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Revision Techniques Gcse Science Coursework

AQA's ISA (Individual Skills Assignments)

The Controlled Assessment unit consists of two ISA papers, worth up to 50 marks. They will be worth up to 25% of your GCSE overall. That's a lot, so the ISA is something you should work hard at - it will help your final grade!

Using AQA's Specimen ISA, here we reveal the different sections, leading to our detailed advice.

Stage 0 - Glossary

You will need to be clear in your use of scientific language. Our carefully written AQA Glossary Guide provides you with a significant advantage. Start here!

Stage 1 - Planning

Before you carry out the practical, your teacher will introduce the experiment to you in a context - e.g. if asked to investigate how springs stretch under different loads, the context could be a child's toy which bounces up and down on a spring.

You then write research on the topic, using a Candidate Research Notes sheet, and plan what to do, coming up with a suitable hypothesis. e.g. you find out about the behaviour of springs, read about Hooke's Law and come up with a hypothesis that the extension of the spring will depend on the force added.

You must find two methods for your investigation as you may need to explain why you chose it.

Your Candidate Research Notes must not contain draft texts for Stage 2, so keep your research brief and in note form. You could scribble down the table headings and possible units, but don't draft a table - that's not allowed.

Stage 2 - Reporting on Planning

This is Section One of the ISA and is a written paper, done under exam conditions. In it you will have to:

  1. state and explain your hypothesis
  2. consider variables (independent, dependent and control) that you will manage
  3. use your research to show how to test your hypothesis
  4. write a detailed plan of your chosen method
  5. identify possible hazards and write a short risk assessment
  6. draw a blank table ready for results from your planned experiment.

Section One sounds really nasty, but it will always consist of the above parts, so concentrate on understanding each piece first and you should find that you quite enjoy completing the paper - if you can enjoy exams, that is!

There are two marks for the table and they're dead easy. Click here for our simple advice!

Stage 3 - Practical Work

At last, your practical! Don't worry too much about having to get "perfect results". What really matters here is that you get enough results and record them properly in a table.

You might be the best experimenter since Richard Feynmann, or as clumsy with a stopwatch as a bear unscrewing a jar of marmalade... you can still get the same marks!

Stage 4 - Processing Results

Having done your practical, you will be given some time to process the results from your table into a graph. In Physics, most graphs you do will be line graphs, but this needn't always be the case and you must decide!

There are four marks for the graph and some are really easy. Click here for our simple advice!

Stage 5 - Analysing Results

This is Section Two of the ISA, the final written paper, done under exam conditions. In it you will have to:

  1. analyse your own results
  2. draw a conclusion
  3. compare your results to your hypothesis
  4. evaluate the method of collection and the quality of the data
  5. analyse secondary data about the same topic as your investigation
  6. relate your findings to the context of the ISA.

So again there's a lot to do, but it will be in nice little sections and with practice you will do okay!

Science Revision Tips

Sarah Bowles, science teacher, offers tips on science revision...
What is Revision?
Careful Time Management
Getting Started

What is Revision?

Before we all start to totally panic about this massive and terrifying revision thing, let's chat about what revision actually is.

Revision is storing away information. It's a bit like saving information on a disc or recording some music on a tape. By being in lessons for 2 years and completing your coursework you already have all the information you need, the next stage is fixing it in your memory.

Revision gives you a greater understanding of your work and helps you use the information you know when you're doing your exams. There are different types of people, and different ways to revise.

    Most importantly:
  • Don't panic.
  • Don't worry.

Time Management

The best way to avoid these feelings is to start your revision early.

Is seems like your worst nightmare! So many subjects to revise and no idea how to start, it's not that bad.

No one expects you to lock yourself in your room and not come out for 4 months and no one expects you to forget your friends and become a hermit - in fact it is very important that you do neither of those things. The key to successful revision is careful time management.

Before you even open a book, construct a revision timetable. This is a simple plan that you must stick to, it helps you organise your time and allow you to fit in work, rest and play.

First decide which times you will not be able to revise, for example if you have a club you go to or a weekend activity you do, it is important not to stop all social activities, you will need to relax, but try to cut down to one or two occasions a week.

Next, set up your timetable so that you have 5 sessions a day each one lasting 40 minutes. If you have the sessions any longer you will get bored and loose concentration. Leave a 15 minute break between each session and longer for lunch.

Next, decide which subjects you will revise in each session, try to put similar subjects on different days, and don't put all your hard subjects in the afternoon.

Finally, give a copy of your timetable to someone at home so they can help you stick to it, put a copy on your wall so you can keep track of what you are supposed to be doing and when.

Getting Started

The easiest way to start revision is to break your work down into smaller chunks - it's not as terrifying if you have lots of smaller sections to look at.

In science, first break your work down into Biology, Chemistry and Physics.

Choose one of the sciences and write down all the topics you have covered in this subject. Do this for all three sciences. Once you have these lists you have a much clearer and simpler revision programme.

Now you have your list of things to revise you are ready to start. The most important thing is to condense your work into smaller more memorable notes.

There are different ways to tackle this stage - I'll give you some possible ideas:

  • Use your original exercise books and go through them with a highlighter pen, picking out the most useful points.
  • Make notes in a notebook including the important points from each section.
  • Use Index Cards, these are small cards which you can write basic points on, they are easy to flick through and keep tidy.
  • Record your notes by speaking them onto a tape and playing it back to yourself - It may sound stupid but some people respond better to hearing information that reading information, how many sets of song lyrics can you remember off by heart?
  • Draw mind map diagrams where you brainstorm the main ideas onto a diagram.
Use these notes as the basis of your revision. Read them through and try to understand each topic by remembering the key points and words.

You must revise each topic again and again. Don't just read them through once, it takes longer to sink in that just one reading and every time you read them more information will stick in your brain.


  • Try revising with a friend, test each other by asking questions and setting questions.
  • Use published revision guides, every exam board will have revision guides written by someone and they are often really brightly coloured and easy to read, ask your teacher which one he/she recommends.
  • Use past exam papers, try and answer the questions under exam conditions. It doesn't matter if you get them wrong, you can then go and find out the right answers.
  • Use pictures and diagrams as ways to remember things - think of cartoons or rhymes to memorise key points.
  • Read through your notes and repeat them to yourself again and again, it will eventually go in.
It is important to remember that everyone revises in different ways and there is no "correct way" just pick what's best for you.


Here are my final words of advice, Remember don't panic and good luck.
  1. Start early
  2. Break down information into small workable chunks.
  3. Construct your revision timetable.
  4. Leave yourself time to relax.
  5. Don't revise for too long at a time.
  6. Use a variety of revision methods until you find what's best for you.
  7. Re-visit your notes as many times as possible.
  8. Relax and get plenty of sleep during your revision and your exams.



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