“Among all your GCSE subjects, your Maths grade is one of the most crucial.”
This is a statement that teachers often throw around time and time again. Yet many students question this. Realistically speaking, when are you ever going to need to know how to solve simultaneous equations, construct the perfect triangle or find the gradient of a line in your everyday life?
Nevertheless, some sources have claimed that nearly as much as 97% of jobs now require candidates to have passed maths at GCSE level with a decent grade – usually a grade 4 (C) or above. Therefore the importance of this particular GCSE cannot be disputed.
But what exactly does the course entail?
Well, the key focus of the course – regardless of the exam board your school has chosen to focus on – is to ‘impart mathematical skills’. Just as most GCSEs, it works to support students and equip them with the skills they need to that they may eventually tackle real-world problems. Maths in particular works to communicate and divulge skills such as problem solving.
Overall the course itself is divided into the following subtopics:
- Calculation and Structure – BIDMAS (or BODMAS), prime numbers, multiples, Highest Common Factor and Lowest
- Common Multiple and so on.
- Fractions, Percentages and Decimals.
- Ratio and Proportion.
- Measures and Accuracy – money, time, length, rounding, significant figures, lower and upper bonds etc.
- Geometry and Measures – triangles, polygons, parallel and perpendicular lines etc.
- Algebra – simplification, factorisation, expanding brackets, formulae, simultaneous equations and so on.
- Sequences – the term to term rule, Fibonacci sequence, quadratic and linear sequences.
- Graphs – gradients, coordinates, plotting graphs, finding the midpoint
- Probability and Statistics – sampling, distribution, measures of central tendency such as mean, median and mode etc.
Seems like a lot doesn’t it?
That’s why it’s important to start early and help yourself. How I hear you cry? By fully using and appreciating all the resources available to you: past exam questions, your teachers and tutors, websites dedicated to the GCSE Maths course such as Bitesize, MathsGenie and so on.
The two best tips I can provide in order for students to attain the best grades in Maths is to:
- Plan ahead.
Structure is important.
Organise your study space, create a flexible schedule with realistic time limits, figure out how you work best – is it through brainstorming, bullet-pointing or even post-it noting different rooms in your home? You do you.
2. Content, Practice, Time
Start by focusing on the content of that subtopic – consider the explanation of what the topic entails and study the method slowly, focusing on the step-by-step process behind it.
Once you’re comfortable answering questions with the explanation, move your notes out of sight and practice exam questions again. This time, you’re working independently to see if you really know the content.
At first, take as much time as needed and once you’ve gained confidence in yourself, time yourself. See if you can complete the question in accordance to the amount of marks allocated to the question. So for a 3 mark question spend no more than 3 minutes, for a 5 mark question, 5 minutes. Bonus points if you can do it for less. Since the exams are timed, the quicker you are able to secure the earlier marks, the easier it is to get to the end questions that are worth more.
Remember – content, practice, time.