Being a teenager comes with a fair amount of baggage. I am a big fan of lightening the load wherever possible. And that’s what I aim to do with this blog, but figuratively rather than literally as this blog is all about what you need to fill your bag with to be prepared for study and exams.
Having worked with hundreds of students since 2012 I’ve gotten a very good idea of the tools that help, and the tools that really don’t. Of course there’s always room for things that just add fun, and I’d always recommend a healthy dose of that as long as we’re staying on track for your goals.
The Ultimate GCSE Success Planner
It would be churlish of me not to put at the top of this list my very own guide to GCSE success, published on Amazon. This planner is designed to make the process of exam prep as simple as possible by breaking down the entire year into a step by step process for you to follow. This will tell you exactly what to do at each turn, where to go for help, how to build confidence, manage your wellbeing, and even how to tackle results day. No GCSE student should be without it in 2024.
So now there’s no reason for overwhelm to sneak up on you.
Every GCSE student since forever has used the CGP revision guides to prepare for their exams. They are the absolute best, and I can’t recommend them highly enough. These guys put a lot into delivering an all inclusive revision guide for GCSE students, aligned to a specific curriculum, subject, and level. They understand learning and layout the content in a way that makes it make sense, and makes it stick. I can genuinely still remember pages from the revision guides I used for my own exams, and I have no special powers. They’re just that good (and I have probably used them a good few times).
I’ve collated some of my favourites for the most popular exam specs in this amazon list.
A leak proof, dishwasher friendly water bottle
Hydration plays a big part in focus and mental capacity at school. I remember the days when we weren’t allowed a drink in classrooms, and had to queue up at break time to use the water fountain (bleurgh). Those days are no more, and every student should have a water bottle in their bag.
But no one wants to have a sink full of clunky water bottles at the end of the day because they can’t go in the dishwasher, so make sure you get dishwasher friendly bottles.
And no one wants their drink leaking all over their homework, so make sure it is leak proof. These usually come with some sort of lock to open before drinking that really holds the drink securely when it is in your bag.
This one comes in loads of colours to keep all of the family happy – https://amzn.to/3snByzQ.
A good scientific calculator
All calculators are not created equal. The chances are if you’ve had one in a desk drawer for ten years it won’t be suitable for exams. It needs to include trigonometry functions, powers, roots, and standard form buttons. It is even more helpful if the calculator your child takes into the exams is the calculator they’ve been using in lessons for the year, so that they’re really familiar with it. They’ll also have had time to ask their teacher for help with the functions as they go. Trust me when I tell you their maths teacher will have seen all of the calculator types.
This Casio Classwiz is a popular pick for GCSE student as it has everything they need at a low price.
One of my favourite inventions is the mechanical pencil! No more pencil sharpening’s all over the place. No more frustrating snapped pencils mid-drawing. A mechanical pencil is a permanently sharp and ready to use pencil in your pencil case and in your exams. It’s a nice quick win that I definitely recommend adding to your school purchases.
When you think revision, index cards usually follow. They are a really useful tool for revising. Building them builds memory connections that already help you with exam recall, but they’re then a useful prompt tool for quick study on the go. I always recommend these to students, and this set comes with a great storage solution to keep them organised.
Another study staple is a set of highlighters. The simple application of highlighting key terms means that we automatically pay more attention to what we read. It is also a quick way to make notes more accessibly by highlighting key terms and breaking up blocks of text.
All exams come with maths, and having the right tools can make using them a lot easier. Too often I see students struggling to use a compass or a protractor simply because they don’t have a well made one. Plastic compasses are usually not sturdy enough to draw a clean circle, or to use for constructions. This Helix set is tried and tested and is always the one I recommend for my students.
A clear pencil case
Usually clear pencil cases are required for exams. It allows invigilators to see exactly what each student has brought into the exam hall so that they know there is no cheating. You can use a bag for this purpose but it makes sense to buy a fit for all purpose pencil case from the beginning. This sturdy pencil case stands up on the desk so is easy to use in the exams with limited desk space.
Good quality note paper
This is the most overlooked revision resource – paper. Every time I ask my students if they have paper in their lessons the answer is no. I think it is because they are given notebooks for each lesson and it doesn’t occur until they need it that they might write down anything else. I highly recommend having one of these sturdy notebooks in your revision kit. They are rugged enough to survive the school bag and pages can be removed to organise revision notes later. I always use these notebooks now. You can also get square, plain, and graph paper from the same supplier, and they’re great quality.
You can see all of our recommendations on Amazon at https://www.amazon.co.uk/shop/greentutors. Come and share yours in the Facebook group for parents of GCSE students at Turn GCSE Stress into Exam Success.