In some ways, Maths is the easiest (and most fun) subject to revise. You don’t need to remember long lists of words or write long essays; you just need to practise questions, questions and more questions using GCSE Maths past papers.
There are lots of other revision methods that students find useful for maths revision, such as making revision notes or making cards for key examples and formulae. When it comes to revising maths, the most important activity by far, and the most useful, is perfecting exam technique.
The most important source for these questions is past exam papers via each exam board.
GCSE Maths Past Papers – Links
You can access past GCSE Maths exam papers for the three main boards, AQA, Edexcel and OCR, here:
but it is crucial you use these valuable resources effectively to make sure they have the most benefit for your revision.
When given an exam paper to do for revision, some students will quite happily answer all the questions that they can and leave the ones they don’t understand, much in the same way that they would attempt an exam.
For revision purposes though, this is of very little benefit. You are just practising the questions that you already know how to answer and are not improving your knowledge.
Remember, the purpose of revision is revisit areas you may have forgotten how to do and refreshing your memory. This won’t happen if you just leave all the questions you can’t do.
So, what are the best ways in which to use past exam papers? Here are a few different useful ways in which you can use them.
Identifying topics to revise further
Effective maths revision should consist of practising past paper exam questions and practising topic-specific questions. When you look at a past paper at the beginning of your revision, there will likely be a lot of questions you can’t remember how to answer.
So, instead of ignoring them, make a list of the topics these questions are on and this will tell you what topic-specific revision to do.
Bear in mind what grade you’re aiming for and take this into account when deciding on what topics to revise. The questions in an exam paper tend to get progressively harder so the questions that come earlier in the paper are the topics you should focus on first.
Also, if your target is, say a grade 4 or grade 5, don’t waste loads of time practising grade 8 topics. These will not be the topics that you will be expected to understand. You do need to make sure you revise everything up the grade your aiming for. If you are aiming for a grade 4, you need to be able to answer the grade 1, 2 and 3 questions as well. A good place to find topic-specific questions for your maths revision is here:
Using the mark schemes
You’ll have heard your teachers tell you countless times to ‘show all of your working’ when answering a question. This isn’t because they are just being fussy and want to give you extra work; you get marks in an exam for your working out.
So, after you have attempted a question and you check the mark scheme to see if your answer is correct, don’t just look at the final answer, look at where all the marks for the question are given.
As you get nearer to the exam, some of the time you’ll want to use your exam papers to practise your exam technique. One way of doing this is by setting a timer and seeing how much of a paper you can answer in the allowed time.
Remember, you should spend roughly one minute per mark so a five-mark question should take you about five minutes to do.
Another way of using an exam paper for exam practice is to just focus on the first half of a paper. The questions on an exam paper get more difficult as you get further through the paper so it can be beneficial to focus on these earlier questions to make sure you don’t make any silly mistakes and drop unnecessary marks.
Working with a friend
One good thing about maths revision is you don’t have to do it on your own. It’s a subject where it’s often beneficial to revise with a friend and help each other out.
One good way to do this using exam papers is by each of you doing the same exam question on your own first and then comparing your work. Then, as well as discussing between you what you think is the correct answer, look closely at each other’s working and come up with a model answer between you that you think will ensure you get all the marks for the question.
Then when you have agreed on a model answer, you can check the mark scheme and see if you would have got all of the marks.
GCSE Maths past papers and general exam practice arrive before the main destination of the formal assessments themselves, but the joy is in the journey. You can ensure that journey is more pleasurable and productive with more of our blogs here! You can also subscribe to Beyond for access to thousands of secondary teaching resources. You can sign up for a free account here and take a look around at our free resources before you subscribe too.