Getting an 9 for GCSE can be extremely difficult and sometimes feel impossible. Here are 2 stories of how some of our tutors achieved an 9 in GCSE Biology which should hopefully encourage you in your studies.
Perseverance and repetition works wonders!
With biology and chemistry I was able to employ a lot of the same tactics as other subjects… which meant to absolutely nail the revision guide. The way the exam board wanted the answers written were to be very concise and hit the key words/phrases throughout your answer. You’ll be able to get these memorised if you simply utilise the guide. To embed these terms in my head I would read it through a sentence or two at a time before writing it down in my own words without looking at the guide. I would then re-read the book to ensure that what I wrote down was correct. This is tedious but I found it worked for me.
I’d aim to get through the content 4-5 times before the test, giving myself approximately 1 week per repetition of the guide. However, what you need to take into account is that the first and second repetition will take you a lot longer than the third, fourth and fifth because the content is newer to you. As I went through the weeks I would not necessarily write down every detail, I’d leave the bits that I knew were in my head and simply focus on the bits that needed more than my attention. I would never do continuous hours upon end of this process, I’d take breaks roughly once per hour but ultimately you have to realise when your brain is wired or no longer taking it in.
On top of the guide, past papers are arguably more useful for revising the key terms to use in the exam. I would ensure that I looked through every one available and took note of which questions continuously came up (There will be some that feature each year!). The questions that don’t come up each year are still useful because they give examples of the style of writing that the exam boards are looking for. I’d aim to do each paper in exam conditions to get an accurate assessment of where I’m at. From this you can then see where you struggled and use that to see where in the guide you need to focus most of your energy.
Start early, be prepared
Success at GCSE differs massively from success in Key Stage 3. For many of you, I imagine your KS3 years were extremely easy – you literally turned up on the day after revising for a few weeks prior and managed to pull off a decent grade. At GCSE however the nature of the beast is different: there is a significant increase in content, the questions are extremely probing and expect a much deeper command of the syllabus and worst of all you have to complete the exams in one sitting.
So how did I do it?
I made sure I started early. After each lesson I’d reinforce the content covered in class by referring to the textbook and re-writing my class notes as succinctly as possible in a completely separate book designated for ‘Biology’. I’d then go over this work again at the weekend, reviewing these notes I had made and then assessing my understanding by using mock questions I could find online – or in some cases, making my own questions. This was my weekly routine well in advance of any summative papers. Once the summer exams were roughly 6 or so weeks away I’d already built up a strong knowledge base over the course of the year, meaning I was in a privileged position where I could focus exclusively on past paper questions and exam technique. I was also fortunate to have a strong support network. I could pop in and speak to my Biology teacher about material I was struggling with, ideas I couldn’t wrap my head around and get guidance on question papers I was scoring poorly on. Ensuring you have a strong team around you is pivotal.
And above all, once in the exam, it’s important to remain calm and trust in the work you’ve put in. It’s okay to skip a question and come back to it: you may find that once you return the piece of knowledge you need has suddenly popped up in your head. You’re more than capable of succeeding so trust in the process and you’re bound to get that 9!