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Tips for raising your grade in GCSE maths

By Claire Rimmer

Clare Rimmer is the one of the Directors of Kip McGrath Lisburn, a maths and English tuition centre for children aged 6 to 16.  Clare has been teaching for 12 years and the Kip McGrath Centre has been opened since 2007 providing academic support and exam preparation.

Scan the paper

Go through the paper quickly reading or scanning it to get an idea of what is asked.

Do what comes easiest first

Leave the more difficult questions until the end. You will lose valuable time if you get stuck on a difficult question and do not move on. Get some easy marks in first and then return to the more challenging questions secure in the knowledge that you have already got a solid mark.

Use every available minute

If you finish the paper before the time is up do not sit back and relax! It is unlikely that you have not made any mistakes and there may still be some marks to pick up. Spend every last minute looking for errors.

Write clearly

If the examiner cannot read your answer they will not mark it. If handwriting is not your strong point then take the time to write neatly and make sure you write your answer in the correct place.

Read the question carefully

Read the question slowly to find out exactly what is being asked of you. Highlight or mark the different parts of the question and note the different calculations needed to come up with a final answer.

Make sure you are accurate!

What is the question asking for? If it asks for 2 decimal places or 3 significant figures, then make sure your answer includes them. Simplify when told to do so.

Check for errors

Check your answer is sensible. It is unlikely that the answer will contain a long string of decimals. Sometimes it is useful to estimate a rough answer and check that your final answer is not miles away from it.

Learn your times tables

This might seem obvious but it is essential for speed and accuracy in your exam to know your times tables.

Inverse % questions

These are 'backward looking' problems. With current values given in the question, you have to calculate some original value before the decrease/increase occurred. Again, the answers tend to be rounded numbers. If you get a string of decimals, check back in your working.


Simply check that your answer is between 1 and 0; and of course, there are no negative values.

The Mean

Use your common sense. Check that your answer is between the highest and lowest values.


Unless the question asks you to, don't round up a calculator stage until you get a final answer. You may end up with an incorrect answer even though you have implemented the question correctly.

Quadratic Equations

A question asking for significant figures or decimal places indicates you should use the quadratic formula.

Pythagoras and Trig

Check your answer. Remember a shorter side should not be a longer than the hypotenuse.


Remember to clearly label axis and in a stem and leaf diagram include a key.

And finally

Look at the pointage for each question as that will reflect how much time and working is required to achieve the answer. Remember to include all stages of your working out.

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