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An Examiners Advice For Resitting GCSEs

Updated: Mar 28

During our webinar aimed at helping students prepare for their GCSEs, one of the questions from the audience was: how should I approach resitting my Maths GCSE? Fortunately, we had a qualified teacher and examiner on our panel to answer their question.

Let's remember Einstein' definition of madness is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. So if you didnt pass one of your GCSEs you need to adjust the way you prepared for them to make sure you're resit ready and pass the second time.

For Maths and English, resitting is compulsory if you haven’t achieved a pass (grade 4). You’ll need to continue studying these subjects until you either pass or turn 18.

But don't be discouraged, you are actually further ahead than before as you now have the knowledge of having sat the exam. You'll understand the need for time management, being able to identify command words to understand what is being asked and hopefully be able to better control your nerves - as you've been there before.

Identify Knowledge Gaps

Ask your school if they can provide feedback on where you went wrong, so you can focus on the parts of the subject you scored lowest. This will provide a road map for what to revise and how to prepare for your resits - if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail!.

And be honest with yourself, as well as any gaps in knowledge, what was your preperation like, how much did you revise, did you start early enough... This all needs to be addressed to ensure you're on the right track.

Use Time Effectively

Once you know when you'll be resitting your exams, draw up a realistic revision timetable. Work backwards from the date of your exam, identify times for revision, tutoring if you're working with one and practice papers.

Remember that the average attention span is less than 20 minutes, so studying little and often is usually the most effective approach.

Find Ways To Make Content Stick

Something about how you revised last time obviously didn't work. Many students find simply reading the text does not provide the level of engagement that allows them to make sense of the subject or recall it during exams.

Top performing students find ways to make the content more interesting and mix up the way they learn and revise with cue cards, mind maps, visual notes, quizzes and plenty of practice. You still need to read the text as well, but you can supplement this with audio books, online course (like ours), tutors and study groups.

Identify Priority Topics

It’s not possible to revise a module in its entirety, so take some time to consider which topics are important and account for most of the grade weighting. Past papers are a great resource to help you identify these relevant and recurrent topics, but your exam board also publishes advice to students and teachers highlighting what they want to see expliained and demonstrated.

These subject 'specifications' help you pin point what knowledge you'll need going into an exam. Here is an example of an AQA Maths Specification where you can see things like a) scheme of assessment, b) learning outcomes and c) assessment objectives and weighting.

Past Papers

Our examiner says past papers are an essential method for preparing to upgrade your results. In particular be critical when marking your answers so you know what needs more revision and practice.

Useful links:

Practice Practice Practice

You might find it helpful to draw mind maps to identify common themes across your notes, create flashcards or quick-fire lists to practice defining key concepts, or use flow diagrams to track process stages. Also, if you're able to explain the topic to someone who doesnt know it, then you've cracked it and if you haven't got anyone to explain it to, just record yourself.

Tops Tips

  • Most schools and colleges allow GCSE students to resit failed examinations. You can resit English and Maths exams in November and examinations in other subjects are then taken in the following June. You will need to double check the examination schedule with your school.

  • Think positively: you now know what to expect when taking an exam and you can use this information to your advantage!

  • Once you have identified what issues held you back in your previous exam, you can overcome these issues and achieve a pass grade.

  • Take care of your mind and body. This means building time into your revision schedule where you can go out with friends or do something that you enjoy without feeling guilty.

  • Talk to those around you. Your teachers, tutors and family are on your side!

  • A failed grade is not the end of the world and wont hold you back from achieving your further education and career goals.

  • You can do it, good luck.

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