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"Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own" by Carol Burnett

Essential skills for IGCSE exam success

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The IGCSE is an increasingly popular exam offered worldwide and in many schools in the UK. The Alexanders school, for example, is an IGCSE boarding school in the UK and one of many schools that prefers this qualification over the traditional GCSE.

There are now nearly 100 IGCSE exams on offer but there are some revision skills that will help you whatever subjects you are taking.

The revision basics

So let us assume that you have already used all the basic revision tricks in the book to get those facts drilled into your memory.

• You have prepared carefully-written notes throughout your course.
• You have read through these.
• You have made mind maps to help you memorise important concepts, drawn pictures to help you memorise things and used highlighter pens to make important points really stand out.
• You have reduced your notes down to notecards containing just the essentials and referred to these again and again to check your memory and understanding.
• You have tested yourself and worked with a study buddy to test each other.

If you have done all this you have made a great start, but there are some other essential things that will ensure IGCSE success.

Studying in the grass

The IGCSE preparation master class

What is so often omitted in the revision timetables and planning of students is exam practice itself. You are preparing for an IGCSE exam so you need to be familiar with the papers you will sit.

Exams are like anything else – the more you do them, the better you will get at them. That’s why sitting past papers is such an important part of IGCSE success. Quite simply you can become a past master at IGCSEs before you even sit your first one.

Exams don’t actually change much from year to year. The questions vary but the sorts of questions do not. Find out which exam board provides your IGCSE and visit their website to get hold of as many past papers as you can. Look through them carefully and you will get to know:

• The layout and the names/numbers of questions.

• How the instructions you are given are worded.

• The range of questions there are and whether they are multiple choice, short answers or essays.

• The marking scheme and where more marks are available.

• The pace of the paper and how you should allocate your time.

• The questions that seem to turn up most regularly.


It is now time to hone your IGCSE exam technique. Exam practice makes perfect so get as much as you can.

• Work on your timings. If a paper requires four essays then providing four essays of medium length will always be better than three long essays and a few hastily scribbled lines.

• Always allow 10% of your time in an exam for reading the questions at the start and 10% more for reading your answers at the end.

• Look at the marks available for the questions and allocate your time accordingly. Do plenty of timed trials to get this right.

• In the heat of the exam many people don’t read the question properly and so do not actually answer it. Learn to read each question carefully and underline keywords. If it says ‘describe’, ‘criticise’ or ‘contrast’ make sure you understand exactly what you are being asked to do by this. If it is a longer ‘essay’ answer then plan it before you start writing by making a quick mind map of your answer or simply jotting down its key points.

Students in the classroom

Get a good night’s sleep before the exam, and relax: you now know what to expect and what will be asked of you. Good luck (although you won’t need it)!

Useful links

Edexcel IGCSE

Edexcel are the exam board that provides the majority of IGCSEs. You can find their past papers here.

Cambridge IGCSE

Past Papers for the Cambridge IGCSE exam board can be found here.

More revision tips

Find some great study and revision tips to help you plan your revision.


Author: letswhiteboard

I've grown up with a passion for writing that has matured through my life. Everyday is a learning curve; I'm open-minded and willing to try new techniques & styles. Nowadays I enjoy blogging and helping others learn more- there's nothing more rewarding than passing on knowledge.

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