“Your child isn’t revising but you can almost hear the clock ticking down the seconds until their exams. You’re tearing your hair out, sick to death of nagging them to just get on with it. And you’re worried! Worried that your child is going to do much worse than they should and that “doors” will close due to poor grades.”
Our guest Lucy Parsons is an experienced academic coach and has put together this post, with five strategies to motivate a reluctant reviser so that they start making progress and your stress levels drop.
1. Make sure they know how to revise
An alarming number of students have absolutely no idea how to revise. They’ve heard that you can make revision notes, create flashcards or draw mind-maps but they actually don’t know what to put down on the paper. Maybe they’ve tried, in a half-hearted kind of way, to make a few flashcards, looked at them twice and dismissed them as a strategy that doesn’t work.
When you nag them to start revising they get all defensive, shout at you and start slamming doors.
The trouble is that they won’t start revising because they don’t actually know how to do it. Your first step is to make sure that they know.
My simple process for revision is:
- Understand – it’s a great deal harder to memorise something if you don’t understand it. So, make sure they’ve taken the time to read their class notes, a text book or looked up a YouTube video so that they truly understand what they’re trying to memorise
- Record – Once they have their understanding, they then need to record it. This can be as notes, on a mind-map or poster or on flashcards. The important thing is that it’s an aid to their memory and that it’s in their own words
- Repeat – memory is gained through repetition. It’s the same for all human beings. So, they need to keep going back to the resources they made in step 2 to repeat, repeat, repeat. Twice is not enough.
2. Show them how long it is until their exams
Many students will say that it’s too soon to start revising – their exams are ‘ages’ away. What’s far more urgent is their Snapchat streak or getting on their Xbox.
To counteract this, sit down with them and create a plan that shows exactly how much time is left until their exams. If you block out things like school trips, weekends, bank holidays etc and then think about how much they can realistically study in the time left, it should give them a real shock and get them to start expending some effort.
3. Bribe them
In an ideal world you wouldn’t have to bribe your children. But, exams are looming and you haven’t got time to waste on idealism.
Short-term bribes tend to work better than long-term bribes. So, instead of promising they can go to that music festival if they get certain grades, tell them they can have an hour watching Netflix if they do 2.5 hours revision this evening, or that if they complete 15 hours of independent study this week you’ll pay for a horse-riding session at the weekend. I call these ‘mini-motivations’.
The important thing here is that you never give the reward unless they’ve done what they needed to do to earn it. You need to be 100% consistent and stick to your word.
4. Prove to them that revision is necessary
Some young people think that revision isn’t for them because they’re a) too clever and they know everything already or b) they’re not clever enough and no amount of work will ever make any difference.
With the ones who think they’re too clever, test them. For example, sit down with a biology text book and quiz them. Or, ask them to reel off 10 quotes from Romeo and Juliet that they could use in an English Literature exam. If they don’t come up with the goods, you’ll have proven that they need to do some work.
With those who believe that no amount of work will make a difference to their grades get them to do an experiment. So, for example with the English Literature quotes get them to focus on learning three over a weekend in a concerted way. They must try. I bet they’ll know them better by the end of the weekend and you’ll have improved their confidence in their ability to revise as well as in their ability to improve.
5. Uncover their big ‘why’
Some students will say it’s not worth revising because they don’t see the point of the exams, anyway. They may not have any clear direction or goal.
In this day and age it’s hard to pin-point a career and work tirelessly until you achieve it. Afterall, most of the jobs our young people will end up doing don’t even exist yet. But, they will have some idea about what they’re good at, what they’re interested in and what kind of lifestyle they want to lead.
Start helping them to break this down so that they can see that there is something for them to work towards – even if it’s not terribly concrete at the moment. In my experience saying that you have to work hard ‘to get a good job’ is simply not enough.
We hope you’ve found these tips helpful. If you’d like some more advice on helping your child to reach their full academic potential, download my free advice sheet, 10 Steps to Exam Success.
Lucy Parsons is an academic coach, author of The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take, and the host of The School Success Formula podcast. Visit her website, lifemoreextraordinary.com.