How hard is it to get a 9 in GCSE Chemistry?
GCSE Chemistry can be a nerve-wracking subject as it not only involves learning the content, but being able to apply it to experiments and the use of equations. But, getting a 9 is definitely not impossible! Around 15% of students get awarded a 9 at GCSE, with grade boundaries varying each year, fluctuating between requiring around 70-80%. In papers you should be aiming for at least 80%.
Where can I find GCSE Chemistry past papers?
With a quick Google search you should be able to find as many past papers as you need. Websites like Save My Exams and Revision Science have a great collection, but make sure they’re specific to your exam board.
The exam board websites also have copies of the papers and mark schemes, alongside examiners reports which detail the most common mistakes made in each paper. Always head to your teachers too for any supply of past papers they have. It is worth noting that the most recent papers are inaccessible to pupils, as most teachers use these as mock exams.
Papers from other exam boards can be useful practice too but be mindful of whether the content is relevant to your exam board – use the specifications to check the syllabus if you come across a question that you don’t seem to recognise!
Don’t just stick to past papers though! Topic specific revision is just as important to make sure you’re making improvements that will boost your grade.
What are the best ways to revise for GCSE Chemistry?
This is definitely not one size fits all. What works for some might not work for others, but overall you want to make sure you’re actively learning the content, rather than passively revising. Splitting revision into 4 main sections can be a great approach to ensure you have covered all bases.
- Identify what you don’t know.
So much anxiety comes from not even knowing what it is you don’t know. Get up your exam board specification and treat it like your bible. Traffic light the specification to identify what you don’t know or understand (red), what you need more practice with (orange) and what you’re confident you know and can apply (green).
- Work on your understanding
Once you’ve found your ‘red’ topics, go back to your class notes and text books to help you understand them. Don’t spend years trying to redo any notes but writing a few things out can help you get your head around them. If you don’t have good notes to look at, websites like Physics and Maths Tutor and BBC bitesize have excellent notes, and videos can be great too so have a quick look on YouTube. Crashcourse videos and BBC bitesize are amazingly helpful!
- Learn it.
This is the bit most pupils don’t to, arguably because it’s boring and time consuming. But skipping this step will ultimately lead you to that horrible feeling in the test where the answer is on the tip of your tongue, but you just can't reach it. Save yourself the gut-wrenching feeling and grab those flashcards. Use premade ones so you don’t waste loads of time writing and can actually practice them. There are some on Quizlet, some on Physics and Maths tutor too. Get your friends to test you so that you have some solidarity!
- Apply those skills
Finally, you need to properly test that you can apply this knowledge. Get up those past paper questions, mark them yourself and just keep going. When you get closer to the exam make sure you’re doing these under timed conditions and practice the exam conditions as rigorously as possible. Sometimes you’ll find you need to go back to steps 2 and 3, and that’s totally normal!
Whatever you do, don’t leave it to the last minute. There is a huge amount of content to cover, and this is almost impossible to do in a few weeks time. Start now. A little bit every day, a larger bit every week, just make sure you’re lightening your workload by starting as early as possible. It is also important to make sure that you don’t set yourself too ambitious a target each week. Constantly missing your targets can be hugely demoralising. Be ambitious, but also be realistic. If something is taking longer than you think it should, that’s totally fine! Reach out to others around you, including friends and teachers, to help explain these challenging topics.
Key findings from past examiners reports for GCSE Chemistry
Terms like compound, atom, molecule and particle are often misused. Make sure you are as confident with these as possible so that you don’t use them incorrectly in your answers. Make sure to use this scientific terminology too, as mark schemes often award specific words rather than generic ideas.
- Key demand words
If you need to explain, explain. If you need to describe something, then write a description so that someone who can't see it could visualise it. If you need to compare something, compare it!
- Read the question!
If you need to write the ion, don’t write out the word. If you’re stuck in a calculation re-read the question so that you can find more information. If you need two reasons, give two reasons! Just make sure your answer is relevant to what the question is asking. Don’t just repeat the wording of the question either.
Often candidates do not give observations but give explanations. A surprising number of pupils also forget to learn the common observations of acid reactions and displacement reactions so make sure you’re not one of them! Place more emphasis on practical methods and expected observations when revising experiments.
Covalent, ionic and metallic bonds are all strong. Intermolecular forces are usually the weak ones. Often these get confused, resulting in marks being lost for incorrect explanations of why substances have high/low boiling points. The topic of giant covalent structures is definitely one to revise – don’t talk about intermolecular forces here! Similarly, make any dot and cross diagrams clear to mark.
- Show your workings
Marks are awarded for method in calculations, so make sure these are clear and visible! If the question states “show, by calculation” and your method is not clear then you will not be awarded full marks.
- Learn the diatomic molecules.
Have no fear of ice cold beer! The seven diatomic elements: Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Fluorine, Oxygen, Iodine, Chlorine, Iodine and Bromine.
GCSE Chemistry Tutors
With tutors based in London and available online to families around the world, Keystone is one of the UK’s leading private tutoring organisations. Find out more about our GCSE Chemistry Tutors and iGCSE Chemistry Tutors.