GCSE Maths

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GCSE Maths Exam

If there’s one subject students either love or hate, it’s GCSE Maths Exam.

Maths may not be your favourite subject but it doesn’t mean that you can’t solve that quadratic equation or find out the probability of winning the lottery. Answering GCSE maths exam questions is straightforward but here’s where the silver lining lies. You know if an answer is correct a lot of the time plus you get marks for your rough work. It’s not all bad!

If you’re one of the many students that struggles with GCSE maths exam, this guide will help you understand how to apply your knowledge in the exam.

Below we outline the structure of the subject, show you some useful study resources and give you the best revision and exam tips.

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GCSE Maths

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GCSE Maths Subject Overview

With new specifications introduced this year, GCSE Maths exam content is much larger and challenging with more emphasis placed on problem-solving.  The subject will be assessed by exam only, students will be expected to learn mathematical formulae by heart and apply their knowledge and reasoning to provide clear mathematical arguments.

The questions on your maths paper will be based on a variety of topics which can be grouped into 4 main areas:

Keep reading to understand what to expect, what you need to know and to discover lots of useful revision notes.

Algebra & Number

Algebra is normally the first topic to be covered in maths as it provides the backbone of understanding for almost all of the other areas you will work on. The main areas you need to practice are:

  • The Basics: This involves understanding how equations work and manipulating mathematical formula by rearranging expressions and forms. You need to know how to factorise, expand and simplify a range of equations including quadratic, factors and notations such as ab = a x b, 3y = y x y x y or 3 x y.
  • Graphs: You will be required to know how to plot and coordinate graphs by interpreting equations using the form y = mx + c as well as linear and quadratic functions. In the case of certain graphs such as financials, you may be asked to interpret your findings in a couple of sentences.
GCSE Algebra

Algebra & Number

Sequences: This section asks you to use sequences including quadratic and Fibonacci sequences (see Mind Map above). You will also need to know how to calculate the nth term of linear and quadratic sequences.

The Number section fits in well with Algebra but you will carry most of this knowledge over from previous study. This includes being able to work interchangeably with fractions and decimals, using different measures for length and time plus understanding how to interpret integers in different forms such as powers, roots and fractions.

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Geometry & Measures

There’s a lot more to Geometry than using your compass which including measurement, theorems, vectors and even more formulae. Here’s what you need to know for your exam:

  • The Basics: The first thing you need to learn is how to construct shapes, lines and angles. You need to be able to define properties of shapes such as a tangent, arc and sector of a circle as well as interprete 3D shapes.
  • Calculation: Here’s where the rough work comes in. There are geometric equations such as Pythagoras’ theorem and trigonometric ratios you need to know and be able to apply. Practice definitely required!
  • Vectors: When approaching vectors, it’s vital you understand how to describe a vector in terms of magnitude (how long it is) and direction. You will also need to know how to add, subtract and multiply vectors.

Statistics & Probability

These two sections usually come as a pair but there is a contrast between the way you approach and comprehend them. However, there are some similarities which crossover as both involve visuals such as tables, charts and diagrams.

Below is a run-down of what you should know for the exam:

  • Statistics: Along with creating visuals which you will need to interpret, you will work with sampling as a method of data collection. For example, you will need to know about distribution of a sample in terms of age or gender.
  • Probability: For this unit, you will be asked the outcome or probability of a certain event occurring. To apply this well, get your head around the idea of randomness and chance by testing yourself with different scenarios as much as you can.
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Ratios, Proportion and Rates of Change

By this stage of your GCSE maths exam revision you’re bound to be tired. Don’t worry, there is light at the end of the tunnel! This last topic of ratios calls on a lot of the knowledge you already know so you’re almost at the finish line. This areas consists of:

  • Ratios: Expressing fractions as ratios should be easy for you now! You also need to relate ratios to fractions and linear equations. Understanding and relating proportion to ratios will also be studied here.
  • Measurement: There are numerous units of measurement so you need to be able to translate these interchangeably. This could be relating measurements such as area, length, mass.
  • Rates of Change: The difficult part of this section is being able to solve and interpret rates of change in terms of numbers, algebraic equations and graphs. An example of this interpreting answers in growth and decay problems.

Maths Revision & Exam Tips

There are certain pieces of advice that can really help you when you apply them to your study of mathematics. This advice could be the difference between an A and an A* grade so listen up!

Here are some revision tips that will specifically help you prepare for your GCSE maths exam:

1. Get to Know Maths Formula

Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself by bogging yourself down in the basics. Understand which maths formula you need to memorise and which ones you don’t. The higher tier need to know 6 more than foundation level including volume of a sphere, volume of a pyramid, quadratic equation and the sine and cosine rule.

Maths Study Advice

2. Create a Revision Plan

Organising your study routine with a revision timetable has a multitude of benefits as it can boost your motivation, help your manage your workload and reduce stress.

3. Focus on your Weak Areas

If you prefer to solve quadratic equations rather than working with vectors, it doesn’t mean you should spend all your time figuring out the value of x. Building your revision timetable will help you divide your time in the best possible way so you don’t avoid the topics you hate.

GCSE Revision Timetable

Remember to...

4. Test Yourself Regularly

Reviewing your knowledge at regular intervals is the only true way to gauge if you fully know and understand what you have learned previously. There are several ways you can do this such as testing yourself with friends or trying to recite theory back. We recommend using Flashcards and Quizzes to quickly check to review and test yourself.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice

With GCSE Maths the best way you can get ready for your exam is to practice as many past exam papers and questions as you can. You have access to a large database from previous years that you can try and ask your teacher to mark. Try to work through the questions without referring to the answers provided to help you get used to exam conditions. Here’s a handy way to practice maths questions online.

GCSE Maths Exam Hints & Tips:

Keep in mind this advice on the day of your GCSE Maths exam to optimise your performance:

  • Make sure your calculator is working properly
  • Show all of your rough work in the exam
  • Try to have your drawings as neat as possible
  • Use a pencil to draw graphs and diagrams
  • Read all of the questions at least twice
  • Take a deep breath and get started!

At this stage you should be fully prepared to take the challenge of your maths exam. If you want to practice more equations and improve your maths revision, try creating your own resources online with GoConqr.

Take a look at our other subjects pages for even more learning resources, study tips and exam help.

GCSE Geometry Notes

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