Revision Ideas For Gcse Science Coursework
The advent of spring and the approach of summer are accompanied in school by a less welcome prospect: exam season.
May marks the beginning of Sats in primary schools and the first swathe of GCSEs and A-levels – usually practical or oral tests – in secondary schools. So as teachers try to cajole students into knuckling down, this week’s how to teach explores revision and how to make it as productive and pain-free as possible.
Start by getting students to create their own revision timetables. Author and former teacher Nicola Morgan has created a useful template to help you do this. It covers the three weeks of revision and includes a section in which students can log their exams to ensure theyare organised. It advises students to write in any days they cannot revise to help them plan ahead and includes different wellbeing tips each day to help students cope. Advice for both students and parents is available on Nicola’s blog.
Staying calm and mindful during this time is important. Get your class to think about how they might be feeling with this resource which asks: are you stressed? It includes five multiple choice questions to help students recognise how they are responding to pressure.
The Guardian’s Matthew Jenkin examined the calming benefits of mindfulness in the classroom in an article last year, stating that, according to Katherine Weare, emeritus professor at the universities of Exeter and Southampton’s mood disorder centre, one of the most useful ways of practising calm reflection is to take a very short pause in the middle of a task. Invite “students to stop what they are doing, close their eyes and recognise what is happening in their mind and body right now,” Jenkin writes.
Meditation is another useful revision break. Religious education teacher Andrew Jones has a presentation on compassion meditation for beginners, aimed at 11- to 14-year-olds. It’s based on a classroom scheme of work on Buddhism, but can act as a standalone lesson too. There is also a calming meditation track from Clear Vision that can be used to instill calmness.
Help key stage 4 students develop their exam skills with these useful study sessions from HumansNotRobots. The study resource scanning and skimming looks at useful reading techniques for students, and mind mapping is great for revision and essay planning. Another session looks at how memory works and guides students through a trial run of creating a revision pack for a topic.
Revision playlist: can music boost your marks?
This handy guide from Tavistock Tutors helps get essay writing up to scratch. It explores important writing techniques, warning students about the importance of getting on with it: “Structure is important, but writing something is better than handing in a blank sheet.” Teacher Neil Bowen has also written a resource on writing comparative English literature essays that provides useful information for A-level coursework and GCSE exams.
It is good to look at how students can prepare and answer questions. The Guardian Teacher Network has a handy sheet that looks at how to tackle different types of questions for secondary students. For example, if students get a table of information how should they respond? What’s the best way to interpret graphs? What general advice is there on handling oral examinations?
For primary students, you can access past Sats papers here. There’s also a fun look at reproduction in science with this worksheet from Twinkl. It includes a section that lets children fill in the blanks and asks them to draw the male and female reproduction systems, and label them.
Thinking about where students revise is also important. The Guardian Teacher Network has a useful poster that explores all the things to consider. It includes making sure your study area is well lit, and turning off devices to avoid distractions.
Teachers aren’t the only people who deal with students’ exam pressure – parents can also struggle. Teenage boys in particular can find their GCSEs tough. Psychologist Steve Biddulph provides invaluable tips aimed at parents to guide their sons through this difficult period. It includes expert advice from Robert Godber, a former head of Wath Comprehensive school in Rotherham. He says: “Try to be there for your child, both to provide practical things like food, and to help when there’s an emotional crisis”.
Finally, offer helpful advice on the day of exams. This includes making sure students know where and when each exam is being held, getting them to bring their exam slip, making sure they arrive on time and have all the necessary equipment. For hay fever sufferers, get them to take medication.
And last but not least, make sure they remember to eat breakfast.
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AQA's ISA (Individual Skills Assignments)
The Controlled Assessment unit consists of two ISA papers, worth up to 50 marks. They will be worth up to 25% of your GCSE overall. That's a lot, so the ISA is something you should work hard at - it will help your final grade!
Using AQA's Specimen ISA, here we reveal the different sections, leading to our detailed advice.
Stage 0 - Glossary
You will need to be clear in your use of scientific language. Our carefully written AQA Glossary Guide provides you with a significant advantage. Start here!
Stage 1 - Planning
Before you carry out the practical, your teacher will introduce the experiment to you in a context - e.g. if asked to investigate how springs stretch under different loads, the context could be a child's toy which bounces up and down on a spring.
You then write research on the topic, using a Candidate Research Notes sheet, and plan what to do, coming up with a suitable hypothesis. e.g. you find out about the behaviour of springs, read about Hooke's Law and come up with a hypothesis that the extension of the spring will depend on the force added.
You must find two methods for your investigation as you may need to explain why you chose it.
Your Candidate Research Notes must not contain draft texts for Stage 2, so keep your research brief and in note form. You could scribble down the table headings and possible units, but don't draft a table - that's not allowed.
Stage 2 - Reporting on Planning
This is Section One of the ISA and is a written paper, done under exam conditions. In it you will have to:
- state and explain your hypothesis
- consider variables (independent, dependent and control) that you will manage
- use your research to show how to test your hypothesis
- write a detailed plan of your chosen method
- identify possible hazards and write a short risk assessment
- draw a blank table ready for results from your planned experiment.
Section One sounds really nasty, but it will always consist of the above parts, so concentrate on understanding each piece first and you should find that you quite enjoy completing the paper - if you can enjoy exams, that is!
There are two marks for the table and they're dead easy. Click here for our simple advice!
Stage 3 - Practical Work
At last, your practical! Don't worry too much about having to get "perfect results". What really matters here is that you get enough results and record them properly in a table.
You might be the best experimenter since Richard Feynmann, or as clumsy with a stopwatch as a bear unscrewing a jar of marmalade... you can still get the same marks!
Stage 4 - Processing Results
Having done your practical, you will be given some time to process the results from your table into a graph. In Physics, most graphs you do will be line graphs, but this needn't always be the case and you must decide!
There are four marks for the graph and some are really easy. Click here for our simple advice!
Stage 5 - Analysing Results
This is Section Two of the ISA, the final written paper, done under exam conditions. In it you will have to:
- analyse your own results
- draw a conclusion
- compare your results to your hypothesis
- evaluate the method of collection and the quality of the data
- analyse secondary data about the same topic as your investigation
- relate your findings to the context of the ISA.
So again there's a lot to do, but it will be in nice little sections and with practice you will do okay!