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Revision Tips and Advice

Tests and exams are never too far away! Success now could have a profound influence on your child’s education and career in the future. So, a lot depends on you helping your child to revise effectively. These revision tips and advice provide a starting point.

Establish a revision timetable

Make a revision timetable together and schedule sessions. Aim to cover all the subjects or areas of learning.

It will help keep everyone on track, but don’t let it rule your lives. Be flexible. Talk things through with your child to find their areas of difficulty and plan sessions to address THEIR concerns.

You’ll have a different timetable for weekends, weekday evenings and holidays. Divide sessions to suit your child’s age – e.g. 30 minutes or one hour (and with breaks in between).

Here are some example timetables - feel free to make your own:

Weekday MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFriday
6.00 pmScienceFrenchMathsEnglishIT
6.30 pmScienceGeographyGet ready for GuidesEnglishRE
7.00 pmBreak!GeographyGirl GuidesREHistory
7.30 pmMathsEnglishGirl GuidesHistoryGeography
8.00 pmMathsHistoryGirl GuidesGeographyBreak!
Weekend SaturdaySunday
9.00 amSpellingsFootball
9.30 amBreak!Football
9.35 amMathsEnglish
10.05 amBreak!Break!
10.15 amEnglishScience
10.45 amBreak!Break!
10.55 amScienceMaths
11.25 amBreak!Break!
11.55 amLunchVisit Gran
1.00 pmSpellingsLunch

The following will help you to decide what is best:

  • A child’s attention span usually ranges from 10 minutes to 50 minutes. For young children, start with shorter sessions and increase gradually
  • Children will revise longer and concentrate better if the activities are varied (reading, writing, drawing, talking, walking through things)
  • Short, regular sessions are most effective but arrange them so that they don’t interfere with other family activities
  • Test the times when your child is most responsive – try mornings, afternoons and evenings to discover what works best
  • Make sure your child rests between sessions to avoid brain overload and don’t talk about exams in their break times!
  • Breaks of 5 to 10 minutes provide time to reflect – which is a valuable part of the learning process

Vary the ways to revise

Your child will benefit from learning different ways to revise and remember. Not everyone likes to read. Together with your child, experiment with what works best for them. Try various multi-sensory activities, including the following:

Visual (seeing)

Visual aids tap into the visual memory:

  • Together, search out interesting diagrams, flow-charts, grids, colouring posters, infographics, spider diagrams, etc.
  • Use the curriculum-based quizzes on Education Quizzes
  • Download or create pictures and symbols to help them remember
  • Create colourful, illustrated posters of key facts
  • Use colours and highlighter pens to write key words; colour in relevant sections or underline important facts. Draw attention to parts of spellings in different colours
  • Make a fridge list to display key topics in each subject
  • Place post-its around the house with key information to be remembered
  • Read and do practice papers
  • Find relevant and interesting resources by searching the Internet. Use keywords that include the Key Stage, the curriculum area and the topic e.g. “KS3 English antonyms”
Auditory (listening and talking)

Some children learn best through listening and talking:

  • Discuss the subject, or quiz them
  • Interview your child on their learning or in character – as if they are a historical character
  • Make audio files or recordings of the subject by reading key facts aloud
  • Make up songs and rhymes about revision topics
  • If your child likes music, they could try listening to the BBC Ten Pieces while they revise
  • Use mnemonics or memorable phrases, e.g.: “Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain” (taking the first letter of each word to give you the first letter of the colours of the rainbow). Personalise them
Kinaesthetic (physical movement or touch/feeling)

Some children need to move themselves, or lift and move objects around, to help them to learn:

  • Walk and talk. Go out for a walk and talk through their revision or subjects. Test their spellings etc. as you walk
  • Set up different activities around the room, so they need to move to find out or write down answers
  • Make jigsaws by cutting up texts or questions and answers to match up
  • Use toys or moveable items to demonstrate learning – e.g. the D-day landings, using crockery and cutlery!
  • Make revision cards to hold
  • Use gestures or dance movements to help them remember
  • Have your child write down key facts, answers and things to remember

Psychological and emotional preparation

Remember – exams can be stressful. It’s important that your child gets enough rest and is in a good state of mind. It’s not just about knowing facts. Help your child to prepare themselves emotionally, too.

When we are afraid or anxious our survival responses (fight, flight or freeze) kick in, and remembering becomes more difficult. A little adrenalin is good, but concentrate on making children feel calm, comfortable and confident. The following hints should help:

  • If you join in with revision, this can help your child enormously – especially young children – but closer to exams, make sure they do some work by themselves so that they are independent
  • Praise them. Don’t gush, and be brief. Confidence is key
  • Reassure them that when they get things wrong, it’s ok. It’s all right to make mistakes - they are useful and a great way to learn!
  • Teach your child breathing techniques to calm them down and lower their heart rate
  • If they are anxious, teach them to take control by telling them to imagine that any butterflies in their tummy can be asked to fly in an arrow-formation, heading for success!
  • Know when to push, and when good enough is enough

Final Thoughts

Bribing children to do well with the aid of cash or gifts is not helpful – it implies that you don’t trust them to learn without payment, and it doesn’t teach them to work hard for learning’s sake.

Perhaps most importantly, no matter how well they do, reassure your children that you love them for who they are, not for what they achieve.

  1. How long should each study session last for?
    Attention span in children can vary immensely. As a rough guide, 4-5 year olds can concentrate for no longer than 10 minutes, 6-8 year olds for 20, and 9-12 year olds for as long as 45 minutes. Teenagers can concentrate for longer but it is wise not to over-work them when they are not at school
  2. Are breaks beneficial to learning?
    It has been known since the 1920s that breaks help us to remember what we have been studying. The amount of information retained by our brains during continuous study falls but things learnt just prior to and immediately after a short break are remembered for longer
  3. Which of the following is NOT a benefit of visual learning?
    Visual learning can be much more entertaining than text alone and this often helps to hold a child's attention. Because our brains are better at dealing with sights than they are at dealing with text then, for most of us (65%), visual learning is the best way for us to retain information, but not for us all. Many children are better at learning through other methods so it is always best to find out which style your child prefers
  4. What is a mnemonic?
    When we think of mnemonics most of us would say “Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain” for the colours of the rainbow or “My Very Elderly Mother Just Sold Us New Potatoes” for the planets. But mnemonics take many forms, including rhymes or songs. The mnemonic gets its name from Mnemosyne, the Greek goddess of memory
  5. Should children listen to music whilst they study?
    You may have heard of the 'Mozart effect' (here's the Wikipedia page on it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mozart_effect). Other studies have also shown that certain kinds of music can actually aid learning. Classical, ambient and 'chill-out' music are all thought to help. More up-beat music and songs with words are not helpful though and will be more of a hindrance to revision than a help
  6. Which method of study best suits kinaesthetic learners?
    Moving around and interacting with the environment is what the kinesthetic learning style is all about. One prime example of this is doing an experiment in a science class but when studying at home alternative methods must be found. Things which can be held, even such things as study cards, can help a child to grasp an idea
  7. Which of the following is the best way to help your child to overcome pre-exam nerves?
    Praise is good but over-praise may make your child think they know more than they really do. Pushing them to try harder can increase nerves rather than control them so it should be done carefully
  8. Which of the following is true of offering children a reward for exam success?
    There are several arguments for and against offering children rewards for good exam results. Some say it's a good idea and others say it is not. At the end of the day the choice is yours
  9. Which of these words best describes the purpose of revision?
    Whilst it is true that some things must be memorised (mathematical formulas or how words are spelt for example) for most subjects understanding the topic will better enable a child to answer questions about it rather than memorising facts alone. If your child does not understand something they are revising then see if you can help them and encourage them to spend more time studying it
  10. Which of the following is least likely to help a child do well in an exam?
    Last minute revision can actually do more harm than good as it may cause unnecessary stress. Sleep, a healthy lifestyle and sensible revision will all help. For some more tips take a look at the BBC revision pages here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4Klq403Q2CrqQVFslcJP00F/revision-basics They have lots of information which is aimed at older children but is also good for parents to know!

 

Author: Linda Innes

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