How to pass GCSEs

During the revision stage of sitting GCSEs, it is good to understand exactly how to pass GCSEs. It is also important to understand the skill set you will need to acquire in order to knock your GCSEs out of the park.

GCSE student and tutor learning how to pass GCSEs

Understanding GCSE Grades

England’s department of education has now redesigned the grading system of the country’s traditional GCSE exams. They have replaced the traditional lettered grade system with a numerical one. 

The government instituted these changes in the GCSE grading system ahead of the 2017 exams. It has changed it from the lettered grades such as A*, A and B, to the numerical system. With the new system, the marks A through to F or G have now been replaced by 9-1. 9 being the highest grade possible and equivalent to the highest A* and 8 equivalent to a lower A* or high A. 7 is the equivalent to a lower A. You can find the rest of the grandes in the table below:

Old GCSE GradeNew GCSE Grade
Low A*8

It is felt that the new system will better reflect students work and capabilities across all their subjects. The new system does bring with it, its own set of challenges. Since students’ grades will no longer reflect a combination of coursework and exam results but will focus primarily on classwork and exam results. It is, therefore, crucial to be fully aware of what it is examiners will be looking for.  

Therefore, to understand how to pass GCSEs, it is crucial to understand clearly what is a pass. A pass with the new system now will be a 4. This will be equivalent to a standard pass and a 5 which will be considered a high pass. A grade 4 therefore will be necessary for students to achieve if they are to avoid being required to take resit.

Now, to achieve anything from a 6 to a 4 it is important to take into consideration that examiners do become more lenient with their grade thresholds. Saying this, it is also important to note that although 4 is still a pass. 

6 is considered a good pass it may hinder students from being admitted to more competitive universities and university programmes. In fact, it could be dangerous for students to simply aim at getting only a pass since if they slip below a four they will in fact have failed that particular subject.  However, below is a general guide on how to pass GCSEs.

Girl sitting her GCSEs

How to pass GCSEs

Since the new grading system will place an equal emphasis on classwork as well as exams. It is essential that students, particularly students who may be struggling with particular subjects, to make steady and consistent efforts throughout their two year GCSE period. They will not be expected to have an extraordinary knowledge of their selected subjects but simply a workable one. Demonstrating steady progress will be crucial for any student who might be wondering how to pass.

Practice papers

Students should also make extensive use of practice papers. Practice papers, as opposed to past papers, can in fact be much more helpful for students struggling. They help to acclimatise students to how best to approach exam questions in general and help with preparing how to pass. The various types of exam questions and in studying the correct answers practice papers can help students become familiar with what examiners will in fact be looking for.

Practice papers can highlight the areas which still need further study. They also most importantly help to boost a student’s confidence. Particularly those who might be struggling with how to pass. Students should also be encouraged to make a study plan across all the subjects in which they are taking. The tendency for many students is to focus only on their weakest subject. Unfortunately, this can often lead to a student neglecting their other subjects. 

Early revision

The best way of understanding how to pass GCSEs is knowing it is crucial to start as early as possible with their revision. It is easier to create a solid, consistent study preparation at the start of the exam year. Rather than attempting to cram for their exams at the last minute. This can ultimately lead to some students underperforming.

Cramming has been proven to not be the answer to how to pass your GCSEs. It has also been linked to high stress and anxiety, therefore adding to the overall stress of exams. Cramming also means no long-term retention. This means that the crammed information will likely be forgotten by the time students sit the exam.

So, the earlier students start revising the better their long-term retention is and therefore will end in higher overall grades.

Exam Specifications

Students can find and print out each course’s specifications. This is a useful way of building their knowledge of how to pass GCSEs. These specifications are available for students before they begin their revision. It is always wise to have a good look at these. They often indicate the structure of how to pass GCSEs in previous exams surrounding the subject. That way they can ensure that their preparation is well-targeted and focused on what is essential.

This can help students understand how to pass rather than allowing their responses to exam questions to be untargeted or worse, not relevant. It will also be crucial for these students to be encouraged to not compare themselves with others. For some students the pass they achieve was worked for as hard as the 9 another student receives.

In conclusion, how to pass your GCSE exams is down to great organisation, using appropriate revision methods such as past papers, understanding previous exam specifications and beginning revision as earlier as possible. The combination of these study methods with a good sleep routine, a good healthy diet and spending some time away from studying to partake in doing something they enjoy. Students will have the building blocks on how to pass GCSEs.  

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