The daffodils are out. The temperature is occasionally above freezing. There’s a distant, but distinct, whiff of panic in the air. It’s exam season! As teenagers across the country bury their heads in books (or in the sand…), and the new GCSE grading scheme comes into effect, I thought it would be useful to share my top revision tips for kids and adults alike.
Firstly, let’s focus on the pupils being put through the exam ringer this summer. I still clearly remember crying hot tears into my French textbook the night before my GCSE, as I desperately tried to cram those last few titbits of information into my already jam-packed skull. Therein lies my first, and probably most important, piece of advice – know when to stop. Although this may sound counterintuitive, pushing yourself to the point of frustration and exhaustion will only harm your hopes at performing well in your exams. Breaks and a good night’s sleep, are just as important as the hours you put in studying; after all, the brain only has an optimal attention span of 40 minutes!
When you’re not catching up on sleep, or giving your brain a break, use your time wisely. Remember the 5 P’s – prior preparation prevents poor performance. Although it may seem tedious, a well thought-out revision schedule will allow you to make the most of your time, and will enable you to prioritise your subjects in both order of difficulty and date of the exam. Struggling with pesky Pythagoras, but happy with History? Schedule a few more maths sessions into your revision plan and you’ll be terrific at triangles. There’s your sixth P – priorities!
Let us not forget that it’s not just the students subject to these exams that experience the stress – parents fall prey to it just as much. So what can you do, and how can you help? Firstly, remember the aforementioned importance of breaks. Although these exams are important, so is maintaining your child’s wellbeing and allowing them time for their mind to cool off. Even scheduling something such as a family walk will allow the stressed student to get some fresh air, relax, and return to their studies refocused.
Secondly, remind your child that these exams are not the end of the world. Again, this may sound counterintuitive, but there is a fine line between encouragement and pressure. Of course, you want your child to succeed and do their best, but throughout my time teaching, I have had students pushed to the point of giving up because their parents will accept nothing less than an ‘A’, and they feel unable to meet such expectations. Reminding your child that all they can do is their best will go a long way to helping them feel happy and confident going into their exams.
This is never an easy time of year, and with exam criteria and marking now more rigorous than ever, it seems it will only get harder. The most important thing to remember is that a calm, rested mind is the most capable of working to its full capacity, and achieving peak performance in exams. Well-planned revision sessions, broken up with regular breaks and encouraging words from parents, can work together to create the equation that equals exam success. Good luck, and do your best – that’s the most you can do!