The Complete Parent's Guide to GCSEs

Top Revision Advice Parents Need Around Exam Times

With higher grade boundaries coming into play, and revision expectations causing increased stress, it can be particularly difficult to engage with students to give them the support you feel is necessary.

However, it’s important you don’t go in “all guns blazing” when it doesn’t seem like your child's revision isn’t being particularly effective. Instead, offer consistent support and revision advice that will help them be more motivated to achieve, and help them to use their revision time more effectively.

It’s important to hone in on the idea that with more effective tools, techniques and the correct revision schedule in place, they will actually have more free time to do what they love (and learn to love revision that little bit more).

Have you found that your child just won’t revise? Check out our chapter: Revision Motivation 101!

1. Help your child make a revision timetable

There is no set amount of time that your child should be revising because every child learns and retains information at different rates.

Of course, it’s only natural that you want your child to reach their full potential. This is why it is important that you’re aware of how your child is performing at school at regular intervals, to see if there are any notable changes that signify more work revision is necessary for their own benefit. (That last part is important to keep in mind - remember they aren’t revising to please you.)

In fact, research shows that revision is better little and often so remember to encourage a focus on the quality vs. the quality of revision.

The key to helping your child revise more often (and be happier doing it), is by breaking big tasks into small, manageable chunks to incorporate into a timetable. Life coach Lynn Scott offers us an awesome snippet of advice that I’m sure both parents and students can relate to:

Stop pretending you ‘don’t have time’ for things and admit that these are the things that are actually too hard or too scary to tackle right now. Once you can admit that to yourself, you can break the task down into small steps and ask for help if you need it.”

2. Suggest useful revision and anti-procrastination tools

Mobile phones can seem like your worst enemy when you think your child should be revising. Instead of banning technology in the house - be proactive and encourage ways they can incorporate their mobile phone into their studies.

For example, a student can use a phone as a timer to test how quickly they can get through a set of flashcards. There are even apps you can download that give you rewards if you don’t pick up your phone for a set amount of time. 

Check out some amazing revision tools, that will help your child develop a healthier relationship with their mobile phone. Be sure to share this article with your child around revision time!

3. Buy a Whiteboard (or blackboard paint)

Lack of space can sometimes hinder a student’s ability to express all their wild and wonderful ideas. Invest in a whiteboard and some wacky coloured whiteboard pens so they can get the most out of their revision. Some students take up to 10 subjects for GCSE - that's a whole lotta information - give them an outlet to express their knowledge and make brightly coloured mind maps!

Blackboard paint is a whiteboard alternative that will provide a similar solution. It’s also pretty awesome for teenagers all year round as it can be used to express creativity when they’re feeling particularly unmotivated.

4. Encourage contextual learning

Try sitting down with your teenager to think about ways they could apply what they are revising to real-life situations. For this to be even more beneficial, try being subtle about how you approach it.

Take a teenager who is studying Shakespeare in GCSE English. Over dinner, you could discuss cool ways you could adapt a Shakespeare play for a movie in the 21st century that you’d both actually watch.

If it’s science they’re struggling with, find some awesome science websites that you could browse together, that'll peak their motivation for learning the subject. This relies on you being super proactive - but we promise it will be worth it.

5. Explore plenty of revision techniques

We spoke to experts for this one, as you may well be wondering what is the best (and proven) way to revise.

Dr. Jennifer McGahan, Lecturer in Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University, offers her best advice to give to your child when they're knuckling down with revision:

My top tip for revision is to test yourself. Studies show that most students choose to revise by making notes and repeatedly studying them. Revising in this way makes the content feel more and more familiar each time they are read, giving you a false sense of ‘knowing’ the information. Remember, exams require you to recall information not read it!

A more effective form of revision involves testing yourself. A test can take many forms, such as completing a past exam paper, creating a mind map or perhaps telling your cat some interesting facts about Freud! As long as you are recalling information from your memory without relying on books or notes, you are testing yourself.

Testing can feel counterintuitive because it takes more effort than note reading and you may not recall much information to start with. Do not let this put you off, the harder your brain works during the test the better your memory will be in the end.

Henry Roediger at Washington University named this phenomenon the ‘testing effect’. Many studies have demonstrated the long lasting benefits of the testing effect in undergraduates, schoolchildren and adults. All participants retained information for longer when information was repeatedly tested compared to repeatedly studied.

My top tips for testing yourself are:

  • Create elaborate links between new information and existing knowledge, this will make it easier to cue yourself during tests.
  • Make sure that you do not learn any mistakes during testing. This is especially important if using multiple-choice tests as the right and wrong answers can be very similar.
  • Try to space out testing sessions to give your brain a chance to catch up with all your new learning!

6. Consider private tuition

If your child is struggling with a particular subject, and this is affecting their motivation to revise, they could benefit from a private tutor. In fact, research shows that a private tutor can help students improve by up to 3 grades. 

It is important to pick an expert tutor that suits your needs, so make sure you send plenty of messages to tutors to see if they can provide that extra motivation. This tool is the perfect way for you to find and message tutors near you, and read trusted reviews so you can be confident you’ve chosen the right one.

7. Help keep perspective 

We spoke to Bene't at over at GCSE exam board OCR. He gave us a plethora of wonderful advice for parents to offer to their teens when times begin to get tough;

Teenagers are less likely to be stressed if they feel prepared, but keep an eye out if your child has a tendency to overdo the revision - this can make them even more stressed.

Make sure they avoid last minute cramming, as there is only so much a brain can assimilate in in a day. If it’s all getting too much encourage them to forget the revision timetable for a couple of hours and do something completely different, such as meeting a friend.

If your child returns from an exam saying it’s all gone very badly wrong make sure they don’t dwell on it and get on with the next one. And let them know even if they haven’t done as well as they could it’s really not the end of the world!

As Bene't summarised perfectly, GCSEs aren't the end of the world. It is much harder, but still very possible to get a job and get into university without them.

Family Camping Trip

For all you outdoorsy folk, a campfire is a perfect opportunity to bring the family together. The collaborative nature of gathering wood, starting the fire and cooking food will fuel your enthusiasm to achieve a shared goal - something every great team needs to be awesome. Here is a wonderful recipe for smores, and a great campfire guide.

Up next: Motivation 101 if Your Child Just Won't Revise

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