How parents can support their child with GCSE revision
6th Feb 2020
Parents’ Guide to GCSE Study Support
HOW CAN PARENTS MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
Parental support is 8 times more important in determining a child’s academic success than social class.
The Campaign for Learning found that parental involvement in a child’s education can mean the difference between an 8 and an ‘also-ran’ at GCSE.
The good news is that you don’t need to be an expert in any of the subjects your child chooses to make a real difference. You also don’t need to give up your life and other responsibilities – you just need to know how best to spend the time you do have.
One of the hardest demands on students is that of understanding the long-term importance of doing the best they can, and learning to shelve short-term fun in the interest of long-term benefits (not easy even for adults).
Children will also differ in their levels of maturity, their ability to take responsibility for their learning, organisational skills and levels of motivation.
This is where parents come in . Your support, encouragement and interest can make a spectacular difference to your child’s motivation and ability to cope with the academic and organisational demands of the exam period.
90% in an exam is a great result but in terms of attendance, it means that the student has missed 1 of every 10 days – over a period of a year this is equivalent to 4 weeks of school and it will ultimately affect their final result.
Research suggests that 17 days missed from school (approximately one half day each week) equates to a GCSE grade!
KEEPING THE MOTIVATION UP - FOR STUDENTS
Don’t stop going to, or working in, lessons you find hard or dislike – talk to someone about any difficulties you are having – there is always a solution.
Change your revision schedule if necessary and stick to it – even when you don’t feel like it.
Don’t wait until you are in the mood – the further behind you get the less you will be in the mood (agree the schedule with your parents for a hassle-free life).
Resist the temptation to bury your head in the sand if things are getting out of hand – talk to your parents/tutor/teachers/Head of Year.
Ignore what friends and others are doing or saying – you are working for an easy life for YOU now and later – let your friends have the hassle of redoing a full GCSE!
Agree the balance between work and social life and stick to the agreement. Again, flexibility is the key – if a special night comes up, agree that they can make up the work at a specified time.
All students fall behind, feel demotivated or overwhelmed, or struggle with the balance of social, work and school demands at times. When your child feels like this, berating and threatening them will have a negative effect.
Talk to them about the issues, acknowledge their feelings and adopt a sensible attitude in wanting to find a solution.
Be flexible – use the 80/20 rule. If your child is sticking to what they are supposed to be doing 80% of the time, they will be doing alright.
If your child asks for your support, encourage them by helping them to keep perspective.
Teenagers often take an all or nothing ‘catastrophic’ approach to difficulties – “I’ve messed up this essay, I might as well give up.”
GETTING READY FOR REVISION - FOR STUDENTS
Start revision early – this is key ! The sooner you start the less you will have to do each day and the less stressed out you will be.
The most important thing is to make a realistic revision timetable that you will stick to.
Ideally you should be doing upto a maximum of two hours on a school night, and between 3-5 hours a day during weekends and school holidays.
Get one good revision book or aid for every subject. They do much of the initial work for you by breaking the subject down into achievable chunks.
DOING THE REVISION
Go to all lessons and make them work for you – especially the ones you don’t like or find hard.
When your teachers tell you about exam technique – try them all out to see which one will work for you best (it might even be the one you thought wouldn’t work).
Remember, the key to revision is to constantly test yourself.
If you make revision notes try to match them to the sort of questions you will be asked.
Get hold of old papers (ask teachers for past papers/websites).
Have a start and finish time – and stick to it!Get into the routine of following your revision plan – if you really don’t feel like it, tell yourself you will do 15 minutes and then decide whether to carry on. At least you will have done fifteen minutes.
STOP and take a break if you are becoming frustrated, angry or overwhelmed. Put aside the problem. Don’t waste time struggling – note down anything you are finding hard and take it to your next lesson or if on study leave, phone friends or your teachers.
Focus on the topics/areas you don’t know - don’t waste time revising things you already know!
DO NOT BE INFLUENCED BY FRIENDS WHO TALK ABOUT HOW LITTLE WORK THEY ARE DOING. Get your head down – your results don’t matter to your friends – but they are crucial to your future.
Tell yourself it’s not for long and think about that long summer holiday!
EFFECTIVE REVISION TECHNIQUES
The key to effective revision is to constantly test learning - the least effective strategy, and usually the most popular, is reading through notes! Instead, try these:
Mind Maps/Brain Dumps
Choose a topic, keep your revision guide/book closed and try to draw a mind map of the key areas within that topic. When you can't remember anymore then go to your revision guide and use another colour to show the areas you don’t know.
Make flash cards of the key knowledge you need e.g animal cells, write on one side of the card “animal cell”, then draw the cell with labels etc on the other side. Once you’ve made the cards then look at the keyword on top and test yourself on the concepts underneath.
Cards which you know well can go onto a pile which you look at in a week, then month. If you fail to remember a card put it back to the ones you look at in a day etc.
The more you can do the better!!! Whenever possible mark the questions yourself and speak to your teacher for areas you need support with.
Seneca or GCSE Pod; Science has Educake and MyMaths for maths.
Try to use diagrams and text
Every student learns most effectively, novice or expert, when both diagrams and words are used together. Students should aim to put words to diagrams or diagrams to words
Link to concrete examples
Whenever possible link learning and revision to real examples which you are familiar with.
This will really help you to develop learning further and commit what you learn to long term memory.
Useful weblinks/videos for revision
IMPROVING YOUR CHANCES OF GETTING AT LEAST A
There are a number of reasons that cause students to lose marks in the exams. The factors below are often reported by examiners. You will also find them in revision books.
Here is a list of factors that you need to be aware of and concentrate on –
Start in good time – leave it too late and you will start panicking.
Ideally you should be revising for about two hours every night after school, but splitting sessions up into 25/30 minute slots at the most. Nothing extra is likely to sink in if one subject is revised for much longer.
When revising during the evenings plan 1 to 2 subjects only. Leave some time for relaxation.
Allow some days off, but not in the few weeks just before the exams.
Plan to revise specific topics or aspects of a subject – for example, not just science, but human systems, or waves, or chemical reactions or electricity (choose the topics you find the most difficult - don’t waste time revising topics you already know).
Read through a topic and then make brief notes on cards which can be used for further
revision later . Use colours to highlight key words if this helps.
Work in small groups to discuss a topic.
KEY TASKS ON THE DAY BEFORE THE EXAM - FOR STUDENTS
Make sure you know your timetable.
Get there early – don’t leave it too late and rush – catch the much earlier bus.
Allow time for your brain to wake up – have a shower, drink plenty of fluids and eat breakfast – take a banana with you.
Do a final check of the subjects you will be doing that day – know the structure and how many sections there are.
Make sure you have EVERYTHING you need and take spares – don’t have the stress of asking teachers for things you should have brought.
Take a pen you enjoy writing with – take 2 just in case.
DURING THE EXAM
Don’t forget that it is natural to be nervous. It actually gives your brain the extra adrenalin it needs to make the final effort. If your mind goes blank, don’t worry.
Look at the question again, write down some notes – it’ll get your brain ticking over again.
Don’t start writing until you know what the instructions are and you are ready to compose a sensible answer.
Read the question very carefully - what are the command words?
Make and keep to a time scale for each question depending on the number of marks (you will have done this in revision classes – stick to it). If you only have 3 minutes left for a question, write the answer in note form – the examiner will give you marks for it.
Allow a little bit of time at the end to check through your work to see if any changes need making. Examiners have said that this can make the difference between a higher and lower grade.
ON THE EVE OF THE EXAM FOR PARENTS
Please don’t add to the stress levels by ‘rising to the bait’ when your child pushes the boundaries. Shelve the battles that don’t need winning just yet.
Help prepare your child for the exam – talk with them about when it starts, how long it lasts for, what are the main topics that might come up. Don’t ‘over egg’ this – they may have worked all day and have come down stairs to relax.
DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE LEFT IT TOO LATE TO REVISE?
One of the biggest mistakes that students make is not allowing enough time for revision. This usually results in demotivation and the attitude that there is no point in doing anything as the task is too big.
IT IS NEVER TOO LATE UNTIL YOU ENTER THE EXAM ROOM
A little knowledge is better than none at all and could make the difference between a pass and fail.