# Tried And Tested Techniques To Help Students Gain The Most Marks In Their GCSE Maths Resits

**Every June, some students struggle to secure the all-important grade 4 pass mark in Maths. For these students, their first opportunity for another go is the November resits, or during the summer exam season. **

Resitting any exam can feel daunting, and it is important to be mindful that many students who resit maths may not have had a positive experience during their time in Key Stage 4. However, with the right preparation and exam strategy, itâ€™s possible to turn things around.

This blog guides you through the most effective techniques to maximise marks for your GCSE Maths students resitting Foundation Maths on the grade 3-4 boundary. We draw on our detailed analysis of past Edexcel exam papers to identify the key areas to focus on for the November and June exam seasons, giving you more time to focus on teaching and supporting your students. Many of the general techniques in this blog are useful for most Foundation or Higher resit students across all exam boards.

### Analysis of Edexcel GCSE marks from 2017-2024

Over the last few years, weâ€™ve spent a lot of time collating data and analysing all the Edexcel GCSE past papers from 2017 to 2024. Due to changes post-2017 which affected the difficulty level of the first few questions of the Foundation paper, 2017â€™s exam papers have been removed from the analysis in this blog.

Over these years, certain topic areas have consistently appeared at Foundation level. Number in particular dominates at Foundation – approximately 30% of all marks available are for content in this strand. Algebra, Ratio and Proportion and Geometry appear in more or less equal weightings on most series of 17-18%, with Probability and Statistics making up the remainder, again in almost equal weightings.

Edexcel, AQA and OCR Foundation and Higher Papers: Set 3 (2024)

These 2024 GCSE maths practice paper packs for students following the Edexcel, AQA and OCR exam boards each contain 3 foundation and 3 higher tier papers. Includes a ready to go RAG question analysis spreadsheet to help identify studentâ€™s areas of improvement

Download Free Now!Accessibility of topics should also be considered. Although Algebra and Ratio & Proportion are similarly weighted, in our experience students generally find topics in Ratio & Proportion more accessible than Algebra, which can include higher-grade topics such as expanding quadratics or solving more complex equations. Ratio & Proportion is also more likely to be functionally applicable to studentsâ€™ Post-16 studies, which may improve buy-in.

There is further detail on individual strands and topics later in the article; if youâ€™re in a hurry, here are our main takeaways:

GCSE Maths resit students aiming for a grade 4 should focus on accessible topics that carry the most marks. The crucial skills are generally in the Number and Ratio and Proportion strands, with the heaviest hitters being:

- The four operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division);
- Fractions, decimals and percentages;
- Proportion, ratio and scaling.

Remember, some students will only need a few extra marks to tip them over the boundary, so look for the easiest possible marks.

Donâ€™t discount easy pickings in other strands which include:

- Simple algebraic manipulation (e.g. simplifying or expanding a single bracket);
- Solving simple equations, using function machines;
- Identifying shapes and their properties, simple angle problems;
- Perimeter and area, particularly in problem-solving;
- Simple probability problems, particularly when these link to work on fractions and decimals;
- Averages and range from a list of numbers;
- More straightforward statistical charts and graphs (bar chart, pictogram, simple scatter graphs).

### How to use this analysis to help students focus maths resit revision

This analysis shows patterns and trends from previous years but there is no guarantee what may come up in the November or June resits. While we can identify topics which are missed in certain series or have not appeared recently, many of the key topics for grade 4 resit students appear multiple times across most exam series.

### First Five and First Ten questions

Edexcel Foundation GCSE begins with a few one-mark questions designed to ease students into the paper. They are typically a right or wrong answer. The papers then ramp up slightly in terms of cognitive demand, including a broader mix of topics.

However, the topics for these first ten questions are fairly predictable. This section highlights lots of easy wins for your resit students.

The first thing to note is the overwhelming proportion of Number questions. 75% of the first five and nearly half of the first ten questions are Number-focused. When combined with Ratio and Proportion, these two strands account for almost 60% of the marks on the first ten questions.

Frequently occurring topics in Questions 1-5: Metric unit conversions Place value calculations Rounding to integers Ordering integers, fractions and decimals Factors and multiples Convert between FDP Find fractions of amounts Algebraic notation Order of operations Calculator use Square and cube numbers and their roots | Frequently occurring topics in Questions 6-10: Money calculations Probability scale Using coordinates in four quadrants Bar chart Pictogram Time calculations One-step linear equations Simple averages and range Using the correct algebraic notation Parts of a circle Angles at a point, on a line, vertically opposite |

There is potential for students to gain lots of marks in this early section of the paper. On average, approximately a quarter of the marks per paper are allocated in the first ten questions.

Students aiming for a grade 4 need to pick up between 40-50 marks per paper (depending on grade boundaries), so mastery of these basic topics could get them halfway towards this goal.

### GCSE resit revision: Number

Within Number, the first job is to ensure that students can calculate accurately and fairly efficiently:

- Can they add, subtract, multiply and divide?
- Can they use the order of operations?
- Are they able to work fluently with fractions and percentages?

Itâ€™s worth investing the time to ensure students feel confident in these areas as questions on the four operations of arithmetic appear frequently on Foundation, including in wordier problems.

Make sure this is context-rich where possible, including contexts relevant to their Post-16 study.

Once learners have these skills under their belts, cherry-pick some easy wins based on studentsâ€™ prior knowledge. Look at topics which tend to be assessed in more of a procedural manner such as:

- Place value
- Standard form
- Indices
- Rounding and estimation
- Factors, multiples and prime factor trees

### GCSE resit revision: Algebra

Algebra is typically a weaker point for students on the grade 3-4 boundary. Encourage students to attempt more straightforward problems, but donâ€™t worry too much about typically higher-end Foundation topics such as factorising quadratics or solving equations with unknowns on both sides.

Look for more intuitive ways to solve problems. For example, students may be more comfortable using flowcharts to solve simple equations and linking this to accessible work on functions. There are better uses of limited teaching time than trying to get them all using formal algebra.

Students are generally more competent with procedural one or two-mark questions in Algebra, so things like expanding a single bracket, simplifying an expression or substituting into a formula are worth a recap.

### GCSE resit revision: Ratio & Proportion

This strand is another one to focus on with your resit groups. Firstly, because ratio, proportion and percentage rates of change are so prevalent on the Foundation paper. Secondly, because Ratio and Proportion are functional skills, they are more relatable and useful for studentsâ€™ other studies. Include lots of practice on context-rich problems involving ratio, proportion and percentage change.

Another topic easily overlooked is time, particularly addressing the misconceptions around fractions of an hour, and the use of a calculator for time problems.

Units of measurement and scale-topics that are functional and relatable to real-life contexts also fall under this strand. Metric conversions nearly always pop up in the first few questions, so ensure students are confident with these.

### GCSE resit revision: Geometry

Like Algebra, Foundation resit students find Geometry challenging. Skip tricky topics like trigonometry and in-depth angle reasoning problems in favour of covering the basics:

- Recognising and naming shapes
- Identifying properties
- Using simple angle facts

Itâ€™s worth working on perimeter and area as these skills are often embedded in multi-step problems, such as calculating costs for turfing a lawn or painting a room.

### GCSE resit revision: Probability

Simple Probability is fairly intuitive and links well to work on fractions, decimals and percentages. Therefore, these topics can be recapped together.

Also look out for frequency trees (an Edexcel Foundation favourite). Filling in missing branches is an easy procedural couple of marks.

### GCSE resit revision: Statistics

Usually, there are many accessible marks in the Statistics strand at Foundation with more procedural questions where students are instructed to draw a graph or read simple information from a chart to solve a problem.

Students are usually fairly confident with bar charts and pictograms, but if not these are worth a recap. Depending on curriculum coverage in Year 11, students may also be able to answer questions on scatter graphs and frequency polygons.

Itâ€™s also worth recapping simple average and range calculations, such as finding an average from a short list of numbers.

### How to help students pick up marks across the papers

Although mastery of key topics in Number and Ratio & Proportion are a good starting point for resit exams, students can still pick up valuable marks on less frequent topics and on higher-mark questions.

Here are some general tips which apply to the whole paper:

#### Don’t aim for perfection

For higher-mark questions, students donâ€™t need to get the answer completely correct. Picking up a couple of marks on a five-mark question can be enough to push a student over the grade 4 boundary.

#### Brain-dump

If students donâ€™t know how to start a question, encourage them to write down anything relevant they know about the question while they are reading it. For example, if they are given a rectangle with 2 side lengths, could they fill in the missing sides? Could they mark any angles? Could they quickly work out the perimeter or the area? They may pick up marks for correct methods before even finishing reading the question.

#### Attempt every question

Questions left blank are guaranteed zero marks. Build confidence with students and encourage them to write something relevant for each problem.

### Building student confidence for GCSE maths resits

One of the biggest hurdles for resit students is confidence; many of them will have struggled with â€śschoolâ€ť mathematics and failing to get their grade 4 at the end of Year 11 is particularly disheartening. Understandably, this also impacts motivation – some may already have the attitude that they will never pass maths.

Present resit exams as a chance for a fresh start. Building confidence is key to helping students to succeed. This comes from:

- Preparation
- Knowledge of the exam structure
- Effective time management of exam anxiety
- Management of exam anxiety

Be mindful that resit students have already had eleven years of mathematics teaching and not achieved a standard pass. Repeating the same processes and content is unlikely to achieve a different result. Where possible, vary content and methods, and make things relevant to students and their courses.

Remember that any method that works and gets a correct answer is valid. If you have a student whoâ€™s still using the grid method for multiplication but consistently gets correct answers, thereâ€™s no point spending time teaching the long multiplication algorithm – this time could be used more effectively elsewhere.

## 7 tried and tested techniques to build maths exam confidence

Here are **seven** tried-and-tested techniques to help students build their confidence ahead of their resit:

### 1. Review basic concepts

Ensure that students have a solid foundation in those key skills underlying most Foundation mathematics topics – four operations, fractions, decimals and percentages, ratio, proportion and scale.

**Start simple**: Review the key skills listed above. If a student can master these, there is a good chance they can achieve a grade 4 without needing to do any trigonometry or more complex algebra.**Use targeted resources**: Third Space Learning offers a wide range of GCSE maths resources aimed specifically at helping students close gaps in their basic understanding ahead of their GCSE resits. Explore the hundreds of free GCSE maths revision resources in the Secondary Resource Library.

### 2. Practice frequently occurring topics

There are lots of straightforward marks up for grabs across various strands. Focusing revision on these topics can boost student confidence and can be a way to pick up easy marks.

**Targeted practice**: Donâ€™t try to cover the entire Foundation syllabus. Be selective and work on frequently occurring topics that yield a decent number of marks. Concentrate on the key skills weâ€™ve identified, along with easier topics from Algebra, Geometry, Probability and Statistics.**Spaced repetition**: Revisit all taught topics regularly to embed knowledge over time. Spaced Repetition is proven to enhance long-term retention, making students more confident when tackling these questions in the exam.**Master the first few questions**: The easiest marks to gain on a Foundation exam paper are those in the first five or ten questions. Practise these skills to automaticity, working on exam technique with students to make sure they donâ€™t make silly slips early on in the paper.

### 3. Practise past papers

Resit students are probably familiar with the format and structure of the GCSE exam papers. However, it is still important to include regular past paper practice in their revision.

**Boost exam technique**: Use past exam questions and teacher modelling to demonstrate to students how to tackle multi-mark questions.**Use mark schemes and examiner reports**: Study mark schemes with students to show where marks are awarded, even for partial answers. Use examiner reports to identify common pitfalls.**Past paper library**: One issue for resit students is that they have often seen all of the available official past papers during revision in Year 11. Third Space Learningâ€™s Library of past papers is freely available, with exam papers and mark schemes based on the three main exam boards (Edexcel, AQA and OCR).

### 4. Identify knowledge gaps

While students study for their resit exams, review and analyse mistakes to pinpoint any gaps in understanding. Students can make significant improvements when they focus on their weakest areas.

**Review past scripts**: If possible, get a copy of each studentâ€™s paper from the summer series. Look for patterns in errors. Are there specific topics where mistakes are frequent and easy improvements could be made? Depending on the student, it may be useful to look through their papers with them. However, this should be judged on a case-by-case basis.**Focus on knowledge gaps**: Use past papers and additional evidence gathered to direct extra revision time to broad-reaching concepts that students struggle with most.**Use specific GCSE revision resources**: Third Space Learningâ€™s free GCSE Maths Revision Guides contain step by step instructions, detailed examples, practice maths questions, GCSE exam style questions and free maths worksheets to help close studentsâ€™ maths gaps.

### 5. Revision technique

For many students, revision can feel very overwhelming, especially after disappointing results in the summer. Students may even question whether they know how to revise for maths or how to revise effectively.

Adopt a clear and structured approach to make revision techniques less daunting and more productive.

**Use a revision timetable**: Create a manageable revision timetable, balancing new learning and reviewing previously studied topics. This prevents last-minute cramming and reduces stress.**Break down the workload**: Chunk revision into smaller, manageable tasks. Tackling one topic at a time makes it easier to stay focused.

### 6. Reduce exam anxiety

Managing exam anxiety is a crucial step in building confidence for GCSE Maths resits. Feeling nervous is a natural bodily response and can even be helpful. But, excessive anxiety can negatively impact performance.

Work with students to develop a calm, methodical mindset as they approach their resit exams.

**Practice mindfulness**: Simple breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques can help students manage stress before and during the exam.**Promote self-care**: Encourage students to look after themselves – exercise, eat a balanced diet, make space for hobbies and make sure they get enough sleep! Share the science behind the importance of self-care; itâ€™s all about reducing cortisol and other stress hormones and increasing â€śhappyâ€ť endorphins.

### 7. High-quality maths tutoring

Group revision sessions can be helpful, but sometimes students need more individualised support. Personalised one to one tutoring is highly effective in identifying and closing specific gaps in studentsâ€™ knowledge.

Since 2013, Third Space Learning has provided personalised one to one online tuition to the students who need it most. Tutors focus on helping students build the skills and confidence necessary to succeed in GCSE Maths, especially for students aiming for grades 3-7.

Targeted, one to one maths tutoring sessions are available for GCSE students and those preparing for maths resists.

### Final word on GCSE maths resit revision

Resitting GCSE maths doesnâ€™t have to feel like an insurmountable challenge. With focused revision, practice of frequently occurring topics, and the right support, students can improve their performance and achieve the grade they need.

Confidence comes from preparation, and with the techniques outlined in this blog, students can approach their resit feeling equipped and ready to succeed.

**DO YOU HAVE STUDENTS WHO NEED MORE SUPPORT IN MATHS?**

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