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Bright Heart tutor Sally looks at how parents can support their children during exam time.

How best to support your child during exam season

Exam season can be stressful for the whole family. It is difficult for parents to know how best to manage revision at home, especially if this is the first time your child is taking public exams or end of year assessments.

Helping your child to succeed will vary according to their needs and strengths. Some children will need help to make revision timetables, others with sorting and filing notes and handouts and others someone to prompt them to stay focussed or to help them get started with a task.

Key things that parents can do to help their children:

Realistic revision expectations and tips for revision timetables

It can be hard to decide how much time to spend on revision per day, especially as everybody does it differently. The most important thing is to make a revision timetable to avoid devoting the first week of study leave to the first exam.

During term time 2 hours of revision per evening for GCSE and A-Level students is an achievable goal. Most homework tasks set now should be part of revision.

During study leave, GCSE and A-Level pupils could follow their school timetable and revise according to the lesson they would usually have at school. When they have subjects that they do not have a set exam for, such as PE or PSHE, the focus should be on a weaker subject that they feel needs more time. It is important to take regular breaks e.g. 45 minutes of study followed by a 15-minute break. It is a good idea to keep their phone in a different room or
to put it on to not disturb and only check it during the 15-minute break.

Here is a link with more information about creating effective revision timetables.

Family going on a walk
A family walk in the evening can be a rewarding routine away from screens.

Five Simple Strategies

If your child is struggling to revise, focus or retain information, you could try the following strategies with them.

1. Asking questions - the 6 W's

You can apply this exercise to many topics in a variety of subjects. Choose a topic and ask your child six questions about it using the following prompts:

Who? How? When? What? Why? Where?

Your child could make brief notes under each of these prompts or create a spider diagram – topics can include volcanoes, forces, shapes, religious groups, characters in a novel etc.

2. Ask your child to teach you

For every topic, ask your child to teach you the content in a way that is easily understood, well-structured, and simplified into several key points. They can retain information by talking aloud and “teaching” the topic that they are revising. They could prepare keywords and definitions and perhaps six important points for each topic before they present the topic to you.

It is estimated that we can take in 10% of what we see, 20% of what we hear, 50% of what we say and hear, and 95% of what we teach someone else. This is why teachers can remember a lot of facts!

You could suggest a three minutes time limit to teach a topic. You will be amazed at the results. They could also teach siblings, themselves in the mirror or talk into a voice recorder on their phone.

3. Flashcards

Flashcards are excellent in helping to revise key topics. Ask your child to put a question or a word on one side of a small piece of card and write out the definition or key facts on the other. They can then place the cards on a table and revise by remembering the important details before checking the answers by turning over the cards.

You could buy coloured cardboard – a different colour for each subject – and your child could
carry these around with them. They could work with a friend to test each other.

4. Note making

Revision means that you need to be active in the way that you learn. This will inevitably mean that your child will need to write out information to help them recall certain information. The best way to recall information is to present it attractively.

a) Spider diagrams

Record the topic in the spider’s body.
Place keywords at the end of each leg.
Provide some information under the keywords.

b) Flow charts

A flow chart is a common type of diagram that represents a process. Your child should use diagrams to help remember key points and details in all of their subjects. In Languages, they can create diagrams to help them to remember the days of the week, rooms in a house, seasons etc. Add pictures and colour.

c) Closed book note making

This approach will allow them to test themselves after they have read over a section of notes on a topic in any subject. The point of this methodology is that it can help you get information out of your head and onto the page – a key element of exams.
1. Take a piece of information and skim read through it.
2. Read it again and identify the six (or eight, ten, etc.,) most important points – you can
number these on the text.
3. Turn over your notes and write out the main points from memory.

5. Mind maps

Your child can use mind-mapping techniques to help them absorb information in all subjects. Developed by Tony Buzan, mind-maps are an excellent way of taking in information and allowing you to make all sorts of links and connections. This is how you mind-map:
1. Take a large sheet of paper and turn it on its side.
2. In the centre of the page, draw a logo or heading that sums up the topic that they are studying.
3. Draw several large branches coming out of the central topic heading – these are the key themes. Write the key theme along each branch.
4. Draw smaller branches coming out of the main branches and write along these as they begin to develop their topic.
5. At the end of branches, they can draw pictures that help them to memorise the information.
6. When your child has finished their mind-map, it should resemble the picture that you would see if you were underground, looking up at the roots of a tree

More information can be found here about mind maps.

Family going on a walk
A family walk in the evening can be a rewarding routine away from screens.

Retaining information

Educationalists have analysed how information is retained and it has been argued that there are seven keys to memory, six of which are listed below. We naturally remember things that are:

1. Funny
2. Outstanding
3. Personal
4. Emotional
5. Linked to our senses
6. The first and last thing we learn in a reading or revision session

With this in mind, your child should try to remember revision notes by making connections, rhymes, links or visual images. They should make these funny and personal to them. It is of great importance that, when revising, your child (and the parents) do not become unduly stressed or anxious, since a calm, relaxed mind learns much more efficiently. Encourage your child to be kind to themselves and to not become cross when they are unable to recall an answer – simply reveal and read the answer.

We hope this blog was helpful. Please feel free to get in touch with us should you have any questions about your child and their learning at school and at home. We enjoy talking with parents and helping our students by tailoring learning to their individual needs.

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