~ How is science GCSE organised
~ The best resources to use
~ How to learn science
~ Exam technique downloads
How is science GCSE organised?
Here are the main points:
Totally exam-based. There is no practical exam, although you have to do certain practicals in school.
Five basic courses, Biology, Chemistry, Physics and two combined (double) sciences with different content. So no core, additional and further additional.
All courses are linear – that is you take the exam once, at the end of the course. That means that the first exam will be in the summer of 2018.
Best resources for science GCSE
Your course textbook. This is the most important resource. It contains all the facts you need to know in much better detail than a revise guide. Changes to Science GCSE mean that there are longer questions requiring greater understanding of principles, rather than simply memorising facts. Textbooks give that background information and discussion. If your school doesn’t allow you to take a copy home with you, buy one from Amazon. Get the ISBN of the school’s copy to make sure you get the right one! They usually cost between £16 and £20 and you can sell them second-hand after you’ve finished with them.
The course specification from your exam board. All courses have a syllabus which tells you exactly what you have to know. This is published in a large document called the Specification. You can download it from the exam board’s website. It’s really useful to use as a checklist.
CGPbooks.co.uk. They started out with cheap revision guides but now have a full range or resources, including textbooks. Good value.
Link – www.cgpbooks.co.uk
BBC Bitesize. This is one of the the best web resources. Read the revision notes and do the exercises. Look out for any podcasts or videos. Link – bbc bitesize.
How to learn science
I assume that you’ve got the resources that I recommended above.
Most students tell me that they find the longer questions particularly hard. Papers have moved away from multiple choice and are increasingly testing you on your ability to understand and describe concepts fully, to communicate knowledge of processes clearly and to interpret information correctly. Science is not just a lot of facts to learn. Test yourself by writing mini-essays on each topic, including all the facts in a logical order. Ask your teacher or tutor to read them and give you feedback. Read the documents about 6-mark questions that I link to above. Read as many past papers and specimen papers and marking schemes as you can, including those from other exam boards! The important thing is to read the marking schemes as this will tell you what the examiners are looking for.
Write your notes as questions and answers.
Rather than just write out key points, make everything into a question. Find the best answer and write this down in a different place. Diagrams and tables of information can be made into questions by leaving parts of them blank for you to fill in from memory. This is a bit like using flash cards, with the question on one side and the answer on the other. But you don’t need cards – and there are too many things to remember in science. You’ll end up with thousands! Just make a list on paper.
One of the best ways to learn anything is to have the attitude that you are going to teach it to someone who doesn’t have good knowledge of the topic. This can be quite difficult at first, but if you can get used to it, you’ll find that you remember a topic much better. You really do have to understand a topic in order to teach it.
In order to teach, you must be able to organise the facts in a useful way. In science this might be in the form of a diagram, table, list of key words or a memory map. You will also need to have a list of questions to ask about the topic. In fact making notes in the form of questions and answers is far better than just writing down the facts. You really have to think about it, and later you can use your questions to test yourself.
Advice on answering exam questions.
About the controlled assessments.