So You Didn’t get a “C” in English and Maths GCSE….


Exam results are out this week, and I’m hoping the 40 or so students I helped this year have achieved the grades they aimed for. I get a lot of calls from panicking parents and students who don’t know what to do when they fail their GCSE English and Maths exams.  It’s not the end of the world.  Here’s a guide to what you should do next if you get a “D” grade or below.

you didn't get a Grade

Most people think of a fail as NOT getting a grade “C” because this is the minimum grade expected of students if they want to go into further education.  In fact, getting that all important “C” in English and Maths is so important that universities can refuse to give you a place even if you’ve got A* s in all your other subjects.

So a lot of students have to re-take their GCSEs.  I have taught students taking their GCSE’s for the first time and those who are re-taking.  Students re-taking their exams face the following problems:

  • Students often have fewer lessons when retaking because they are at college and often have a busy timetable dedicating more time to the new subjects.

  • They are either over-confident and get complacent.  They think they will pass because they’ve done it all before. They have all their other subjects’ work to do as well and tend concentrate on those.

  • They can get too negative and start thinking that they will never pass.  Some get a mental block and continue to fail….

  • Students are very rusty – the last time they did maths or English was at least 3 months ago.

  • Students quite often GET THE SAME GRADE again!

To avoid all of the above, retake the exams as soon as possible and be prepared to do more work!

GCSE ENGLISH RE-SIT

If you do not achieve a “C” grade pass in English language, then you can re-sit the exam in January 2013.  The exam is on 10th January 2013.

As a general guideline, if you got a “D” overall then you can re-sit in January.  Anything lower than that means that you have to repeat the whole year and retake the exam in June next year.  You can re-submit your controlled assessments and speaking and listening assignments from year 11 if they are good.

If you want to re-sit in January then you’d better get your skates on!  I’ve calculated that there are only 18  teaching weeks left.  First you will have re-learn all of the course, then make sure that you know what you need to do to get a “C” grade and finally get in plenty of exam practice.  If you do mock tests and past papers, then these should be marked and graded so that you know where you are going wrong.  You can either mark them yourself or get them marked by a teacher.  If you are re-sitting in June next year then you have more time, but you also have more work to do.

GCSE MATHS RE-SIT

The GCSE Maths re-sits are in November.  There are 2 papers, paper 1 is on 6th November 2012, and paper 2 is on 8th November 2012.  The results will be published in January 2013. There are only 11 teaching weeks left, so don’t waste any time.

It is important that all the main exam topics are covered several times before the exam, but if you are short of time, then prioritise the topics you need to know to pass the exam.  A good way of doing this is by doing a mock test and looking at the results to see what you know and don’t know.  Then work on what you can’t do.

Don’t just revise ‘favourite’ topics – this won’t be enough, something must be changed this time around.

As with GCSE English, get in plenty of exam practice and get used to working under timed conditions.  Always mark the papers or get them marked and monitor how you are improving.

My blog article on understanding your examination results slip will help you to work out how close you were to a C grade.

Nobody wants to retake exams, but if you do find yourself in this situation,  let us help you pass.   Book a free assessment and we will show you the way.

How To Revise 2 – Do Some Mock Exams


There are many aspects to creating good study habits, and the first of these I have already mentioned in a previous post which is to get organised.  Creating a timetable can save many precious hours as we come to exams.

Another component of revision is going through past papers.  In fact this should be included in your revision plan.  Giving yourself mock tests can highlight how you work under pressure and it will show you the gaps in your learning.  Going over your revision notes many times is a pointless exercise if you haven’t  tested your knowledge .

When you are ready to do a mock exam (at least three weeks before the exam), make sure that you do it under exam conditions and that you keep to the time limit.  You may have gone through exam papers in class already, so choose an exam that you know you have not seen before.  Make sure it has a mark scheme so that you can give yourself a grade when you mark it.  Mark yourself strictly, and as you go through the paper analyse what went wrong.  the table below summarises the most common types of mistakes students make and how to fix them.

What went wrong

How to fix it

I couldn’t do the question on a specific topic Go over the mark scheme and make sure you understand the answers.  Go back over your notes and revise this topic again.  Then redo that question.
I didn’t finish on time Why was this? Was it because you spent a lot of time trying to remember your work to answer the questions?  If so, then you need to revise more so that the information is at your fingertips.  You shouldn’t have to rack your brains to remember things.
I made silly mistakes This is the most common reason why students get low marks.  Get into the habit of checking your work at the end.  Aim to finish 10 minutes before the end of the exam so that you have time to do this.
I didn’t read the question Use highlighter pens or underline key words in the question.  Learn to skim read so that you can pick out the important information in the question.  Exam questions are very wordy and you can easily lose yourself in the background information.  Learn how to get to the heart of the question.  A good way of doing this is to imagine you have to tell someone what to do in the question without reading out the whole question.
I left out a lot of questions Never leave a blank answer.  Especially if it’s a multiple choice or a one mark question.  If you skip the question thinking you will come back to it at the end, you might forget.  So make an educated guess and write something down.

A week before their A2 Chemistry exam I taught 2 different students.  The first got a D grade last year and the second got an A grade.  And in my opinion, both seemed to know their subject equally well.  But what differentiated them both significantly was that the A grade student had completed and marked 4 full exam papers and highlighted specific questions for clarification from me whereas the D grade student had attempted 1/2 a question paper, not marked it and not even highlighted the parts that she needed further support on.

Upon marking these papers, the A grade student was getting a C grade and the D grade student was failing.  A day before the exams, the A grade student had completed and marked and read through at least 3 times all past papers since 2002 and the D grade student hadn’t attempted any.  Her excuse being that she had other subjects to revise for.

What actually happened was that getting a bad grade in the initial mock exam seemed to motivate one student and de-motivate the other.  It made her face her fears and her “fight or flight” instinct kicked in.  The D grade student chose”flight”.  But, if she had stuck to her timetable and been more organised, and maybe started going over past papers 3 weeks before the exams, then would the results have been different?  We shall have to wait and see what grades both students get.