With the February half term coming up next week and GCSEs on the horizon, we thought we would ask some of our top tutors for revision tips. Revision is a skill that can be learned, but, somehow, it is almost never taught by schools. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be asking some of our best tutors for their advice on how to revise their subject.
This week, we’re looking at Maths with Constantine and Nino.
Constantine is a Maths graduate from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. He holds a Masters in Maths and Maths Education from UCL, as well as a PGCE in Maths. He has been a teacher and head of Maths at a number of prestigious schools already in his young career!
Nino is a Cambridge graduate, who is passionate about education. He has enrolled with the Teach First Leadership Development Programme, completing its intensive teaching course, and is undergoing a Masters in Educational Leadership at UCL.
We sat down with them both.
Clarendon: How can you revise for Maths?
Nino: Watch it, learn it, do it. The best way to revise for Maths is to watch and learn how to answer questions on a topic – either through a textbook or online videos – and then do it by answering questions on that topic.
Constantine: Write down a list of topics that you have previously found tricky or scored low on in a test, then go to a website like CorbettMaths or MathsGenie-
Nino: Another good resource is SaveMyExams!
Constantine: -and download a worksheet on each of the topics you need to work on. Make sure to check your answers using the step by step solutions found on the website.
Nino: Use a question bank where the questions are categorised by difficulty, which allows you to start with the easy ones and then progress to the hardest possible GCSE questions; this helps you to stay motivated as you can easily track your improvement.
Clarendon: What is the hardest topic at GCSE and what is a good tip for conquering this topic?
Nino: The easy answer is ’the one you can’t answer any questions on’. Different people will find different topics difficult so it’s important to figure out what topic you struggle most with.
Constantine: There are a lot of grade 7-9 topics considered tricky, such as surds, graph transformations, algebraic proof and probability equations. The reason these topics are considered harder is that they require more time and effort to master. A grade 4 topic may take a couple of hours to master, whereas a grade 9 topic may take more than 10 hours to master. The best tips to conquer them is practise, practise, practise!
Nino: Agreed. Lots of my students feedback that graphs are one of the hardest topics at GCSE. The best way to approach this topic is to develop a solid understanding of what graphs are. Graphs simply show the relationship between two variables, which in Maths are called x and y – this is very abstract and can be difficult to grasp. To make this more intuitive, real world examples of graphs should be studied to understand how the different shapes of lines (straight, quadratic, exponential) can occur in the real world. Once graphs are understood in terms of real world examples, using abstract variables like x and y is much more manageable.
Clarendon: What is one bit of good advice for exam technique in Maths?
Constantine: You’ll hone your exam technique through practice, so sit down this half term and attempt a past paper under exam conditions. Use the official mark scheme to see how you did. You should be able to categorise your mistakes into two categories: careless mistakes (such as writing down the wrong symbol, an arithmetic mistake or copying down a number incorrectly) and mistakes of understanding. The former can be improved through working on focus – try shortening the time you work for and build up towards the exam length, or reading the question one time more than you usually do, or highlighting relevant bits of the question – whilst the latter can be improved through topic based revision (see above).
Nino: An excellent bit of advice for exam technique in Maths is to treat each question like a game. The goal isn’t necessarily to get the answer, it’s to get as many points (marks) as possible. The way to do this is to write your working out as fully as possible, because you can get up to 90% of the marks on a question even if you don’t get the final answer simply due to ‘method marks’ – this is where the examiner gives you marks for having Maths knowledge relating to the question, even if it didn’t give you the answer. So whenever you come up against a tough question that you’re not sure about how to answer, you should try and write down all of the Maths knowledge you have on the topic that might help you figure out the answer: equations, formulae etc. And once you put relevant knowledge down onto the paper, it might inspire you towards the answer!
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