By Bella Audsley
While exams test your knowledge and understanding, revision tests your organisation and planning.
Although the revision period presents different challenges for different learners, we often find that families seek support with similar issues. However, supporting teenage children through their exams can present its own unique challenges. Here are our tips for what, when and how to revise for GCSEs and A levels to make sure that this year’s exam period doesn’t end up testing your family’s patience.
This may be your child’s first experience of sitting public examinations across all subjects and although they might not directly ask for support, they may find it helpful to talk through their revision and exam schedule with somebody. Due to the breadth of subjects at this level, and the number of exams, we recommend making a revision plan as early as possible to ensure that students avoid last-minute intensive studying or missing out a key topic.
This summer, Year 11 pupils will be the first to sit exams with the new numbered grading system. Rather than being graded from A-E, students will be graded 9-1. The new updates to the curriculum also involve sitting the majority of the exams at the end of the two-year course, with fewer opportunities for coursework. These changes will therefore put more emphasis on in-depth understanding as pupils will be tested on two years’ learning. We recommend organising a calendar of topics to revise and working backwards from the examination dates, in order to allow enough time to cover all the necessary content. It is especially important to make a note of the subjects that are examined before May half term as the period from February through to early May, notably the Easter holidays, will be a key time for establishing a good revision routine.
If your child sat mock examinations this winter, they will have had an opportunity to experience coordinating a range of exams for different subjects – and in close succession. Mock examinations offer an excellent insight into the topics and study skills to target in revision. We recommend prioritising and specifying particular topics (past tense conjugations) and not just the general subject (French). This will cut down procrastination time and make revision more efficient and focused. Your child may need guidance with this as it can be overwhelming to organise so many subjects.
A levels allow your child to specialise in their favourite subjects. These exams require thorough understanding, analysis and often a more personal response than at GCSE level. It may therefore be appropriate to incorporate different methods into revision, such as listening to podcasts, watching debates and discussing topics with peers.
As sixth form students take on more responsibility for their learning, they may find it helpful to revise at school or in a public library, free from the distractions of technology. Nevertheless, due to the pressure of these final school exams, and their impact on further study, students may find it helpful to have an adult around when they are working. Parents can provide support by encouraging their children to take breaks and exercise; an evening trip to the cinema can help to disconnect from studying.
Although it may feel like opening up a difficult debate, a good night’s sleep is essential to effective revision. There is more and more research into the sleep patterns of teenagers and its impact on learning. The Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of Oxford has found that due to the need for 8 – 10 hours’ sleep a night, teenagers might benefit from a late morning start. Although everyone is different, and some teenagers may prefer starting work early to free up the afternoon, we recommend spending approximately 5 hours a day on revision with regular breaks to divide learning into manageable blocks. Encouraging your child to get sufficient sleep and eat healthy meals is a good way to support them through this period. If in doubt, it also helps to have a rainbow selection of stationery items on standby…