How to get a C in GCSE Maths without becoming a nervous wreck.

Adrian from Adrian Beckett Maths Tutors has kindly contributed a guest post. We LOOOOOVES guest posts at Flying Colours - if you have something about Maths you want to get off your chest, do drop me an email.

For a lot of people, getting a C in GCSE Maths can make a massive difference to their future.   I'll be talking about how you can ensure you get that C in Part 1 of the series 'How to get a C in GCSE Maths without becoming a nervous wreck'.


Whatever you do, stay calm. Glad we got that point out the way!

2. Learn your times tables

If you can't multiply confidently, it’s like sailing up stream without a paddle (or however the saying goes). In fact, it’s worse - it’s like you're floating on a piece of wood down a river with a great big waterfall heading your way. You’re not going to get a C without knowing your times tables.

3. Learn to add small digits

You need to know how to add small digits e.g 8 + 6. I can bet you some of you are still using your fingers. This will slow you down and cost you valuable time in the exam.

4. Get help if you're struggling

If you don’t know points 2 and 3 and your tutor can’t help you, get in touch with me and I’ll send over some tips.

5. Know the Big Four

Make sure you can do a  written method of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. I would recommend the column method for addition and subtraction , the grid
method for multiplication and the chunking method for division.

[Editor's note: I believe there are nice yellow books to help you with this, too.]

6. Learn the language

Like any other subject, you need to learn vocabulary for Maths too. Just pretend it’s not Maths and start learning the words like you would for Spanish or Science. Flashcards, Post it Notes are all helpful.  Repeating the word a 100 times in different voices, moods - try saying Pythagoras as if you’re in love - can be helpful too. I’ve just been through all the Foundation papers. Here are some essential words to learn:

  • Shape words

    • Perimeter
    • Area
    • Volume
    • Radius
    • Diameter
    • Parallel
    • Perpendicular
    • Line of Symmetry
    • Rotational Symmetry
    • Trapezium
    • Parallelogram
    • Kite
    • Equilateral
    • Isosceles
    • Right-angled
    • Face
    • Edge
    • Vertex
  • Number words

    • Prime Number
    • Factor
    • Multiple
    • Prime Factor
    • Square root
    • Equivalent Fraction
    • Simplest Form
  • Statistics words

    • Mode
    • Median
    • Mean
    • Range
  • Algebra words

    • Factorise
    • Expand
    • Simplify

* Comments disabled 2016-02-05 because there are only so many ways you can answer "I'm on a [grade] and need [grade], help!"

Adrian Beckett


106 comments on “How to get a C in GCSE Maths without becoming a nervous wreck.

  • zaki

    i need help with quadratic equation, specifically on the factorisation.

  • Aayushi

    I need help with area and perimeter plesdr

    • Colin

      What help do you need, precisely?

  • Alisha

    Im at a G in maths and i need to get a C within 6 months what am i going to do help

    • Colin

      Hi, Alisha – I’ll drop you an email with some ideas.

  • connor

    i have the same problem as alisha, im also on G but i think i am capable to reach a C, what advice would you give me? thanks

    • Colin

      I’d say, go to today’s post! Thinking you can is half the battle 🙂

  • Aisha

    Hi, I am at a E in maths and I need to get a C grade within 5 months, how can i achieve that within 5 months,

    • Colin

      I’d recommend reading this post.

  • Sam

    I’m applying for the position of PCB Assembler but I’m required to have at least a C in Maths and English. WTF? All you need is the ability to identify resisters, capacitors etc and be able to solder. Anyway I took my exams before the GCSE existed.

    • Colin

      Maybe they’re after people with a healthy attitude to education? I suppose you’ll need to find a way to pass the exams if you want the job. Good luck!

  • Rebecca

    Hello I really need a maths gcse and fast is there anything you can do to help me please?

    • Colin

      I believe – although there have been so many shake-ups, it’s hard to be sure – you can only sit the GCSE in the May/June exam session. The good news is, I suppose, that that gives you plenty of time to study.

  • Eve Hodson

    Hey, I need help with Maths GCSE. I’m doing the higher tier but I’m only just achieving a C and it’ll be amazing if I get a B. Is there anyway you could help?

  • Georgia Brindley


    I am retaking my GCSE maths and I particularly struggle with the calculator paper. Any suggestions?
    Many Thanks

  • morgan

    i need help with fractions and percentages

    • Colin

      Then allow me to recommend “Basic Maths Practice Problems For Dummies“, available from all good bookstores online and off. That’s not to suggest that you’re a dummy – which, in any case, I use as a term of respect and endearment.

  • Mandy

    Hi my daughters always struggled with maths and now in her last year at school. Please help she’s needs a c at least please help?

  • Faye

    hi colin would it be possible if you could send me some links so that i can revise before my exam becuase i am not sure what topics to revise for.

  • Sam

    Hi Colin,
    I.just stumbled upon your website by chance. I’ve got a maths g.c.s.e exam next month in November. I am really starting to panick can you please help. I’m taking the foundation paper and the exam.board is AQA. I struggle with unit 2 and 3 most. Please!!!!

    • Colin

      Hi, Sam,

      I’d suggest going through a few past papers (you can find them online) and seeing which questions trip you up – then do practice exercises focussing on those questions. Ask your teacher for help if you can’t find them! You might also find Basic Maths Practice Problems For Dummies to be useful (‘Dummy’ is a term of respect and endearment, of course, not an insult).

      Good luck!

      • Sam

        Thanks Colin i will do that. I don’t have a teacher probably y i’m panicking a little more, but thanks for your suggestions i will take them on.board.

  • Sarah

    Hey, i really need help with maths 🙁 i need a C within 6-7 months
    i literally need to learn the basics
    please help

  • fatima

    i am really struggling and worried about maths i got f at the moment i need to get c in this moment can you help please

  • Emily

    Hi Colin,

    I am really finding it hard to grasp maths. I am in year 13 and still haven’t passed my Maths GCSE, I got a grade F last year and I am struggling to reach a C.

    Any tips of ways I could revise??

    • Colin

      Hi, Emily,

      The main thing, I think, is to look for easy wins – where are you dropping marks and then saying “oh, I knew that!”? Where are the places you think “I’ve nearly got this, I just keep making one mistake”? Start by focussing on those and building your confidence a little at a time.

      Work hard and let me know how you get on! (And don’t be afraid to ask for help on specific topics – I’m always on the lookout for blog post topics!)

  • khadija

    i cant seem to pass my GCSE maths i’m currently studying A levels , and maths is bothering me , how can i get a C grade, i’m desperate and i have 6 months to achieve it , what can i do ;/

  • chris richardson

    hello i would like to ask you that im starting maths now and my exam is 3 months away and i would like to know is it easier to get a C in gcse maths in higher paper or foundation paper many thankssss

    • Colin

      Hiya, I’m afraid there’s no one good answer to that. For some people, it’s easier to do stuff that’s considered more basic very reliably and get the necessary points in Foundation; for others, mastering fewer (but more in-depth) topics for Higher makes more sense. Whatever you go for, I wish you the best!

  • bob

    need help i will fail at life if i dont get a C

  • Linda Abbiss

    Hi Colin, I am hoping to study for my GCSE Mathes in June as I didn’t get very good grades at school and want to achieve C or higher. I can’t start till June but haven’t done Mathes for a long time and want to get a start before my skills check and brush up abit as I’m not sure how much I will remember. Can you recommend any websites? Or books? My Daughter uses My Mathes and I thought about the CGP books but would it be worthwhile as they said it was best to wait till I start and speak to the tutor but like I said I really want to get a head start and refresh my brain beforehand so I know what I’m doing hopefully. Kind regards from Lin

    • Colin

      Hi, Lin,

      Good for you for going back — and good for you for wanting to get a head start! The CGP books are a good place to start from, certainly — and of course, I hear Basic Maths For Dummies is a nice gentle refresher of the basics!

  • cairo

    hi im at a D in maths atm and i need to get a C in the next two months??

    • Colin

      Your best bet is to come up with a revision plan based on making sure you pick up every mark you possibly can. Ask your teacher if there’s something you’re not sure of.

      Best of luck!

  • Bad at maths1+2=window

    help! I’m at a D in maths and need a C to get my dream job of working with small children (in a nursery) I’ve got 5 weeks to fix this, where shall I start?!?!

    • Colin

      First thing: don’t say you’re bad at maths! You wouldn’t tell a small child that, because it’s mean and counterproductive – the same goes for yourself.

      I would also suggest going through the last paper you did and seeing where you dropped marks – and, more importantly, where you can pick them up. If you don’t understand why you’ve lost marks on a question, ask your teacher to understand what you’d need to do to fix the problem.

      Think about how many extra marks you need for your grade, and come up with a plan for finding them.

      Good luck!

  • corbettmaths

    Hi there.l need to gain a grade C by the end of may. Im in year 11 and need some sort of help to get me get a grade c. If you could help me in anysort of way as this will be vital. Thank you
    Your sincerly
    Your faithfull
    Kind regards.
    West Kenssington

    • Colin

      I’d recommend reading some of the replies in this thread – hopefully there’s something there that will help!

  • Mohammed

    Last year I got a D and the teachers are still saying that I’m working on grade D would do you think I should do because I’m really nervous

    • Colin

      Hi, Mohammed,

      I’d set about proving them wrong! Do a few past papers, get someone to mark them, and see where you’re dropping marks — and try to fix them. Picking up even a few extra marks every week from now until the exam should get you to where you need to be!

      Good luck!

  • Ashrh

    Hi I am at a grade G in maths and I will be doing the foundation paper and I really need a grade C. I need this within 2 months and I tend to struggle on the questions and I can’t answer them plz can you help me

    • Colin

      Hi, Asha,

      It’s hard to give specific help — it sounds like you have a lot of ground to make up, but you can totally do it if you work hard. Make sure you read the questions thoroughly and ask yourself ‘what would someone who was good at maths do here?’

      Good luck!

  • Jord

    I’m currently at uni and thinking about teaching after I graduate (3 years time). I’m wondering do you have any tips on how to juggle revising for maths and studying at a higher level at the same time? (English and Philosophy student).

    • Colin

      That’s a really good question! I’d suggest treating maths as a sort of a ‘break’ activity — when you’re burned out on English, pick up the maths books for a half-hour or so and use a different part of your brain. See what level you’re at before you devote loads of time to revising maths — it might be that you already have the skills you need to pass the tests. Good luck!

  • dana

    Is it possible to get a grade C in 6 weeks :S

    • Colin

      I think you should assume the answer is ‘yes, if you work really hard!’. I don’t know where you’re starting from, but if you knuckle down on the areas where you feel you can pick up marks and really give it your best shot… why not?

  • Khadija

    Hey am at a grade G in maths am doing foundation am in year 11 & my exam on June the 11th & I really want to achieve a grade C really badly Is their anyway you can help me Please

    • Colin

      I’m afraid there’s not much I can do to help you right now (I have my hands full of babies), but you can help yourself — you need to come up with a plan of action. How can you pick up five marks a week in each paper between now and the exam? Where are you losing marks? What are the topics you don’t understand that come up all the time? Learn these. Check your answers straight away and ask your teacher or your friends for help if you don’t understand something.

      It won’t be easy, but if you work really hard, who knows?

      • Shannon

        hi Colin, i’m currently on a D in maths, my exam is coming up in 10 days time! how can i make sure i get the C i need? i really wish to achieve this grade, to be able to ensure my future.

        • Colin

          Hi, Shannon! A D is a pretty good place to be starting from. I’d suggest getting hold of your mock paper (or going through a past paper if you can’t get your mock) and trying to understand where and why you lost marks. It could be that you’re making a few careless mistakes that are easy to fix!

          • Shannon

            Thanks Colin, I’ve now been through it and going over the silly mistakes and questions which didn’t make sense. But there is one thing I do really need to help with: £3 will buy 5 meals for one person. Work out the cost of one of the meals. Give your answer in pence.
            and also:
            £100 will buy lunches for 80 school children for 5 days. Work out the cost of buying lunch for one school child for one day.
            Thanks for your help Colin!

          • Colin

            Good stuff — so what have you tried for these two? Some things to ponder: for the first one, how much would ten meals cost? For the second, how many meals does £100 buy altogether? How many would £1 buy?

  • Shayla

    Hi Colin
    I am taking a foundation maths exam in June and l am completely nervous I dislike maths so much !! I haven’t been revising as much as I should , because I have been really busy and also the fear has been putting me off from revision . My question to you is , how do I become confident in maths even if I’m not the best and what tips are there to revising maths . Do you think I can pass and achieve a C in such little time ?
    Thanks .

    • Colin

      First thing is to put aside the fear and make a small, imperfect start. Figure out where you’re getting marks and where you can pick up more. I think the best way to build your confidence is to develop the things you know and link them with other areas.

      I’d imagine it’ll take quite a lot of work to get the grade you need if you’ve been putting it off until now, but there’s no reason you can’t do it!

  • Sidra

    I am currently at College, I got a G in GCSE Maths and within 2 years I really need that C to get into university. I’m currently re-sitting Maths at college, doing Functional Skills L3. Will I ever pass Maths? It’s the one thing that is dragging me down. I just can’t get my head around it all! Please Help.

    • Colin

      It sounds like you’re doing the right thing in getting the Functional Skills qualifications first — they’ll build you up carefully from the foundations. Two years is plenty of time to get up to a C! Make a point of learning new things, linking them to things you already know, and keep looking back over the things you did a few weeks ago so you don’t forget them.

      Best of luck!

  • Nikodem Pawlowski

    Hi I’m not a year 11 but I need some advice of how to get a C grade for my end of unit test! It’s about coordinates, angles, probability, formula, volume, algebra and percentage. Please help!
    and many thanks

    • Colin

      I’d suggest going back through some of the work you’ve done in class over the last term and making sure you understand it — and especially understand how to put right any mistakes you’ve made.

      Good luck!

  • haleemah

    i need help need to get a Grade C in 4 weeks!!

    • Colin

      I suggest reading through the other replies to similar questions I’ve given in this thread — and work your socks off for the next month or so! Good luck.

      • Anonymous

        I need help urgently to get from a grade G to a grade C my real GCSE maths exam is on Thursday 4th June 2015

        • Colin

          I don’t want to sound mean here, but what do you think, realistically, are your chances of doubling your exam score in a week? I’m not saying it’s impossible (hint: read the previous comments on this article), but you’re going to have to work like a demon. The good news is, even if you don’t get the grade you need, the work you put in now will stand you in good stead in case you need to resit next year.

  • Angel

    Hi, I have my maths calculator exam next week and Im struggling to get a C. On my mock I was 2 marks off and I can’t fail this 🙁 what should I do? I don’t really struggle with anything I just end up getting really nervous

    • Colin

      Hi, that’s a good question!

      First up: keep reminding yourself that you don’t really struggle with anything — talking positively to yourself really helps.

      In the exam, make sure you read through all the questions and do the easy ones first to build up a head of steam.

      If you find yourself struggling with nerves in the exam, stop for a second, sit up straight, and take a really deep breath — and tell yourself something like “I can do this — let me give it my best shot.” Then carry on.

      Don’t be afraid to leave a question and come back to it later if it’s stressing you out.

      Good luck!

  • Jahanara

    am retaking my maths I need a C plz help me last time in school I got a G

    • Colin

      What kind of help would you like? How is your situation different to the 30-odd people above I’ve given the same advice to?

  • Sabrina

    I gained a D grade in my maths GCSE, i will be retaking in college and i will sit the exam in June 2016 could you give me some advice please. Oh and i 10 marks away from a C grade ..i scored 57 but 67 was a pass ..last year 57 was a C but the examiners raised the grade boundaries up.

    • Colin

      Hi, Sabrina – thanks for giving me some details to work with!

      This post has probably my best advice. You’re not far away from passing, so you clearly know quite a lot already — make sure you build on that.

      Good luck!

      • Numan

        Hey Collins, I’m struggling in maths I think, I am on a grade G which probably means I’m in foundation tier at the moment, my GCSEs exams are coming soon I just need some help please. I think I will fail 🙁

        • Colin

          I suggest following the advice in the comments above!

  • Naz

    Hi came across your blog I have an exam in two weeks literally had to book it asap to be able to apply for pgce I got a D previously any tips or help would be appreciated thank you in advance

    • Colin

      Sure – I think this post should have you covered!

      • labib

        hi there I am in year 9 last year I have received a level 5 what percentage is a D grade in gcse foundation paper?

        • Colin

          The threshold is typically 50-60% on the Foundation paper, 15-20% on Higher. Getting a C would need about 10-15 percentage points more.

  • ali

    Hi colin need your help asap not the greatest at maths but not the worst. Don’t really have a strong subject. I’m getting e,d and some f in my test
    what should i do
    do you only do maths

  • musicality

    How do I find the area of a shape and how do I do bodmas?

    • Colin

      The easiest way to find the area of shapes is usually to split them into shapes you know about! Triangles, rectangles and bits of a circle are especially helpful.

      B O DM AS is a mnemonic for what order you do things in — if you have brackets (or, more generally, groupings), you work them out first. If you have powers, they come next. Then multiplication and division (at the same time), and finally adds and subtraction. Do you have an example you’re struggling with?

  • Nickki

    I am doing Foundation AQA and its currently November and I am struggling so much with maths such as Algebra and Prime factors also I need it achieve a C. Can you please help me.Thank you!

    • Colin

      Hi, I’m afraid I don’t have a lot of resources about factors and basic algebra, sorry 🙁

      • Zak

        Hi, I’m currently on a D in Maths, I’ve been doing the OCR higher paper, but our school have said to us that until we can pass Foundation, no one’s doing higher. Before I was quite confident that I could pass higher with some revision, but now I’ll have to get like 80% for a C! Is there any way you could help me boost my grades? I struggle with Maths but I’m targeted an A by May, so I’m really worried…

        • Colin

          Well, that sucks. The good news is, a big chunk of the Foundation paper ought to be straightforward for you as long as you take your time and think carefully. Have you done any Foundation papers? How far are you from 80-odd percent?

          My big advice is, every time you get a question and you don’t know where to start, when you FIND OUT where to start, write down what the trick was somewhere safe. Then, next time you’re stuck, check the list of tricks to see if there’s anything that’ll help.

  • fred

    colin can you help with a question please if my wages at the moment are £13,000.00 per annum but will be going up by 1% in 6 months time using the 2015-2016 ni and tax calculator,what will be the average net monthly salary over the coming year

  • Henry

    Hi I am in year 11 and there is 4 months until my GCSE maths exam I am doing the foundation paper and I need a C to get into college. I did a mock exam this week and got a F but I didn’t revise. What can I do to ensure a C in foundation.

    • Louise

      Revise Henry! I’m in the same boat!

    • Colin

      Well… I’d start by revising and doing another mock exam. The idea is to treat them like you’d treat the real thing, so that you know how much work you have to do to get the grade you need.

      Not revising, for most people, means not taking it seriously. In the nicest possible way, you need to pull your socks up and catch up on the work.

  • Louise

    I need a c in maths and I’ve git 4 months to learn! I’m working at a D now! Do you think its achievable?

    I need help with confidence 🙂

    • Colin

      Absolutely! Follow some of the advice in the comments thread here and elsewhere on the site, work hard and you’ll be fine!

  • n

    im on a E at the moment and need to get a C by may! help!!!!

    • Colin

      Probably the best thing to do is to follow some of the advice in the comments thread here and elsewhere on the site — and work hard!

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