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How to help your child nail exam revision

Mocks exams are coming up and this year, they could be rather vital in determining final grades. Want your kid to get some revision advice? Well, look no further.

Here we are again: another year, another set of school kids who are going to have their GCSEs and A Levels graded by less than usual means. What that means precisely – well no one really knows, do they, Gavin? But if we’re in the realms of educated guesswork, which is as good as anything these days, the upcoming mock exams might prove to be rather important.

So, while we scrabble around at home trying to keep in paid employment while simultaneously tidying, cleaning and feeding, we also need to impart the importance of the next few weeks on our beloved offspring while also furnishing them with the tools to revise effectively and efficiently. It’s just another bloody thing to add to the list, right? Well, yes, it is, but help is at hand.

Enter stage left OXSWOT (with mortar board in one hand and large whisky for parents in the other); a fantastic Oxford-based bespoke online tutor service, with some of the best private school teachers on its books. We asked founder Sabrina Shortland to hear how she would motivate the charming Gen Z members with whom we share our homes and the results are rather useful. So, print them off, hand them to your youth (or maybe Pritt Stick them to their foreheads) and send them, forearmed and forewarned, to their rooms.

1. Work hard to play hard

Having a timetable for your revision that helps you plan out the time you spend working is critical. And, yes, although it is an essential way of managing your time, making sure you stay on top of all the necessary topics and get everything covered, it’s also HUGELY important to know when you can rest, recuperate and party. We’re none of us a machine and so it’s absolutely key that you know when to reward yourself, guilt free. If you are faced with one big block of endless revision and papers, or worse, endless revision and not enough time to get it all done, you’ll be heading on a one way train to exam stress, burn out or procrastination.

Not sure how to build a revision plan? No problem. Start with these suggestions.

i) Look back at your recent report card, assessments or folders and isolate the topics that are your ‘weakest’ areas. I mean this in the kindest way, it can be all too tempting to consolidate further on our known ‘strengths’ and, without being too binary about it, sometimes you need to look at things objectively and isolate the stuff that’s holding you back. Start with that stuff first.

ii) Make a list of those topics. How long do you need to cover each? What or who will help you untangle a concept or formula quickest? Can someone in your class screen shot you some of their notes? Don’t be proud, take steps to get ahead.

iii) If half term or Easter is stretching ahead of you, consider using your school timetable to organise your time. Shift the whole thing so you can start a bit later and remember you can cut out all the things like registration or tutor time. If you want to, you could work on the subjects in the order that they might come in your week usually or, if you want to be really efficient, move things around to target certain subjects during the most productive parts of your day. Always sluggish during Maths last thing on a Friday? Move it!

iv) There are lots of handy apps out there to help organise your time if you’d rather wave goodbye to the school timetable for a week or two. Study Timetable or Weekly Timetable are two such examples available on the app store.

Sometimes these can just be a hindrance rather than a help (pen and paper can be surprisingly effective…) however, a free one that has a nice colour coding system you might want to try is called Timetable. You can add in tasks for the chunk of time you allot for each subject and tick them off when you’re done: 

2. Variety is the spice of life

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How we learn varies from person to person and it will come as no surprise that the world of education has long explored different models. You might process things best when they’re plonked in front of you in a handy pack of text, sources and a reading list. Some of you might need things to be visually engaging to get them etched into your grey matter. What you need to consider is what works best for you and be prepared that this may differ from subject to subject. What’s more, when it comes to retaining information, variety really is the spice of life. You need to recall that information in as many ways as possible whether that be memorising, scribbling down, making a voice note, being tested by a friend or relative, using Quizlet, Kahoot, the list goes on. Repetition in all formats is key and throw in colour associations to help you, too.

3. Go for gold

On the subject of colours, take some time to think about when you are at your most productive in the day. It’s likely that first thing in the morning might not be when you’re at your finest, so make the most of time away from school by shifting your schedule to start later in the day. The most critical thing though is recognising when you are flying! Are you most efficient and effective in the two hours before lunch? When you are, you need to go for gold! Tackle the tougher topics head on or plough your way through a big chunk of material. The work you do during a gold patch will count for at least double an after lunch slump or early morning fug.

4. Lastly, it’s possible to revise TOO MUCH!

Not words anxious parents want to hear but yes, really. It’s often the case that students spend too much of their time doing the ‘revision’ part of exam preparation. Clearly you need to consolidate, you might even need to relearn things if you are on a particularly gruelling A level course, but it’s important to get enough exam practice in. You’d never hope to pass your driving test just by reading books on how to do it: you pass your theory and then get out on the road to apply and develop your skills. So get those exam style questions in! You should have practice papers or questions from your school and there are also plenty floating around on the internet. If you need more, knock on that teacher’s door and ask for them! Applying your knowledge and skill set is as essential as the revision itself.

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