Examinations are important – whether we (students, parents and teachers) like it or not. The government has ordered that examinations must be made harder and has also told schools to make more use of the results of examinations and other assessments when monitoring students’ progress. As a result, it is more important than ever for your child to be properly prepared before sitting any examination.
Examinations make people nervous. There is something ‘unknown’ and therefore threatening about them, the pressure is on to do well and there is a lot of revision to do to prepare for them. ‘Examination Weeks’, where students sit examinations across a number of subjects, are a particularly tough challenge. Sometimes, pressure and nervousness, which can be helpful, lead to stress, which is unhealthy.
As parents, you can play an important part in supporting your child and helping him/her through this challenging process. That certainly doesn’t mean doing any of the work! Your role involves encouraging your child, monitoring what s/he is doing and creating an appropriate environment for revision to take place.
So, how might you go about monitoring your child’s revision?
It is important not to leave revision until the last minute because that just adds to stress levels. ‘A little, often’ is a good way to approach revision. Here are some tips we give students:
• Do about 30 minutes and then take a short break
• Avoid distractions like having the TV on
• Don’t just focus on favourite or ‘easy’ subjects
• Don’t overdo it in a day – give yourself time away from your books
Your child should have created a revision timetable. You can click here to download a blank copy. Ask to see the timetable. It will help if you check that your child is sticking to it. Ask to see the work from the subjects listed for that day. We tell the students to make revision active so that they are doing something rather than just turning pages over in an exercise book. For example, we suggest that they might:
• Break notes up into bullet points
• Read the notes aloud
• Record the notes and play the recording back
• Make flash cards of key points
• Create spidergrams or mind maps
• Make up mnemonics to help remember lists
Talk to your child about the revision work s/he is doing. You might do a quick test on facts needing to be learned or ask your child to talk you through a revision diagram.
If your child is in Years 7-10, the Winter Examination Week involves ‘seen’ papers. In other words, your child gets to see the questions in advance so that s/he can do really focused revision and learning. For older students, many of the questions will be from past GCSE examination papers. Make sure that your child has the questions to hand.
If your child is in Year 11, the examinations will consist of ‘real’ GCSE questions set in previous years. Your child should be building up a folder of revision notes. These notes will be needed for future examinations.
It’s important to be supportive
Whatever impression they may give, all children like to be praised. Being supportive and encouraging will help your child during the examination period. A few words of praise will reduce tension and stress levels. Building ‘rewards’ into the revision timetable will also help to keep your child focused – watching a favourite TV programme, 30 minutes on Play Station or a few days away from revision during the holidays, for example. The most important thing is to praise effort – even if not all the facts have been accurately remembered or an answer written completely correctly.
A quiet place to work
Effective revision requires your child to be fully focused on the work so revising in front of the television isn’t going to be productive. The best place to revise is somewhere quiet and away from distractions. A desk or table will also help so that your child can spread out books, folders and notes. The space should be well lit because poor lighting can lead to eye strain and headaches.
Finally, examinations are a test of endurance so it is important to ensure that your child eats regularly and healthily (not snacks such as crisps and biscuits or fizzy, sugary drinks) and that s/he gets plenty of sleep.