How To Help Your Child With GCSE and A Level Revision

The prospect of exams – and work to be done – can be an overwhelming thought for students, which can lead to feelings of hopelessness or apathy about revising for their exams. When talking to our customers, we often get asked questions regarding parental support during exam season – here are the most common ones, along with our advice.

How can parents help their children revise?

Parental support, encouragement and interest can make a spectacular difference to your child’s motivation and ability to cope with the academic and organisational demands of the exam period. More specifically, we would advise parents to:

  • Discuss and agree a rough framework to help students strike a sensible “work/life” balance”
  • Be flexible and supportive – use the 80/20 rule. For example, agreeing to a special night out /event can be a great “reward” and doesn’t need to be detrimental to revision if you help them work out how to catch up
  • Rather than berating your child if he/she feels demotivated or struggles with balancing all the demands on their time, talk to them about the issues, acknowledge their feelings and help them find a sensible solution
  • Teenagers often take an all or nothing ‘catastrophic’ approach to difficulties so if your child asks for your support, encourage them by helping them to see the difficulties in perspective.

What are the most effective revision techniques?

Everyone has different learning styles so the best approach is for students to try out different techniques and find out what works best for you. However the essential things are to:

  • Have a realistic revision timetable to help get into a good study routine and make revision feel more manageable
  • Have a clear goal for each revision period and try and make the revision as “active as possible” eg by testing yourself at the end of the session to assess progress
  • Not waste time struggling or prevaricating. Note down anything you are finding hard and take it to your next lesson or if on study leave, phone friends or your teachers

How can students establish which revision techniques are the most useful for them?

There is a vast array of learning techniques that students can try to see what works best for them. Some of the most popular techniques are:

  • Flash cards to help with consolidation and testing of knowledge
  • Topic focused posters encapsulating the key points/diagrams
  • Spider diagrams to help form connections between points
  • Online tests and quizzes to assess progress on specific modules or topics
  • Working with a “study buddy” on a specific subject or topic
  • Past papers to test exam technique and knowledge

How important is exercise, a healthy diet and sleep?

Preparing for exams is mentally and emotionally demanding, which makes a healthy lifestyle and good nutrition even more important than ever. Sleep is key to effective learning and various research studies show that good sleep patterns help learners consolidate knowledge whereas a lack of sleep results in poor coping strategies for managing stress and ‘fuzzy’ thinking.

What can parents do to help their child manage and reduce stress during exam season?

For children who are feeling stressed, parents can help by providing perspective, listening to worries and providing support/encouragement. Exams aren’t everything! Whatever happens in the exams, you can still be successful in life afterwards. It’s natural for students to worry about their exams, so encourage them not to beat themselves up about it and to stay positive by thinking about how far they have come already rather than panicking about how much they have to do.

There are lots of different ways to de-stress – try looking online for practical tips and tools to help maintain motivation and reduce stress. Here are links to a couple of our favourites:

The Mix 

Young Minds

How can parents help their child if they are struggling to know where to start with their revision?

Our top tips to help kick start revision are:

  • Do a list of exam dates & revision topics: Take each subject and break it down into topics, using the specification or text book to create a useful list of everything that needs to be learnt. Also note down any specific skills/areas that need greater work.
  • Make a revision plan. Creating a day-by-day plan can be really motivational for students and makes revision feel more manageable by breaking revision into chunks. By helping students prioritise, it also reduces the risk of them running out of revision time. Plans can be as simple as a list of what needs to be done each week up to hour-by-hour colour coded works of art. Don’t expect students to stick 100% to their plan – things change and the plan will need to adapt. Its also good to leave some” blank” time close to each exam in case they need to revisit anything.
  • Organise/complete notes. If their notes are the starting point for revision, make sure they are complete and in the right order. If they are not sure, encourage them to talk to their teacher and ask for the teacher to check their notes. If their notes are in a really bad state, try using a revision guide as the basis for revision – just make sure that the guide is for the right exam board and specification.

Is it ok to have the TV on and/or listen to music when revising? What about phones?

Research has shown that students who study in a quiet environment can recall more than those who revise while listening to music. Extroverts, and those with an exceptional ability to control their attention, are not negatively affected as much: but it doesn’t help. Phones can be distracting and evidence shows that undergraduate students who spend more time texting and using social media get lower grades. In another fascinating study, researchers found that the mere sight of a phone was enough to reduce a person’s ability to focus. The implication couldn’t be clearer: out of sight really is out of mind.

How many hours per day should children spend doing revision?

The reality is that there is no miracle number for how many hours you should study for an exam as everyone has different capabilities and learning styles. However, a good starting point is to look at what students themselves are saying. According to The Student Room, between 15 – 20 hours is the average revision time for a massive community of students. Think that’s too much or too little? Why not try it for a week and adjust your revision time if necessary? The key thing to remember is that you need to understand and recall the key topics of each subject.

Don’t forget, preparing for exams is like a marathon – students need to give themselves time for training and practice, pacing themselves before sprinting at the end of the race.

For further information on how to keep students motivated, visit this webpage.