How to Get a 9 in GCSE Maths and Science
The GCSE grading system
Since the Government grading system changed from the alphabetic system (A* to G) to the new numerical system running from 9 to 1, it’s become much harder to get the highest grade. A 9 in GCSE Maths or Science is a higher grade than an A* was, as it is meant to differentiate the very top achieving pupils.
In 2022, Grade 9s made up 6.6% of all results in England across all GCSE subjects. So how can you ace GCSE Maths and Science? Here we give you our best tips to achieve success.
Start from a solid base
To excel in GCSE Maths and Science exams, you need to put the work in. Practice makes perfect, as we all know. You’ll need to work hard throughout your GCSE years in order to get a 9 in any subject, putting in regular effort rather than leaving it all until exam time.
If you’re aiming for a Grade 9 then you may need to look further afield for resources, other than just past papers, to help you excel in your weaker areas. If your school doesn’t provide study opportunities to review topics that you’d like to work on, then seriously consider attending an online revision workshop, like the online GCSE revision workshops that we regularly schedule at JK Educate. You can see the April schedule here.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of how to get a 9 in GCSE Maths and GCSE Science, here are some important general revision tips:
General revision tips
- Before you begin
Start with a complete set of classwork notes. Missed a class? Be sure to get a copy of the notes from your classmates or teacher. Review your notes against the syllabus to ensure you have everything in the syllabus covered. Are there any topics that have you baffled? Seek clarification from your school teacher or JK Tutor before you begin revising.
- Review the exam board specification
The specification contains everything that students need to know, understand and be able to do. Revision guides and textbooks follow the specification to a certain degree, but you should always use the specification first. This is to see exactly what you have to learn. You can then use your revision resources to learn or revise it. The specifications are all freely available from the exam board websites.
- Get comfortable with the structure of exam questions
It’s important to remember that all the exam questions are written from the board specifications. They are not based on textbooks or revision guides. If you look at mark schemes for recent past papers, you’ll see that every answer tells you which part of the specification the question comes from. The specification is very important. This is one of the many reasons past papers are so useful to have in your revision arsenal.
- Know what % score you need
The percentage needed for a grade 9 varies from year to year, depending on how other examinees have done. Grade 9 is generally awarded to those in the top 5% or 1 in 20 candidates. Know what you’re aiming for and review back to your existing marks and what percentage score you need in the exam to score a 9.
- Start as you mean to go on
Studying little and often is more effective than cramming at the last minute, so try to revise whenever you have an opportunity. Ideally, your final exam revision should have started in February, after your mock exams. Attend revision sessions whenever possible. Remember that JK offers GSCE revision workshops in all the major subjects.
- Gain comprehension:
While memorisation is important in learning, comprehension is the key to retaining information over the long term. One helpful way to build comprehension of a topic is to read it aloud. Another great way is to teach someone else, as this recalls the information from your memory and helps to solidify your knowledge.
If you have a younger sibling, they are your perfect students! If not, then set up a revision study group with other classmates and take turns asking each other questions or explaining a topic in detail to the group.
Top tips for getting a grade 9 in GCSE Maths and Science
Now, let’s get specific about maths and science revision. If you really want that grade 9 you need to put the effort in. Here’s how you can boost your revision efforts to give yourself the best chance of success.
- Make the most of past papers
Past papers are an excellent way to practise your maths and science skills and to find out where your weaknesses lie. You can then use this knowledge to work extra hard in those areas that you are less confident in.
However, just doing past papers isn’t enough. After each paper, you need to either mark it yourself or get someone else to mark it for you. Identify every section that you got wrong, then revise and practise that entire topic. Even if the question was 2 marks. Remember that those 2 marks can be the stepping stone between a grade 8 and a 9.
- Redo your mistakes until you cannot get them wrong
Past papers, quizzes, and revision workbooks can all help you identify your weak points. These are the areas where you need to focus your efforts (but be sure to revise the whole syllabus and not just the trickier topics). Remember to keep working on a topic or question until you never get it wrong, not just until you can get it right once or twice. This is essential if you want to maximise marks when it comes to exam time.
- Practise your mental arithmetic
Each exam board has some papers where calculators aren’t allowed, so don’t overlook the value of mental maths. You should be able to calculate simple arithmetic problems quickly and accurately, know your times tables up to 13 by heart, and be confident working with common fractions and decimals.
As well as mental maths, make sure you’re using the same calculator that you’ll be using in your exams from the start of your course (don’t use your phone calculator!) and learn all of the functions it has. For example, most calculators can store numbers in memory, give answers in standard form and give results to a specified number of significant figures, so make sure you get to know all the useful things your calculator can do for you.
Practice papers and topic revision aren’t the only ways. Many of you may have already heard about the CGP books. They publish revision workbooks that are targeted at achieving grade 8 – 9. The workbooks are challenging, don’t let that put you off, you need to stretch yourself if you’re going to achieve that much sought after grade 9.
You can find grade 8-9 targeted books from CGP on their website.
- Find past examiners reports
Examiners usually release reports after exam season that detail how well students’ achieved that year and highlight common mistakes that were made. You can find these reports for free on the examination board’s website and are worth taking note of. For example, common mistakes in recent GCSE maths exams include dealing with 3D problems, knowing formulae, using calculators and organising the workings of how the problem was solved.
While you’re on the examination board’s website, you should also download a copy of the formula and data sheets which are available for Maths, Physics and Chemistry. These sheets contain all the formulae that you need to know, be sure to memorise them and be confident in using them.
- Revision workshops
Get yourself booked into one of our online GCSE revision workshops. This is a great way to relearn difficult topics, think about them in new ways, solidify knowledge and gain valuable insights from our experienced tutors. Check out the revision workshops we run every springtime here.
Our specialist maths and science tips are courtesy of JK Educate tutor Hiren Koyani.