It may be the oddest “exam” year ever, but with assessments planned for all Year Eleven students after Easter, there is still the need for revision. With that comes the need for guidance on how to handle this period – hence this blog post! Here are some tips on how you can help your child use this time effectively, in order to ensure they perform at their best. These tips are also handy for students at any stage of their secondary schooling.
- The timetable
Students need to decide how many hours a day they will dedicate to revision. This will of course vary depending on whether or not they are at school or on holiday, and will also need to take into account their extracurricular activities. Whilst it may be necessarily to make a few adjustments to their hobbies during the exam season, exercise and socialising will support their academic performance, so avoid withdrawing them from all extra-curricular activities.
The number of hours will also depend on the student, and needs to be realistic. As an incredibly rough ballpark figure, during the holidays, I would recommend about four hours a day of revision for students who have exam periods coming up in the summer. This may be too much for some students, and that is fine, so do not panic if this sounds huge. A student with ADHD may simply not be able to commit to more than a couple of hours, or even an hour, and there is no point setting expectations that they cannot reach. It may be better to start revision earlier, so that these students have more time and can therefore do a smaller number of hours each day.
The next thing to consider is when to do revision. I always preferred to revise in the morning and early afternoon, so that I would then have the remainder of the day free to do what I wanted to do. Your child may perform better in the afternoon and evening, although at their age, late night cramming sessions and the dreaded all-nighter are not to be encouraged.
Deciding how much time to dedicate to each subject is another area where I sometimes see students fall down. It is very tempting to prioritise the subject that is coming up first in the exam schedule, but students need to be careful they do not subsequently neglect subjects coming up afterwards and leave insufficient time to prepare for these.
On the revision timetable, students should also make a note of which topics they are going to cover in each revision session, to ensure they are getting a good balance. A final warning on revision timetables – do not let your child waste time decorating it! It should be clear, but it does not need to be pretty!
- The Strategy
When revising, students need to use a mixture of different revision styles. If reading notes genuinely works for your child then that is fine, but most people need to make their revision more active, for example by taking notes or highlighting key sections. Other possible strategies to use could be index cards, posters, flash cards and mind maps.
However, perhaps the most important revision technique that many students neglect, is actually practising questions. This can involve a mixture of planning answers, and also writing them out in timed conditions. If possible, students can seek out feedback from their teachers. I know when I was a classroom teacher, I was happy to mark extra essays for students, but so few of them took me up on this! If teacher feedback is not possible, then some form of self-assessment is needed, using mark schemes available. Alternatively, if your child has a revision buddy, then he/she could ask them to give them some feedback on their work.
- The Environment
When students are doing their revision, the area needs to be clean and tidy, with good daylight. Whilst it is not necessary to wait on them hand and foot, bringing them drinks and snacks may help them to avoid classic distraction opportunities. We all know that a trip to get a cup of tea can easily turn into an hour watching something on the television if we are not careful. Ideally, they need to revise somewhere where there is a television. If music genuinely helps them to work, and there is evidence that for some students it does, then this can be used, but they should choose their accompanying soundtrack wisely.
- The night before
As I have said, all-nighters and cramming sessions are a no-no. They will not work, and will result in your child going into the examination exhausted and stressed. Ideally, the night before the examination they should watch a television programme they like and then get an early night. In the morning, they need to have breakfast and ensure they stay hydrated (although not so hydrated they are in danger of needing the toilet constantly!)
- Other opportunities
If your child struggles to stay motivated when revising independently, or perhaps needs more teacher input, then have a look at the options of live revision classes and courses online These can help your child focus, and it is also beneficial to revise with other students. I would avoid necessarily booking your child into a course everyday, as this could be counter productive, but they are definitely something to consider.
If your child is struggling with English, then Bright Sky Tutoring can help. We offer one to one and small group tutoring for KS2, KS3, KS4 and KS5, as well as adult learners. Founded by myself in 2020, Bright Sky Tutoring is all about helping students find their spark and fulfil their potential. To find out more, email email@example.com.