12 Weeks to Go!

And counting!   OK – so now you’ve got your revision timetable in place, and you understand the importance of using the information rather than just flicking through your textbooks and notes. But where to begin……….?

Before you do anything else you must get yourself organised.  I talk to so many students who just haven’t got their notes in any sort of order – it makes revision so much more difficult. So arm yourself with files, folders, dividers, post-its, plastic wallets, highlighters ……….. go wild with the stationary!

Now set some time aside to get all your notes, exam papers, worksheets, etc together and begin to get them organised.   Use a revision guide or textbook for topic headings to help you – this will also enable you to spot any gaps.  Perhaps you missed a few lessons, or your filing system is even worse that you thought?

If you do identify any gaps then now is the time to fill them!   Make your own notes, or go onto YouTube and find some suitable videos  – there is just so much help out there!

In the next post I’ll be talking about my favourite revision tool – past papers!

13 Weeks to Go!

Hopefully by now you have your revision plan in place – you know when your exams are, what topics you need to revise, when revision classes are being held, and so on.  You should have a clear picture of what you will be doing in the weeks and months ahead.

So how do you revise? There are many different strategies, and different people learn in different ways.  But there is one fundamental rule that you need to follow no matter which technique you use.  You have to do something with the information.

What do I mean by this? Let me state it very clearly – you cannot revise by simply reading through your notes, revision guides and textbooks.  Some people claim that they can just read something and retain all the information. This is called ‘photographic memory’. Research has clearly proved that “there is no such thing as photographic memory”.

The closest thing to it is called ‘eidetic memory’ which is the ability, seen in only 5% of children and never in adults, to view a memory of something as if it was a photograph in front of them.

In the weeks ahead I will explore the various techniques that we can implement to help us retain information.  Find the technique (or techniques) that work for you, stick rigidly to your revision plan, and you will be successful in the summer exams.

14 Weeks to Go!

The iGCSE Science exam clock is ticking!

The first science exam for all examination boards is on Tuesday afternoon, 14thMay.  According to my reckoning, that 14 weeks away – 14 weeks!!   That doesn’t sound like a lot of time.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly those 14 weeks will flash by.  But don’t panic!   There’s still time to get yourself thoroughly prepared.

If you haven’t already started with your revision plan then the first thing I would recommend is that you sit down with a pad of paper and do some planning.  You will need a timetable to really make best use of the time left.    Create a timetable to show those 14 weeks.  Put on your timetable any key dates, such as mock exams, revision classes, holidays…….

Then use your textbooks, revision guides and any other resources at your disposal to work out how many topics you need to revise in the available timespan – and don’t leave any ‘new’ revision until the last minute!   The final couple of weeks should be a time of ‘consolidation’ when you are reading through your revision notes and doing some fine-tuning of your knowledge.

So – now is the time to get planning.  Next week, with 13 weeks to go, we can start looking at the different ways in which you can prepare for the exams.  The best revision technique is the one that suits you best!

How the new GCSE grading system works

Today is results day for GCSE exams.  There have been significant changes in the way that grades are recorded and reported, and many people are confused about the new system.  Here is an extract from a report published today in the Evening Standard.

‘9 is the highest grade pupils can achieve in the new GCSEs and 1 is the lowest.

Grade 9 is the equivalent of a top A* in the previous marking system.

But, just 2 per cent of pupils are expected to achieve this in English and 3 per cent in maths.

Grades 9, 8 and 7 correspond with the current top grades of A* and A.

A grade 6 is the equivalent of a B while grade C is split between a “strong pass” at grade 5 and a “standard pass” at grade 4.

The Department for Education has claimed that the new system cannot be directly compared to the lettered marking system.

However, the current grade C and the bottom of grade 4 is a key point of correlation between the two.

What about the bottom end of the scale?

Grades D, E and F correspond to grades 1 and 2.

The lowest current grade G equates to the bottom of a grade 1.’

Summer Learning Loss


The summer holidays should be a wonderful time for children.  Most of us will have memories of breaking up from school, with the holidays stretching before us.  Although memories can be selective, I do recall that summer holidays were always sunny, and we did so much exploring and playing.

And children should enjoy the holidays.  But research has shown us that there is a summer learning loss, which is defined as the loss of academic skills and knowledge over the course of the summer holidays.  This loss in learning varies according to grade level, subject and family income.  A common finding across numerous studies is that on average students score lower on standardised tests at the end of the summer compared with at the beginning of the summer.

Although there is variation between subjects, summer loss for all students is estimated to be equal to about one month.  In Maths this loss can rise to about 2.5 months.  The intervening period between the end of Year 10 and beginning of Year 11 can be particularly important as the preparation for national exams looms on the horizon.

Now I would be the last person to want to take away the enjoyment that students have away from the school environment.  But perhaps on those occasional rainy days, or when they become bored despite the plethora of distractions, why not encourage them to boost their knowledge a little by watching a selection of video lessons?

My comprehensive series of video lessons for Key Stage 3 and iGCSE may be just the solution.  Why not use the links below, visit my websites and investigate the possible options – retaining information and avoiding the summer learning loss can be simply the case of slipping a few videos into the long days of summer.



My Top 6 Exam Tips

1. Remember to pace yourself through the exam – one mark per minute!Exam success
2. If you are provided with a data sheet, such as for Chemistry or Physics, make sure you use it!
3. If you’re doing a calculation question, are you expected to give the unit or is it already given? In many calculation questions, providing the correct unit is often worth the third mark.
4. Make sure you read the question carefully – if there is a graph or a table of data, what is it telling you? If data is provided then make sure that you use it in your answer.
5. How many marks is the question worth? Make sure you give enough points.
6. What is the command word used in the question? – describe, explain, calculate, etc. Do you understand what these command words are asking you to do?

It’s Revision Time Again!

Science Revision CourseAll over the country thousands of students will be revising towards their exams that will be happening over the next few months.  I receive so many emails asking the magic question – “What is the most effective revision technique?”  I have to admit that I do not have the magic answer.  Every student is unique, and every student must find their preferred way to revise.

One thing I do know, and that is the need to do something with the information you are trying to take in. I get so frustrated when my students tell me that they have been revising by ‘reading through their revision guides’.  Retention by reading requires a photographic memory, and the proportion of the population with such ability is less than 2%, if that.

Eidetic memory (the technical term for photographic memory) is the ability to recall visual information, such as pages from books, magazines, and license plate numbers, in great detail after only brief exposure to it.  It is found in early childhood (between 2% and 10% of that age group), it usually begins to fade after the age of 6, is only available for a small percentage of children between 6 and 12, and is virtually non-existent for adults.

So what does this mean for the 98% of the population without any photographic memory skills?  It means that we have to develop techniques that enable us to retain facts, and this will invariably require us to use the information we have been given.  I do not have definitive guidance as to effective revision techniques, but what I do have is 33 years of teaching experience!

I have put together a series of short videos that describe a number of techniques that I have found most effective.  To access these videos just visit my website by clicking on the link below and sign-up!

iGCSE Science Courses – Revision Videos

Do have a look – you never know, you might just find a technique that clicks for you!
Until next time.


p.s. if you visit my site then you will find loads of free resources to help you in your studies:

iGCSE Science Courses- Revision Videos


Using a potometer to measure transpiration in biology

As a biology teacher for over 30 years I know how difficult it is to measure transpiration rates in plants using a potometer.  They are notoriously difficult to set up, and getting reliable class results is a real challenge.  I was therefore very pleased to come across this video from the National Science Learning Centre. In the video you will be shown how to set up a demonstration potometer and also one for class use.  Just click on the link below:

I hope you find it useful!




International GCSE Sciences are changing!

I have just received an update from Pearson about their intended changes to Edexcel InternationalEdexcel draft specGCSE qualifications. Here is a summary of their information:

– the first exam series for the revised Science International GCSEs will be the May/June 2019
– the grading system will change to the new 9 – 1 being used for GCSEs
– the specifications should be available in May this year for those who wish to teach over 3 years starting in September 2016
– a new “Science (Single Award)” will be available for those who want a qualification worth one GCSE. This will be a reduced version of the content of Science (Double Award).

I will continue to update you as and when I receive new information from the examination boards but in the meantime please don’t hesitate to get in touch should you require any further explanation.

All of my ‘Course in a Box’ resources will be upgraded to mirror the examination board changes as soon as we receive the final specifications. Don’t forget that you can access all of my free resources by accessing my site at:



How Many Elements Are There In The Periodic Table?

This is a question that I get asked so many times by my students, and to be honest I have never really been able to give a definitive answer – until now! On December 30th the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) announced the official recognition of elements Uup, Uus and Uuo with atomic numbers of 115, 117 and 118 respectively. As yet the elements have not been named, but what this means is that the seventh row of the periodic table is now officially full.

New Periodic Table

These elements are synthesized by slamming lighter nuclei into each other and tracking the decay of the superheavy elements that were subsequently produced. These new elements may only exist for a fraction of a second, but that’s sufficient to get official recognition!