Revision: a survival guide


Sue Laidlaw says parents can provide plenty of practical help to their children in preparation for exams

Along with parents throughout the land, at points throughout the year - and many times inbetween - our house is full of the sense and feel of pre-exam revision- and all that goes with it! This can include a) too many dirty mugs left in bedrooms b) great consumption of chocolate biscuits and many other signs, familiar to parents at this point in life.

Our children- and parents, by default, live in a very exam-orientated world these days- SATs, entrance exams, GCSEs, AS, A2- not to mention internal school tests and end of year exams. And then there are the mock exams on top of that- practising for the real thing!

So, we might wonder, is there any point in so many exams and, in particular, those mock exams? It can sometimes feel as if our children are so busy revising for the next exam, or mock exam, that there is no time to embrace and enjoy the subject matter and explore the subject.

Opinion, both within schools and families, is divided on the benefits. Mocks kick in pre-GCSE and they are clearly helpful. Indeed, the results are important for schools in order to assist in the prediction of grades and to help everyone to focus on strengths and also on the shortfall and weaker areas on which to work. For pupils, there are clear benefits and whatever is learned and revised at this point, five or six months prior to the real event, is a real investment. Mocks can act as a wake up call pinpointing areas on which to work. Sometimes, there is no doubt, that the whole situation can also be rather demoralising if not handled with common sense and sensitivity.

So how do we ensure that we all keep the balance between an exam drenched few years and a time of life where so many new excitements and interests are opening up? I asked a few that know......

Many parents, in the thick of it, with two, three or even four children in the exam phase agreed that the old adage, “a little bit of everything does you good” is worth following. Academic studies form a vital part of life- but so do family, friends, sport and hobbies. Getting the right balance appears to be the trick in producing the most rounded students as well as the best results. Family meals and family holidays are good for keeping life balanced.

Much has been written about how to revise- the tips and tricks; looking at whether you are a visual, aural or kinaesthetic learner and so on. All this is useful- essential, in fact, but I was interested to know what happens behind all those front doors! How can we, as parents, create an atmosphere that is conducive to such academic rigour. So I conducted a little more market research which although not scientific is anecdotal and helpful.

It sounds obvious but a simple common-sense approach works wonders- slightly earlier nights (for everyone!), reduced (but not eliminated screen time), no visitors to stay- and no drunken parties (parents in particular, take note!)

And the students themselves?

They came up with some ideas about how they get through revision and exam weeks....they all felt that having something planned to look forward to doing was a must. Exercise came high up the agenda too and, in our house, I’ve definitely noticed that more revision equals more exercise! Watching films; going for bike rides; chocolate....all play their part.

Finally, what would our hard worked students ask of their parents at these times? Help with a revision table for some; the provision of plenty of delicious food and cups of teas from others. And a universal and resounding plea from them all- parents please don’t nag us!

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Harriet Hoult