How to revise for maths exams

Maths equations
Whether you’re a week or a few months away from your mathematics GCSE or A level exam, we’ve calculated the top tips to help you ace it.

People often think revising for maths involves learning a few equations and numbers; however, you actually need to understand what you have learned and apply the method to similar questions. The trick to success in your maths exams is by working through the syllabus and doing lots of repetition and practice questions.

Use a ‘traffic light’ system to highlight your mathematics syllabus and form your revision timetable

Maths exams require an understanding of the question and how you answer it to get marks, so it is a good idea to start your revision by printing off your syllabus and highlighting what you know and what you don’t know. A good system can be to use a traffic light method:

  • On your syllabus highlight what you need to learn in red, what you have a grasp of but are not confident about in yellow and the areas you are comfortable with in green.
  • You can then target your revision schedule to this list by focusing on what you don’t know first and then working through the list to the areas you are more confident with.
  • The highlighted sections of your syllabus form a good starting point to make a maths revision schedule or checklist by allocating your revision time to the red areas first, then amber and then green.

Don’t panic if you’ve highlighted your whole page in red. Approach one section at a time and focus on understanding that area. Each area you revise will be worth some marks in the exam and, as you begin to understand each topic, you will be improving your grade.

Make a cheat sheet and learn the essential equations

You should also compile a cheat sheet for your revision with the equations you need to know for the exam (and if any are given to you in the exam). You can keep testing yourself in the lead up to your exams to make sure you know all the equations on the sheet. It can also help if you get someone to test you throughout your revision period or if you stick the equations on notes all around the house to help you remember them.

Practise individual maths questions

Work through the subjects you highlighted on your syllabus by learning and then applying the method for each syllabus topic in practice questions; for example, work through 1.1, 1.2 then 1.3 of your syllabus. For each topic, for instance algebraic equations, you should practise lots of types of questions, working from easy (2x = 3) to harder style questions (5x – 2 > 3x + 11) as you grow in confidence. You can find questions in textbooks or on online websites based on your exam board syllabus.

Practise past papers

You should then test your understanding of the topics you have been learning by practising past papers. You can access past papers via your exam board’s website. It is a good idea to do past papers alongside your revision, to test how your revision is progressing, and when you are coming to the end of your revision.

When you are doing past papers, you should try to keep to the set timings of the exam. This is good practice to help you prioritise your time in the exam. You should keep an eye out for how long you are spending on each question. You shouldn’t spend 15 minutes on a two mark question at the start of the paper. If you’re stuck on a question, move on and try to come back to finish it if you have any time at the end of the paper.

Top tips for maths revision

  • Remember to show your workings out on your exam paper. Even if you don’t get the answer to a particular maths question, you can still get marks for your workings out. Showing your workings can also be really helpful if you want to return to any difficult questions you started at the end of the exam.
  • Be confident with your calculator and make sure you know how it works before the exam. This will help ensure you are prepared and don’t get flustered or distracted during the exam.

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