things in order - you need time to yourself! And sleep and eating come first every time, no question. Without these elements to your education, there is no way you are going to be able to concentrate properly.

5. Balance 

Just a gentle reminder, leading on from the last section of 4, you are human and not a robot - hence you need to be making sure you look out for yourself and getting that balance right. You need to be able to make memories and have fun as well as just studying and getting the grades you hope for with hard work. Anything is achievable if you put your mind to it, so keep that balance close to heart at all times. You can do this, we can do this - here's to the GCSE year 2017!
Thank you for all your support and comments, it is so wonderful to be able to answer or help with any questions you have, and to share this adventure with all of you. It makes my day every day!
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