21 Tips on How To Pass Your GCSE Science Exams

by Maud Millar on October 19, 2018


1. Know your keywords


Keywords are… well, key! Every topic has a set amount of key words. You can usually find these in text books (or on study rocket). Some questions don’t allow the mark to be given if the right key word hasn’t been written down, which is annoying but true. So they are very important.


2. Read the question properly


There are two main reasons for this:


The type of question:

If it’s a ‘Describe’ question, then describe! The same goes for ‘Explain’, ‘State’ and ‘Analyse’ etc. If you’re unsure on the differences between describe and explain, then have a look at some examples online or on the study rocket course!


The question itself:

When you are in a rush, it is easy to read a question wrong. To ensure this doesn’t happen you could circle important words in the question. Sometimes there are even clues in the question as to what the answer might be!



3. Write as many points as there are marks in the question


Seeing the amount of points can save you a lot of time (if you tend to waffle) or can give you a clue as to if you’ve missed a point. However, if there is a long 6 marker question, the last mark is usually for your writing skills (I would write 6 points down just in case).


4. Take a breath, don’t rush but don’t waste time – 1 minute per mark


Try to remain calm in the exam. Having a clear mind helps you to remember things, stay on track and take in information. It is also much more likely that you will read the question right the first time round. If you find yourself getting worked up in the exam, sit back, take a deep breath, clear your mind and go back to the question. If you really really don’t know the question, then put a * next to it and come back to it later (who knows, maybe a later question will help you with the answer).


5. Do not skip 1 mark questions (guess, put a * next to them and come back later)


Usually, there are a few 1 mark questions at the start of the exam. If you REALLY don’t know the answer to one of them, then guess (1/4 chance it’ll be right). However, make sure you put a * next to it so that you remember to go back to it later. There might be a later question that helps you with it!


6. Show your working!


Lots of questions in science will require use of an equation. If there is more than one mark for the question, then there will be a mark (or more) for your working. Even if this is just multiplying something by 2, take the extra second to write that down.


7. Answer in bullet point form (unless it’s a 6 marker in OCR)


So, there is a little confusion surrounding bullet points among students. Using bullet points is absolutely fine for all questions except the big questions for the OCR exam board.
Using bullet points is useful since:

  • – It saves time
  • – It’s easier to edit your work
  • – It’s easier to structure your answer
  • – It’s MUCH easier for the examiner to mark (and they’re more likely to be lenient)
  • – It prevents waffle and repetition
  • – It’s easier to get in them key words


For a lot of 6 marker questions, the final mark is for your written english. Bullet points don’t stop you from getting this mark (unless it’s OCR). Just make sure that your bullet points are well structured and written well.


8. Do lots and lots and lots of past papers (in full and in exam conditions)


You will start to notice that there is only a select amount of questions the examiner can ask. The types of questions remain the same even though the actual question will change (for example, the numbers you’re working with will be different but you’re using the same process on them).



Make sure that when you’re doing these past papers, you are doing them in exam conditions. Your brain is a strange and wonderful beast, it associates sounds and smells to information. You are more likely going to remember something you had learnt when you’re back in the same conditions you had learnt it in!


Make sure you time yourself when doing exam papers too. This will show you if you’re working too slowly or will give you an idea of how much time you might have at the end to go over questions.


9. Never leave the exam early!


Even if you think that you’ve answered every question perfectly, go over the exam again and again! It happens a lot where people misread questions more than once, or have missed out a vital point (that they thought they had put in).


10. Have a spare pen, pencil and calculator


The invigilator will have spare to lend, but you will lose time and focus if one runs out. Even sharpening a pencil will distract your focus. Using a calculator that you are familiar with is very important in an exam. You know where all the buttons are and you can put all your efforts into the exam (rather than learning how to use the new calculator).


11. Have a revision time-table


If you are doing your GCSE’s, you will already know that there are a lot of exams. So it will be easy to spend too much time revising one subject and neglect another. Using a revision time table can help you to stay on track and spend the right amount of time on each subject. If you are AMAZING at Maths but terrible at Geography, then put slightly more Geography onto your timetable (but still revise maths). Just make sure not to waste too much time making the timetable itself!


12. Coloured revision notes are great, but don’t waste time


Coloured and well structured notes have been proven to be easier to revise from and easier to remember, but maybe just circle things with colour to save time.


13. Have breaks when revising, but don’t use these as a way to procrastinate


After about 20 minutes, the rate at which your brain processes information slows. So have a little 5 minute break, this can be anything from making yourself a cup of tea to watching a silly cat video.



It has also been proven that watching something mindless after learning something vital helps to put it into your long term memory. Just don’t do it too often. If you are bad for procrastination, then don’t use this technique!


14. Know what equations are given in the exam and which you’ll need to remember


If you do enough questions, you’ll probably end up remembering most of the equations anyway. It doesn’t hurt to remember the ones on the equation sheet, but learn the ones that aren’t given to you first.


15. Use rubber duck revision


Yes, the famous ‘rubber duck revision’. If you don’t know what this is, it’s just pretending that you’re a teacher (teaching your rubber duck). It really helps to put things into your long term memory when you teach it to someone (or something) else.


16. Revise in the shower


This might sound strange, but you spend a lot of time in the day just doing every day tasks (like showering and eating). You can put a few notes on the wall of the shower and have a little read over them whilst washing out your shampoo! I had labelled cells, equations and nuclear processes written on mine. It also helps that you can write in the steam!


17. When revising, if something doesn’t quite make sense at first, then find a different source to explain it


If something doesn’t make sense, then it usually helps to find a different explanation. For example, a YouTube video, different book or even asking a friend! No matter what, you have the potential to understand, so you just need to find the right explanation.



18. Sounds silly, but don’t contradict yourself


You will lose marks for contradicting yourself in an exam. Some people think that if they’re not sure on whether the answer is X or Y, they just write both… this is wrong, pick one.


19. Make sure you’re well rested


Your mind will be clear and you will find it easier to remember things if you are well rested.


20. Don’t believe people when they say ‘if you don’t know it by now, you won’t know it at all’


This is just not true. You should take your revision notes to the exam and read through them just before going into the hall.


21. Use Study Rocket to revise – believe me, it’s great!


Study rocket is a great way to revise, since it breaks down all of the course content for you into lovely, tasty chunks! Having pictures and animation there to explain difficult concepts cuts the learning process in half and makes life that little easier. Each section also has exam style questions (and answers) so that you can test yourself along the way.

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