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Help - main topics for AQA Science GCSE for last-minute revision?

(29 Posts)
Toffeewhirl Sat 14-May-16 10:00:38

DS1 has left his revision for this GCSE too late and now he's panicking. We have had tears and sleepless nights. This is his last weekend before the first exams (Biology and Chemistry next week) and he's finally accepted my help.

Does anyone know the main topics we should concentrate on at this late stage? (I've looked at the AQA website, but it covers everything, obviously, and I need highlights of the most important topics).

Quick background, so as not to dripfeed: DS1 has Aspergers and has had a rough ride. This is his first year back at school, so he's doing amazingly well to even be attending regularly. He is ambitious to do well and loves Science, but he has no idea how much work is required to get good grades and wouldn't listen to me when I encouraged him to revise over Easter because I'm just his mum and know nothing (obviously). I'm frustrated with his teacher because I asked him to email DS specific instructions about what to revise (which DS would have done) and all he said was that DS needed to focus on what he didn't know <sigh>.

Balletgirlmum Sat 14-May-16 10:03:48

When dd wAs having issues with ks3 science I gave her an old sats paper which we used as a diagnostic tool. It gave us an idea of where the gaps in her knowledge were & what she needed to focus on

Can you get hold of any past papers or revision guide tests to do similar.

Toffeewhirl Sat 14-May-16 10:11:22

Yes, Balletgirl, I'm looking at the past papers on the AQA site right now and noting down topics covered to see if there are any consistent topics that come up year after year. We have so little time left, I'm not sure whether it's more valuable to go through a paper with DS1 today and note down gaps in knowledge or focus on revising main topics.

TheFallenMadonna Sat 14-May-16 10:13:50

Do the past papers and check with markschemes (they are easy to understand). Look carefully at the 6 mark questions. There is one on every paper.

TheFallenMadonna Sat 14-May-16 10:15:53

Do as many past papers as possible. When marking, look at what is not accepted as an answer, because sometimes the language needs to be quite precise.

Toffeewhirl Sat 14-May-16 10:16:39

Ah yes, focus on the questions with big marks - good point, Fallen grin. That's an excellent strategy. I've noticed that some of the questions rely on logic and skills at reasoning, rather than just knowledge, which is useful. DS1 says he likes those questions best. Last night I was explaining to him that when he sees the word 'evaluate', it means the question requires pros, cons and a conclusion; I notice that those questions carry 6 marks. So he needs to learn strategy as well as revise.

Toffeewhirl Sat 14-May-16 10:19:01

We have four days left, so that's probably two practice papers for each topic. Then he has a week to revise for Physics (his favourite subject).

TheFallenMadonna Sat 14-May-16 10:19:38

Yes, 6 mark questions Don't mean write 6 things. The command word is important. 50% of the marks come from knowing stuff, the other 50% from doing stuff (data analysis, application of knowledge etc). That's why past papers are the way to go!

Toffeewhirl Sat 14-May-16 10:23:57

What do you mean by 'command word', Fallen?

Am making a list now of topics that come up, plus the six-mark questions.

DS1 also has two after-school revision clubs coming up where I believe he's going through past papers. Hopefully, they will help him with the data analysis, etc, which I won't be much help with.

TheFallenMadonna Sat 14-May-16 10:30:32

Describe, explain, evaluate, compare etc.

If it says "describe what is shown in the graph" then you say "as temperature increases, enzyme enzyme activity increases up to x degrees, and then decreases" (always put in numbers!). If it says "explain the results shown in the graph" you say why temperature affects the rate of an enzyme catalysed reaction.

If the question says describe, and you give a beautifully detailed explanation of denaturation, you get no marks...

TheFallenMadonna Sat 14-May-16 10:31:37

The mark schemes will show him what he needs to put. They are with the past papers.

Toffeewhirl Sat 14-May-16 10:37:25

Ok, that's really useful. Thanks.

Coconutty Sat 14-May-16 13:33:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Toffeewhirl Sat 14-May-16 18:09:55

I've printed out last year's past papers, with the marking schemes, and he's been watching some videos (thanks, Coconutty - he is, indeed, a visual learner). I've explained about the difference between describing and explaining (he didn't know anything about this), told him to focus on the questions with maximum marks and tried to go over some major topics with him. He's trying to learn about the reflex arc at the moment.

Don't think there's much more I can do now, apart from reassuring him and trying to make sure he gets sleep and food.

At least I have learnt one important thing: his teachers need to give him specific revision timetables for next year's exams (he won't accept them from me and isn't organised enough to do this himself yet).

fuckweasel Sat 14-May-16 18:26:13

The CGP revision guides are pretty good and available as online versions (through the kindle app) so you can access them instantly if he doesn't already have the books.

Toffeewhirl Sun 28-Aug-16 11:46:44

Well, he got a D. I have resisted saying, "I told you so." He has learnt the hard way, but hopefully he now knows that he has to put the work in to get good results.

He'll be retaking it next summer.

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Sun 28-Aug-16 12:21:10

Hopefully he'll not make that mistake again. D isn't a complete disaster, he should be able to pull it up to a C with a bit of time and effort.

Toffeewhirl Sun 28-Aug-16 12:34:48

Thanks, Rafals. I agree that this is a good life lesson for him. He needs to get a B to do the A levels he's chosen hmm. He's just started seeing a science tutor once a week, so if he works hard at school and makes the most of the extra help, he should improve his mark.

Shame that he will now have to do an extra subject next summer, though.

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Sun 28-Aug-16 13:04:40

No idea if this will help at all but I came across this site yesterday.

If you look through some of the links to the other articles in the series, you may find something that helps in terms of revision techniques if he struggles with that. Might stop him panicking last minute next summer.

Toffeewhirl Sun 28-Aug-16 13:28:36

That's really kind - thank you. I will show it to DS and read through it myself too. I suspect DS might be more receptive to receiving help now he's had this shock.

PurpleDaisies Sun 28-Aug-16 13:43:34

He needs to get a B to do the A levels he's chosen.

Are those pure science A levels? I would be very concerned about a student who didn't get a B the first time through and needed the help of a tutor to get through the GCSE (barring dreadful teaching at school or extenuating circumstances). There's a massive jump to A level in all the science subjects. I'm not trying to be overly negative but it's something to be aware of.

Good luck to him. smile

Toffeewhirl Sun 28-Aug-16 14:12:00

Purple - he's taken the AQA Foundation Science A. He had only been back in school for eight months after four years out of school, so I am actually very proud of him for taking the exams. He has Aspergers and OCD and couldn't cope with mainstream school, so it was a long battle to get him the support he needed. He's now in a special school and has been put down a year so he can do the GCSE courses.

His teacher put him in for the foundation GCSE because he said that, at first, DS was working at a C or D level in class. Ds suffers severe anxiety, so it would make sense that his work wasn't great at first. However, in the past few months he has become much more relaxed about going into school and his classroom work has improved; he's now working at C or B levels in science. The teacher said he could get decent grades if he keeps working hard.

Nevertheless, I am doubtful that he'll be able to cope with Physics A level, which he really wants to do at the moment, alongside Maths, Computer Science and a computer design course that I don't pretend to understand.

PurpleDaisies Sun 28-Aug-16 14:26:07

It sounds like he's had a really tough few years and I'm really glad things seem to be improving now. Hopefully Thd new school and tutor combination will really suit him. It's definitely a good thing to aim for high enough grades to get on to the A level. I hope it works out for him, or he finds something else that's better instead. Physics had actually gone quite trendy again (!) so it's the sort of thing he could follow through popular science programmes or books, even if the A level proves to be too much of a stretch.

RafaIsTheKingOfClay Sun 28-Aug-16 15:36:19

I'd read it yourself before you give it to him. There's quite a lot of info there and it might panic him.

I'm a bit hmm about some of it, but I think some of the ideas i.e. reviewing class notes the day after the lesson, regularly retrieving knowledge from a topic and then self correcting using a text book or class notes do make sense.

I'd probably start with this article and the links in it tbh.

Toffeewhirl Sun 28-Aug-16 15:37:06

Thanks, Purple. There was a time when I thought he'd spend the rest of his life indoors and never get any qualifications, so I'm delighted that he has opportunities now. His new tutor is great and I'm hoping he will listen to her advice about revision (as he clearly won't listen to mine).

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