How to Prepare for an AQA GCSE Chemistry Exam

by ReAgent Chemicals

Preparing for the AQA GCSE chemistry exam can feel overwhelming, but if you plan your revision carefully, it will be a lot more manageable. Continue reading for some tips on how to prepare for your upcoming chemistry GCSE exam, from how to approach revising to key topics to hould focus on. 

When Should You Start Revising for Chemistry GCSE?

It’s recommended that you start revising around two to three months before your first exam. This should give you plenty of time to thoroughly go over the wide range of topics you studied in lessons. But the exact amount of revision time you should give yourself varies from person to person. If you’re already confident in many of the topics, you may require less time, and if you’re a slower learner, you may want to give yourself more time. In the end, it all comes down to you. 

What you don’t want to do, however, is give yourself too much or too little time. If you start revising for the GCSE chemistry exam too early, for example, you may forget some of the topics, and if you start too late, you may not have ample time to get through the entire course. 

Desk set up in examination hall

How to Structure Your Chemistry Revision

When it comes to structuring your revision sessions for your GCSE chemistry exam, take a moment to think about which topics you struggle with most. These will be your key areas of focus, and identifying them when you start revising will help you allocate your time more effectively.

Generally speaking, it’s best to structure your chemistry revision so you study the areas you’re most confident in first, and the areas you’re least confident in last. This way, your knowledge of difficult topics will be fresh in your mind leading up to the exam.

You should also check your revision sessions against the AQA chemistry exam syllabus (or whichever chemistry syllabus you’re taking the exam for) to ensure you haven’t left out any important topics. While the GCSE chemistry exam won’t test you on every single concept, fact, and theory you’ve studied, you never know what it’s going to ask, so it’s always best to be prepared and cover all bases. 

Once you’ve figured out the priority order of different topics, it’s a good idea to create a timetable that maps out your revision sessions up to examination day. This is essential in making sure you have enough time to cover everything, and will also help you stay focussed and on-track.

Try setting a time limit for each revision session, making sure to factor in regular breaks so that you don’t burn out or lose focus – and it’s also important to give yourself something to look forward to when you’ve finished your revision sessions, whether that’s an episode of your favourite TV show or spending time with your friends. After you’ve finished revising each topic, you could also take some mock exams or practice questions to help consolidate your knowledge. 

Focus on Key Areas

While it’s important to be as comprehensive as possible when revising for your GCSE chemistry exam, focussing on key areas of different topics can help you retain information more easily.

Regardless of the examination board, you can expect ten key areas to be covered in your GCSE chemistry exam:

  1. Atomic structure and the periodic table
  2. Bonding, structure, and the properties of matter
  3. Quantitative chemistry
  4. Chemical changes
  5. Energy changes
  6. The rate and extent of chemical change
  7. Organic chemistry
  8. Chemical analysis
  9. Chemistry of the atmosphere
  10. Using resources

AQA GCSE Chemistry: Spotlight on the Periodic Table

The periodic table is one of the most important topics at chemistry GCSE, and covers five subtopics:

  1. History of the periodic table, particularly how Dmitri Mendeleev originally arranged the known elements and predicted the unknown ones
  2. How Mendeleev’s periodic table compares to the modern periodic table, like how to explain pair reversals because of isotopes
  3. How the elements are arranged based on groups and periods
  4. How electrons are arranged in an atom in terms of electron shells and orbitals. The arrangement of electrons is key to understanding chemical reactions and the relative reactivity of elements. This is also related to the chemical and physical properties of the metallic elements
  5. The distinction between metals and nonmetals in the periodic table
Periodic table of the elements illustration vector multicolour

Other Key Areas

The key areas that will appear in your GCSE chemistry exam are all covered in the UK’s national secondary school curriculum. However, not all topics and subtopics are of equal difficulty, so make sure to list the topics and subtopics that you specifically need to focus on. 

For example, you could prioritise the following quantitative chemistry topics based on how well you understand them. For example, if you find balancing equations harder than calculating mass changes, you should allocate more time to that rather than spending an equal amount of time on each topic:

  • Conservation of mass and balanced chemical equations
  • Relative formula mass
  • Mass changes
  • Chemical measurements and amounts
  • Limiting reactants
  • Concentration of solutions
  • Yield and atom economy of chemical reactions
  • The use of an amount of a substance in relation to the volume of a gas

Take a GCSE Chemistry Mock Exam

As we touched on earlier, mock exams for GCSE chemistry are very useful because they help you consolidate your knowledge while giving you a taste of the types of questions you can expect. 

So, once you’ve revised all the key areas, try answering some practice GCSE chemistry questions. Past test papers can be downloaded online, but the official mock exams for 2021 GCSE chemistry will have a scheduled release. 

When taking a practice exam, you can go one step further by trying to take it under exam conditions. Give yourself the same amount of time you’d be given in the actual exam, and try to get through it without looking at your revision notes (or Google). Doing this for every topic will make it much easier for you to manage your time during the real exam.

The scheduling of both the official mock exams and the actual GCSE chemistry exams has been largely affected by the ongoing pandemic and the vaccination program. You may want to refer to the key dates for GCSE exams this year so that you can organise your time and stay well prepared.


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