The key to combating (I)GCSE Science Exams


    In the busy world of a teenager’s GCSE exams (including (I)GCSE Science exams), it can seem an overwhelming feat to learn a comprehensive range of revision notes, case studies and technical vocabulary for multiple subject disciplines. There is no doubt that the marathon of public GCSE exams for any 16 year old is a testing time – and one that is rarely repeated again! As teachers do their best to help with revision plans, students should be pleased to know that MyTutorClub has distilled down the various chat-room teachers’ conversations on science exams to provide the latest top tips.

    The most pertinent piece of advice that conscientious Year 11 students should take on board, as they prepare for their (I)GCSE science exams, relates to phraseology. This fancy word concerns itself with students articulating the correct scientific logic and employing the exact technical language in exam answers. It is also about reading and interpreting the exam questions precisely so as to judge and deduce what the examiner is specifically looking for.

    For example – budding chemists – if you are asked to compare the structure and properties of an ionic salt to that of a covalent compound, you would need to address both aspects of the question for each type of compound. This would almost certainly carry three or four marks, as it requires a more detailed methodical approach to fully answer. One or two mark factual recall questions are of course not to be misremembered: technical vocabulary (e.g. brittle, malleable) and phraseology (e.g. weak intermolecular forces of attraction) earn students that golden exam credit.

    How should you best prepare for this approach to study? As you head into Year 11, you should begin to put yourself together a glossary of key words and phrases. Perhaps spend some time creating mnemonics for the weird and wonderful scientific language that your teacher has dictated to you. One mildly amusing example is SEFABOCI, pronounced Se-Fa-Bo-Key, which stands for ‘Strong Electrostatic Forces of Attraction Between Oppositely Charged Ions’. It is a very useful phrase coined to explain the properties of giant ionic lattices.

    Science (I)GCSEs require you to learn and deploy these fancy phrases and words repeatedly in exams – including mock exams so get practising! You will be expected to spell technical terms to the best of your ability, but spelling is not the most important thing in science. So long as the examiners can interpret your attempt of ‘delocalised electrons’. It is also acceptable to bullet point your answers in most cases, which helps a lot of students focus their minds, except of course when the question explicitly asks you to write in full sentences.

    So how you should you get started with your revision for the three sciences? Get yourself some coloured card, your class notes and textbook. Next, work your way through each topic and aim to write down at least ten key words or phrases that you think will earn you exam credit. Chances are you know exactly the kind of vocabulary that you need to understand and memorise. If you are stuck, your textbook should highlight these in bold for you and the index will list quite a few of the big concepts and ideas that you cover at (I)GCSE.

    In short, science exams should not be feared. They are a ‘game’ of testing your understanding and ability to recall key terms and phrases. The best candidates are those who not only remember and re-write the technical language capably, but can also understand what these terms and phrases mean. With this advice, you will be reciting and chanting SEFABOCI all the way through your revision!