WTDN went out to our community of parents for top tips on how their child studied and how they supported their child through GCSEs.
There is nothing better than hearing from people who have already been though it and we have added all their comments below. (This is like gold dust!)
Firstly we got 10 Top Tips from tutor Anita Busby from Gold Medal Tuition.
- Planning is KEY! If they haven’t done so yet, get your child to create a study plan. Make a list of all the subject they are studying and within each subject, the topics. Get a calendar and fill in the non-negotiable events first i.e.., afterschool activities, school, appointments, etc. Then fill in the blank areas with the subject to be studied. Make sure that the studying sessions have breaks. Studies have shown for every hour your child is studying, there should be a 10-minute break. Don’t spend to long making this planner – I know students who would spend hours making their planners prefect.
- Make sure learning is ACTIVE. What I mean by active is that your child isn’t merely re-reading pages from their books. They need to use their brain to understand the material. One example of active learning is making flashcards and using this to test themselves. The act of handwriting has been shown to aid in the retention of the information being studied. Another is to read out aloud the passage they are learning. By hearing the words, it reinforces the information in the text. There are apps out there which can help your child to create a digital flashcard and the one I would recommend is Anki (https://www.ankiapp.com). It also helps with spaced repetition – this is the process where your go through a material at a specific interval. For example, 1hour after 1st learning, then again 1 day later, then again 3 days later then again 7 days later. Each time building on their knowledge. Using past papers and testing themselves with those are a brilliant way to understand the how an exam paper is worded and what is needed in each section.
- Have a study buddy. Your child may like working one their own but working with others on a subject can be beneficial. Work in small groups, no more than 4. Each person may have a different view on the same material being studied and this will help in the understanding of the subject. Just make sure it is a study period and not and excuse to have friends over for a chat!
- Exercise. Get your teen moving! Exercise helps your child in so many ways. Get them to go on family walks (if you can prise them away from the computer), playing sports, swimming, etc. Anything that they love to do. It helps to reduce stress, which inhibit learning.
- Breaks. As mentioned above, breaks are important. An American study by a leading university has shown that students who had studied for 4-hour test without breaks did 25% worse than their peers who had scheduled in regular breaks in the study session.
- Sleep, sleep, sleep! So important. The information your child is learning needs to move from short term to long term memory and it does this when they sleep. Your child needs it! Late night study session does not give the brain time to process and move the information to the correct area for the brain.
- Eat well to succeed. With exercise, eating well will give your child the energy they need for the work. Reduce the amount of processed, high sugar foods. Everyone has heard of eating fish for brain help but there are several other foods which can be eaten to improve memory. For example, Blueberries have memory enhancing properties due to flavonoid, the blue colour in the skin; Peppermint tea improves both long-term, short-term, and working memory; Eggs. Mackerel and spinach have Vitamin B; Walnut improves memory and cognitive speed. There are many more food out there, just make sure your child is getting some of these food as part of their diet.
- Make your study environment work for you! Where do your child study? Is the area somewhere free from distraction? The place your child study can have an affect on their ability to study. Try to find a time and an area in the house for your child to work. Remove or reduce thing which could interrupt the session. If your child like to have music in the background to work, Def Leopard will not do! Nor does it need to be classical, but it should not have lyrics. Find something that your child would like to listen to.
- All work and no play! The planner you child created will have designated times to meet up with friends. They should take the time to relax with friends. This is good for mental health and destressing about the upcoming exams.
- Breathe! There will be time when your will feel overwhelmed with what they need to do. Reassure them and get them to do breathing technique. There are many out there but the easiest is the Abdomen Breathing.
The final thing I will say is: DO NOT CRAM. Cramming for exams do not work. Even if your child has left it to the last minute, there are still time to make a difference.
On to the community.
If they need to revise for GCSE maths. Corbett Maths and Maths Genie are both excellent.
They show videos of each topic and there are worksheets you can print out to practise.
Get them to write a revision timetable which they need to stick to. Make sure it’s achievable with plenty of breaks. You can get them to download the Forest app. This basically builds a forest on their phone – the longer they stay off their phone, the bigger the forest. It’s a good way for them to try not to get distracted by phones. Make sure they have Time to completely shut off from exams as it’s all they’ll hear from school. Start early – the sooner the better as nearer the time they’ll start focusing on the key ones that are relevant and others will get put to the back so get them to spend time on those other subjects now.
I had to concede and get a tutor for maths and it was worth it.
Revision timetable doesn’t suit my Yr11 son because he has homework or other exams etc. I took a photocopy of the index page of each of his subject books which lists the topics and we check each of the topics off with a green marker pen when he is sure he got it and will be happy to answer any question on it. The topics that are not checked mean they are hard/not understood so we need to get a tutor for those. Awareness of what he knows and what he doesn’t know and focusing on what he doesn’t know is our strategy.
It’s very tough! Especially as they turn from young teen to adult teen! They go thru a lot with just that let alone the gcses! All students are different academically.
Start the revision little and often- mine started after Christmas to the run up to May/June time. Not too stressful as wasn’t too much at once. After Easter hols then revision periods got intense but usually school covers revision in class as well. I found the revision books you can get in WHSmith of the subjects really helpful. Find out the examination board for the subjects before getting them.
Flashcards worked well for both our kids. Hand written as that helps retention and the repetition really works.
Revise little and often
Flash cards/mind maps
Some really good advice given.
NB – the more you press, push and panic the more stress is caused which has a negative impact on learning. Encouragement and being there when required as and when they see problems arising works to keep a good balance.
Also remember that bbcbitesize.co.uk covers all exam boards, gives example questions with appropriate answers and it is free.
An occasional chat about how and where their favourite, usually best performing subjects, might be researched for future goals and aspirations and options often motivates many, not all, to revise!
It is important to include relaxing physical activities between revision sessions which most of their tutors and teachers will have mentioned.
If they attend school regularly, complete homework set and do more than just enough they will survive and do well – good luck with Mocks pre or post Christmas.
For me it was about recognising that my child had her own revision strategies and my role was just to be available to provide regular drinks, snacks & offers to test etc. Also about being clear that although those exams are important, they need to be kept in perspective. And encouraging them to keep up with other things they like – music, sport, friendships etc. Quality of work rather than quantity, perhaps??
The most important thing they need during this period is some downtime. Cramming and getting stressed really doesn’t help anyone let alone a child. So much emphasis is placed on exams and so many health and skin conditions can result from increased cortisol and adrenalin release in the body. So some relaxation time is as, if not more, important than the emphasis on revision.
Also if you’re going to timetable revision then short periods and lots of breaks to refresh eyes, concentration and patience. It’ll be more productive and will retain more easily.
Also 432hz music in the background before, during or afterwards will help re-balance the body’s energy field.
Breathing exercises can help to get more oxygen into the brain to stimulate those cells and replenish the organs…breathing in a pattern of inhale for 5, hold for 3 and exhale for 8.
Hope this helps 😊
In the midst of mocks with my oldest. It’s so hard (for me🤪) and also doing the open evenings for colleges and schools when he doesn’t even know what he wants to do 😕
My daughter did hers last year and she did revision cards, and the sites school told her too. I also told her to continue dance as a release. It was stressful and they got tested loads last year because of covid so I tried not to pressure maggie as school was over testing I thought. We worry more than them 😂
Give the child a break when they first get in from school. Allow them to unwind watch a it of telly have a drink and snack then let them get on with it..
I went through this with all four of mine… understanding what your child’s aspirations are helps…. my Son wanted to do music in 6th form…. then at a careers event in school I found a display for a music college. Showed him what I found… he signed up left after 4 yrs with a double distinction… spent 6months working for a music producing company… sadly contract ended… but the experience was so worth it…
Before choosing 6th form…Visit different 6th forms and colleges most have open days .. those you missed contact the school ask for a private visit… go with a list of questions…
The schools normally give the child tips on revision… use these wisely.. blank postcards are useful for writing important revision notes on.
Excellent nutrition (Ditch the sugar snacks) it’s no good for the brain.
Lower stress levels
Give them a break
Find out how they learn, there’s about 5 different types. Ie: visual, doing, reading, listening etc.
I found mind mapping invaluable for my learning. (You truly cannot retain everything)
We visited 6th forms and colleges the year earlier, did this for uni too. 1. Just in case we were Ill and couldn’t make the dates.
2. To see what had changed
3. Had more questions
Good luck. 💕
Don’t nag! Ultimately they will revise when/what suits them, otherwise they are unlikely to retain information. Ask them what they think…..
Mocks tell you what you don’t know and need to revise, unfortunately they also give you your projected grades so a bit of a double edged sword, but if you do better in the real thing you can always adjust expectations
There is an app they can create flash cards on which make it easier when you test them .
Please tell your children that if they don’t pass first time it’s ok. They can re take or tweak their plans. There is so much pressure to pass all GCSEs first time round. As long as they keep on the path they want they will succeed.
Our strategy was to try not to put our son under pressure at home. Young people know what they are up against and get lots of advice and encouragement at school. Give them a space to relax otherwise you are just adding to the pressure they already feel. Its hard because you want them to do well but I think it is counterproductive.
Net result. Our son was struggling at primary school and the early years of secondary school, did well enough at GCSE (with the added pressure of lockdown), did better in his A levels than almost all his friends at various schools and accepted an unconditional offer to study the course he wants to do at the University of his choice.
Give your children some space and hold your nerve. Best of luck to all of them.
When they do a revision timetable get then to do it in half hour chunks and leave the subject blank. They then colour it in with the subject they revise during that period. My daughter quickly realised she was concentrating on her favourite subjects and then focused on the others instead.if you put the subject in, they are less likely to revise if they are not feeling science for example that day.
From my personal experience of revising and trying to learn for exams. I thrived in lessons and having it in hand, but had the attention span of a flea when it came to trying to revise at home, regardless of the method. Books, flash cards etc.
Doing it alone for some people can make it a lot harder, and I think I would have gotten more from an hour a day sat down with a friend or my parents speaking back and forth about something and being asked questions, creating memories for me to remember when I needed them. Instead of sitting down rewriting things or reading to myself for hours on end.
Forcing a child to revise will never work, what might seem like a reasonable time for them to focus might not apply to them as much as it does to you. Even if you as a parent had flash cards with questions and answers, just spring a question or two on them now and then as the day goes by, and when they get it right it will sink in and become a memory for them to pull on when they need it an obvious one but as a parent, remember your dreams for your child and what you want them to achieve might not align with what they want to achieve in life. A levels aren’t for everyone. University isn’t for everyone. People can create great lives and careers just getting out there and learning in a different way. You as a parent will want your child to achieve but you have to remember it’s about supporting them to achieve what they want, not whatever dreams you have laid out for them.
Your child will appreciate you asking and listening to what they have in mind for themselves. And from there you might see school isn’t the best environment for them, if they have a college course they’d rather focus on getting into instead of A levels, make sure the grades are in the right subjects for the course they want to do. If it’s apprenticeships or jobs they’d rather learn on, apply the same to that.
Make your child realise if they’re not a straight A student then that’s fine, there will be kids around them breezing through exams easily and its up to you as a parent to remind them it’s not the end of the world if they fail a subject or don’t do as great as everyone else.
There’s multiple paths through life and things like A levels and University might not be the best one to force them along, make sure you open their eyes because kids are really taught that school is the be all and end all whilst being taught subjects and languages they have no love for because they’re not given a choice, and being told they have to go to uni to get anywhere in life. 🤷🏻♂️
All you can do is encourage and keep a safe nurturing environment as schools stress them out tooo much x
They all make their way x feed them and expect grumpiness and give some slack.