What You Need To Know For Your IGCSEs – Tips & Advice

To anyone who isn’t familiar with the IGCSE, or the International General Certificate of Secondary Education, it is an English-language-based examination from the UK that encourages students to delve into all sorts of subjects in order to become well-rounded.

It’s been three months since I started my IGCSE exams, three weeks since I received my Edexcel results, and well, about time that I’ve posted my long-awaited list of tips, techniques and advice for achieving well.

Looking back, the whole process of IGCSE was, well, interesting. It was interesting to see how in the months leading up to exam season, my whole cohort just became a complete mess. Our lunch-time conversations turned from “Do you want to play Big Two?” to “Have you studied and memorised all your Circle Theorems yet?”. Everyone would walk around holding their CGP textbooks in their left hand and watch Science with Hazel or the squidward-looking host on Freesciencelessons on their phone in the right.

More interestingly though, was the fact that everyone became increasingly competitive with each other. Everyone was studying and learning at different paces, to the point where it almost felt like a race to the top. What struck me the most was when some felt as if they were trapped at the bottom because of their seemingly higher-achieving peers, when really, they had the potential to reach the same level.

Which leads me to my first point:

1. Study with a Growth Mindset, Not a Fixed One

Hello, Psychology students, you will understand what I mean.

This is so important yet overlooked and forgotten about. If you find yourself saying that you “can’t do this because you just aren’t able to” or that you simply “weren’t born with like that” in response to seeing your peers achieving ahead of you, then you most probably have a Fixed Mindset. You believe that the abilities and knowledge that you currently acquire can never be developed and is static; talent alone creates success.

On the other hand, a Growth Mindset is when the person has the faith that their skills can be improved on through hard-work and dedication. They embrace any feedback or constructive criticism, as well as the achievements of others, to motivate them to grow further.

This is the mindset that we all have to settle ourselves in. It’s the matter of reminding ourselves that those who seem advanced weren’t always like that – they had to work for it.

2. Find a Revision Method that Works for You Early On

This was something that I struggled with during my mock exams. I felt productive – I took notes on all of my subjects, organised my folders, and watched educational videos. But by the time I had finished all of that, it was already exam day and I found myself staring at the first question blankly.

Yes, I knew that Osmosis was the “net movement of particles from a region of higher concentration to a region of lower concentration”, but did I know how to apply it to the questions? Well, I wasn’t sure about that. It was only then until I realised that flipping through my textbook and making my notes look aesthetic were not forms of revision. It was actually reading and absorbing what I wrote in my notes, and then using my knowledge in past paper questions that were effective.

Not everyone will find the same revision method effective, so you have got to find out early on what kind of learner are you (e.g. visual, kinaesthetic, auditory). Teaching another person is also a great way of testing your knowledge and memory. However, at the end of the day, there are two things that I really recommend you do: follow the syllabus, and do a bunch of past papers. This will prevent you from wasting your time on learning irrelevant information, and practicing outdated questions.

Here’s a link to my favourite source for IGCSE past papers (includes IB, A-Levels as well): https://www.exam-mate.com/home/

3. Make a Revision Calendar

Though I had my own physical school planner, I found that using spreadsheets or excel was a much easier way in keeping track of what I did.

I created a new page for each week from the start of my study leave (April 1st) to the end of my exams (June 20th).

I would then make a regular timetable with six rows, which meant that I aimed to achieve six things within a day – whether that be finishing a Math past paper, teaching my dad about the Schlieffen Plan or writing a timed English essay. As you can see from my timetable, I didn’t do six tasks every single day, but as long as you spend most of your week consistently trying to reach that goal, you will find yourself using your revision time wisely and with more purpose.

Colour coding also helps to see if you have balanced your time well. Here, I used colour coding to highlight my exam dates and any revision sessions with my friends. However, you can use colours in other ways, such as having a colour for each subject so you can ensure if you are covering each subject evenly.

4. Take a Break

This is self-explanatory. Don’t overwork yourself, and allocate some time to relax and reward yourself. Exercise, listen to music, or do something that you love – for me, that would be singing in the shower. I also found that creating my own, personal study playlist really helped me feel comfortable in my own workspace and stay motivated. Not only that, but as hard as this may seem (especially for me), avoid pulling all-nighters with the hopes that you’ll be able to cram everything in. Because you never will, if you choose that route.

This isn’t to say that you can spend all your time watching the latest season of Stranger Things on your bed. I really recommend you separate your study area from your leisure area. In other words, find a place that facilitates you to focus and work, without any distractions from your devices and other people. For me, this was at my desk and the nearby study area at my Clubhouse – but for others, it can the coffee shop or the public library.

If you still find yourself being distracted and procrastinating, I suggest you use the Pomodoro Technique – you work actively for 25 minutes, then take a break for 5 minutes, then repeat for an hour, two hours, or more.

Pomodoro Timer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2QmVQxMb0k

Study with Me – Pomodoro Session: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmDbesougG0 (Note: this one really helped me as I find it easier to concentrate when I feel like I’m being accompanied with another person that’s equally as focused)

5. Study, Cry and Laugh With Your Friends

Funnily enough, this was what helped me the most. It’s easy to be so consumed by your own stress and worries that you forget that all of your classmates are struggling as well. If you find yourself locked in your room all day, get out and study with your friends from time to time. Once you have the feeling of support from the others around you, it makes the whole IGCSE experience a lot more enjoyable and takes the stress off your shoulders.

I know that IGCSE feels so dreadfully long (c’mon, two, nearing three months of exams?) – but Year 11s, you’re almost there! The mock exams won’t be a reflection of what you will ultimately achieve – though it will definitely help you prepare, the fact that they’re squeezing all the subjects into one exam week is no where near the revision time you get prior to your finals.

Good luck for the following year and if you’re reading this at two in the morning – go to sleep!

5 thoughts on “What You Need To Know For Your IGCSEs – Tips & Advice

  1. This was an interesting read! I’ve never had the experience of taking the IGCSE but it sounds a little similar to our standardized testing here in the United States which we take all throughout grade school to make sure we’re on-track with state standards and then, eventually, the SATs/ACTs. For our standardized testing, we’re only really testing for the better part of two weeks, though, and that comes around every year in about May. I’ve never really known anyone to study for those exams but it definitely is accompanied with heaps of stress. Lots of people do years of studying for the SATs/ACTs, though, depending on the strictness of their parents and their own personal convictions concerning college. It’s really cool to see how things work in other countries, though, and I think your study tips were excellent! Great post!! 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for reading as usual!! 🤗 Oh, yeah I know about ACT/SATs, I’m actually planning to take SAT in December! And I can tell that it would be really stressful! I’ve actually only started studying for the SATs in the summer, so now that I know that others have studied for it for years, I’ve got a lot to catch up on!😂 But most of the SAT Math was covered in IGCSE, so I think it will be okay!

      Going back to IGCSE though, the aims of it is quite like SAT/ACT I guess, in the sense that it wants people to be well rounded and to have basic knowledge. But the main difference is that IGCSE covers lots of other subjects like Arts, Drama, Geography, History, Philosophy, Design Technology, Computer Science, etc. And we choose 10 subjects from that to study over the course of 2 years – which is why the exams take 2 months time!

      Also, usually after IGCSEs, people take the next course which is usually IB (International Baccalaureate), BTEC or the A-Levels. But although I think US universities recognise these diplomas, it’s still necessary to take SAT/ACT if you wanna study in the US? So it’s really common to juggle two different courses in the same time for some at my school so it can be loads of work 😅

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh wow! I hope the SATs go well for you! I wouldn’t worry about starting later than some people for studying for the SATs. I think lots of people tend to overdo it for SAT prep, really, and that you’ll definitely be fine! Plus, with the IGCSE prep you did, I think you’re probably really well-prepared. Like you said, the SATs cover a lot less! Best wishes for that test, though!
        I’ve heard of some American universities accepting IB scores in place of the SAT/ACTs but that’s probably on a school-to-school basis. The university I’m attending is test-optional so one didn’t necessarily need to take the SATs or any equivalent at all to get in and was mostly determined based off of past academic performances. Even if a school is test-optional, though, it definitely looks good to have the test scores to back it up though! I imagine it would be pretty stressful to take on all of these tests all at once so props to you and everyone else who’s taking on such a heavy load! I’m sure all of the hard work will pay off, though! Wishing you all the best! 🤗

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you so much and for all the infooo!! What I find the hardest though is that the questuon types in SAT are way different to the ones in IGCSE! It’s because in IGCSE there’s no multiple choice and you get marks based on your working out or how you explain your answer. And also the way they ask the questions in GCSE is super different to how they ask in SAT, even if they are on the same topic! Oh and I see, I never knew that some universities don’t require SATs, I’ll go look that up 🙂 Sorry for the late reply, by the way!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh wow, that’s really interesting that you can explain your answers on the IGCSE! In America, we mostly just have multiple choice exams which is, of course, not always the best gauge of how much a person knows. Since you are doing SAT prep, that should hopefully allow for some time to get used to the way questions are put forward on the exam! I feel like that would be hugely helpful!


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