Once again it has come to the time of the year when exams are the only topic of conversation at the school gate, students who are preparing for their exams will spend the next few months revising, worrying about revising and then worrying about whether they are doing enough revising. While parents add to the stress, as we worry about our children revising and then we worry about them worrying about their revising!
As a mum, I still feel totally exasperated every time exams come around trying to encourage my children to study. Over the years I have come to realise that my children are not being difficult by not studying. Teachers tell children what to study but they don’t tell students how to study.
In my experience as a mum of four children, schools don’t proactively work out how best to help children to actually study. Early on there is little guidance on the practical side of things, but even down to the simplest aspect like how to summarise notes my children still appear to be clueless. Strategies suggested for revision have been non-existent and anything that has been suggested has been generic and not taken into account their individual learning style.
All children want to do well, but for many they are just overwhelmed, studying is really not about reading and highlighting notes even if there is essay planning thrown in for good measure. If this hasn’t really worked in the past it is certainly not going to be the answer for the important exams looming closely ahead.
Teenage learners seem to fall into three mindsets. Those who instinctively know how to tackle revision; those who feel completely overwhelmed and procrastinate; and then the largest group who completely underestimate the amount and depth of work they need to do before the big day.
From a young age, children need to learn about applying the right learning strategy to the right task. These are teachable and learnable skills. In educational speak this would be referred to as “metacognition” and simply means “learning to learn”, research suggests that this can make up for IQ and lack of prior knowledge.
We need to be more proactive in talking to students about their approach to learning and students should know by this stage what style of learning will work best for them. To be effective students should plan their study goals and break each goal into small manageable steps. Like any good plan they should build in how they can manage their progress and how they can work with parents or tutors to monitor this.
Mums should stop asking their child if they can help. Wecan’t sit the exam and while asking may make us feel better it doesn’t really help our children. Don’t go out and buy revision tip books and give them to your child, they already have enough to read. If you want to read the tips on stress to help you, do so, but don’t pass them to your child. Films on a subject are great, YouTube has lots of educational documentaries and BBC Bitesize is a brilliant, free online resource and a great place to benchmark learning at the outset. Revision isn’t just about the end goal, learning is a great opportunity and remember if it all goes wrong exams can be taken again, don’t shatter your child’s self-esteem this takes years to rebuild. Exams should be a positive experience and the road to get to them has to be enjoyable. Lastly, try and keep it all in perspective as someone has to be the anchor in the short storm that is probably gripping your home right now.
Here are our ten handy tips for your son or daughter to get started with.
Clear your clutter.
Start by considering where you are going to work, declutter, bin random papers, have a dedicated area for all your work materials, don’t get distracted by having to look for something. Have highlighters, post-its and files labelled and ready. Have a notice board to hand and post a motivational quote, but keep space for your post-it notes.
Be totally honest with yourself, tackle the bits you don’t want to do in the morning. Think about what hasn’t gone so well, look for additional help if it is needed. Think about what could be improved and how. Are there gaps in your knowledge? Have you left your revision too late? Only if you are honest can you make the change.
Create a visual schedule
Draw up a timetable showing the weeks you have left and then break each week down into segments of study time.
Make realistic calculations
Try and be realistic about how long each task will take to be done and stick to the plan. Try and put tasks in order and tick them off as you complete them. Mid-term break is a great time to check on learning, and start summarising work, but the main learning still needs to take place nearer the exams.
Stay on track
Once you have a revision schedule try and keep to it and revise it when needed to ensure that you always have an eye on what is left to be completed. It is natural to spend more time on the subjects you like, leaving the challenging ones that you are less strong on until the end.
Monitor and Review
Check on your current knowledge level (again be honest) if I know the work, colour it green, if you sort of know it, colour it amber and if you have no clue, colour it red. Anything that is red or amber talk to your teacher about and then review the knowledge to assess how much more work it will take.
Have a system and stick to it. It you have to learn quotes or dates by rote – colour code them in one colour. Use cue cards – stick them on your board or on the toilet wall (you will read them there)! Have a look at is:cram.com it is a great resource for interactive cue cards.
Come up with wacky mnemonic for remembering chains of information. If they make you smile, they will lighten your mood and you will remember them.
You will not pass your exams if you sit and worry. Also remember that re-reading notes is time consuming with little pay off. Work for short bursts of time (40 minutes) try and make it interactive and mark areas that you are unsure about with your chosen colour scheme.
Your learning style
Check out brainbox.co.uk, don’t over focus on what type of learner you are but use the information to maximize your learning, e.g. auditory use a dictaphone, visual use pictures etc. Another good website is getrevising.co.uk for some alternative ideas.
Look after yourself
Revision cannot work as, and should not be, a 12-hour a day mission. Decide which time of the day you work best, ensure you have time to visit your friends and try and build in some exercise. Your planned goals should always be the priority.
Check on your achievements.
Keep a journal on your board as a diary sheet, “what do I want to achieve?”, “how am I going to do it?”, “how did it go?”
Ditch the electronic devices.
No one ever passed an exam by knowing what their friend is studying even if it is posted in a whats app group. Put your phone down, it is a distraction and will waste precious minutes that could be put to some use.
The golden rules must always be:
- DON’T PANIC
- DON’T LEAVE IT TO THE LAST MINUTE
- DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP
- DON’T GET DISTRACTED
- GET LOTS OF REST
- BE HONEST
- TRY AND EAT WELL
- STAY POSITIVE
- DITCH ELECTRONICS
- PLAN, PLAN and PLAN AGAIN.
Heather Harries, is the founder of Kids Full, which provides academic coaching and higher learning support, homework clubs, extra-curricular activities, social skills, and vocational teaching, as well as bespoke courses for adults.
The centre runs ongoing Exam Skills courses and holiday crammer clubs to support your child’s learning. www.kidsfull.ae
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