Mama OWL Blog: The Final Countdown - GCSEs

The Final Countdown - GCSEs

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

I remember taking my GCSEs like it was yesterday. The sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as we lined up outside the hall ready to be called in, the anxiety that gnawed at me throughout the two hour exams, the relief when it was over and the dread that came with waiting weeks for the results.

Granted, at that point in my life I had other - bigger - distractions to keep my mind occupied (namely the imminent arrival of A), but I still wanted to do well. I was already fully aware that I hadn't done as well as I could have (and I know that I had nobody to blame but myself for that) and I was so anxious to have something to show for the work I had done, even if it wasn't much.

Then results day arrived and as I feared, I hadn't achieved my full potential. But - I tried, and looking back on it now I am satisfied with what I got, taking in to consideration everything else that had been going on in my life at that time. I sat my GCSEs, I passed a handful of them with good grades, and I finished school.

To be honest the almost-sixteen years that have passed since then have been a blur, a whirlwind. Now here we are, observing as our eldest goes through the rigmarole of preparing and revising for her GCSEs (though thankfully not pregnant!) and I worry whether I am doing enough to help her, remembering those days so vividly myself. I worry that I push her too much, I worry that I don't push her enough. I just want her to reach her full potential, and to do the best that she possibly can.

Her provisional exam timetable dropped on to the mat over the weekend and it has been pinned to the memo board, and the final timetable will be issued at the end of March. We are just weeks away from the start of her year eleven final exams. As soon as the Easter break is over she will taking her final steps towards completing her compulsory secondary education, before moving on to the 6th form and beginning her A-level studies in September.

This is it! The end is in sight. We can see how tired A is and how hard she is working, and her Dad & I couldn't be more proud of her. She has been entered for the higher tier exam in every single one of her subjects and she has worked her arse off to get where she is. We hope that the next couple of months will pass easily, that her revision schedule won't be overwhelming, that the anxiety doesn't weigh too heavy, and that she does her best. As long as she tries her hardest, we really don't care what grades she brings home.

We plan to keep her going and make sure that she gets enough rest as well as does enough work, to keep a balance so that is doesn't exhaust herself or get 'burned out'. I've asked A to share some of her own revision tips for anyone that might be looking for inspiration, these are things she has come up with herself as well as suggestions given to her by her teachers and friends.

Over to you, A :
  • Revise in 20 minute bursts, and give yourself 5 minute breaks between each burst.
  • Change subject/topic after 40-60 mins.
  • Make revision cards, keep them with you and read them when you're on the bus/train etc.
  • Colour code everything.
  • Listen to music while you revise - the same music for each subject, then listen again before the exam whilst going though notes. It's been said that listening to the same music can help jog your memory.
  • Make a revision timetable.
  • Give yourself time off of revision at weekends, your brain can only take so much information in. 
  • When memorising entire paragraphs, write them out over and over again until you can do it without thinking about it (useful for languages).
  • Spend 10 mins revising a page in a revision book, then get your friend to ask you questions about that page.
  • Set alarms on your phone for when you need to revise.
  • Watch revision clips on BBC Bitesize and make notes on them.
  • Don't just read - we've been told that only 10% of what you read goes into your brain. Write out key facts and dates - this helps you remember them.
  • Get plenty of sleep, and exercise. 
  • Try to balance sleep, social life and school equally so you don't get burned out.
  • Write down pretty much everything that your teacher says during a lesson, this is good for when you go back over your notes.
  • Ask for past papers from your teachers, go through them and make sure you know how to answer and understand all of the questions.
  • Go over subjects every month or so to keep them in your memory.
  • Start revising before Christmas.
  • Put post-it notes with questions on around the house, when you see them - answer them.
We're dangling some 'carrots' for her to encourage her to keep motivated, & we've given her the tools she needs - now it's time for her to finish the job!


  1. Great post and fab tips for others. She's obviously got a really good attitude to learning. No wonder you're proud!

  2. I wish I could persuade my eldest to do a fraction of this. He is so capable but so not interested. I fear GCSE's could be a very average result in the summer. Good luck to yours, sounds like you have it very much in hand.

  3. Fabulous tips there! Good luck A! x

  4. Could you now get her to ring K, see if some of that attitude rubs off?? He is being a sulky, pain in the ass about the whole thing!!! Xxx


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