Helping your teen learn how to revise for GCSE

GCSE exams are the first tests your teens will be expected to properly "revise" for. They will have encountered tests before now - the SATs for example - but GCSE exams are really the first that will have an impact on their future. But when you've never had to revise before how are you expected to know what to do? This is a question I heard from BP recently, he's 14 and about to start taking Mock GCSE exams - which he's expected to revise for. Over the past few months I've been helping BP learn how to revise for his Mock GCSE exams in the hope this will put him in a good place for his GCSE exams.

Know when your teen's GCSE exams are

Whether you get a printout of their exam schedule or you have access to a timetable online make sure you, as well as them, know when the exams will be. This will help your teen plan their revision and be prepared for the next exam.

Help your teen plan a revision schedule

Planning out how much time your teen will spend, and when, they're going to revise is a good start. Sit down with your teen and help them plan out a revision schedule. Perhaps try assigning topics to days, like - every Monday it's Maths revision, Tuesdays for English, etc.

Helping Your Teen Learn How To Revise For GCSE | Organise the lessons into folders to keep track of revision notes.
Organise topics into folders to help your teen keep track of revision notes.

Timing is also key, as in how much time your teen spends revising. They need enough time to take it all in but they also need down time too. If they're spending hours revising ensure they put free time into their schedule.

Plan realistically

No one can put in a day at school, come home and do homework, then revise for 6 hours. It's too much. When they're planning their revision schedule help them see they don't need to be adding hours and hours of revision every day. 

Helping Your Teen Learn How To Revise For GCSE | Grab all the books you can, plan how much time they'll revise.

Let them know about family commitments that will impact their schedule, remind them of appointments they may have. Your teen is probably never going to want to spend all their time revising, nor should they.

Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.

Kofi Annan

Help your teen time revision sessions

It's easy to convince yourself you've done more work than you actually have. How many times have you been doing the household chores and thought you've been at it for hours only to look at your watch and realise you've only been cleaning for 30 minutes? Revision is exactly the same!

We encourage BP to keep a log of his hours spent revising, he has a spreadsheet with the date and "log in" and "log out" times so he knows exactly how much time he's spending revising. If he misses a couple of days it's easy for him to see how much he needs to catch up. 

Plan for breaks

Like I've said previously no one wants to spend all their time revising. It's an important time but that doesn't mean they should be spending all the hours revising. 

Helping Your Teen Learn How To Revise For GCSE | Give them time to relax as well as revising, it's important to take breaks.

Adding in breaks to your teen's revision schedule means they have something to look forward to. They can give their brains a break and step away from the revision, which will help with the stress too. 

Rules will help your teen with revision

Teens tend to not want to do the things they're meant to - come to think of it we all like to avoid the things we don't like don't we? But if they get the chance I'm sure your teen will avoid the revision for as long as possible. If you establish rules, make sure they know that you will enforce them, and STICK TO THEM, you'll make it easier for them.

BP has to do at least some revision every day, it could be that he spends 30 minutes one day but then an hour or two another day, but as long as he does some revision I'm happy. He knows that if the revision doesn't get done he won't get to play games or do other things he enjoys.

Don't just be rigid about revision time though, be the same for break times. If they're revising, and have been for hours, make them take a break. It's recommended they take a break every hour for at least 20 minutes. Make your teen a cuppa, give them a treat, or try to make it easier for them to take that break, it's a tough and stressful time so doing everything you can to make it easier will help them lots.

Establish a "revision spot"

If they have a desk in their rooms that's the perfect place for revision, but if not why not give them a spot where they can revise. It could be the corner of the dining table, or the end of the sofa, but make sure they have somewhere they always sit when revising. It makes it easier for them, and you, to adjust life and surroundings to help them out.

Helping Your Teen Learn How To Revise For GCSE | Give them a spot to revise and they'll thank you for it.
A spot they always revise, even if you have to give up your desk, will do them good.

I know that when BP is revising I keep LP out of the room so BP isn't interrupted. I make sure LP has stuff to do and try to give BP the time for his brain to focus on what he's doing. Revising in the same place all the time helps with recall too, it makes it easier to remember things when you're in the same place every time. 

Active vs Passive revision for GCSE exams

At 14 BP doesn't like to be told do anything, least of all revision, but I tell him daily to revise. When we first tackled this his idea of revising was to read through his exercise books, after a little reading he thought he was finished. Unfortunately because reading through an exercise book is "passive" revision there's very little chance that anything he read will stay in his head long enough for him to recall in during the exam. 

I sat him down to talk about the different ways he could revise that would be more "active" than "passive". At first he didn't understand that there are different types but when I explained that when you do something when revising you tend to better remember what you did. We talked about the different tactics he could use and he started a better routine. 

To start with he's typing out Key Points learned from a lesson and on each sheet he has to write in the important words he'll be expected to remember. This is really useful when it comes to science lessons because there are so many words he's expected to know.

What you can do to help

Aside from helping them learn how to revise you can also help them cope with the stress of the exams. When they're revising go easy on them, as much as possible. Make them drinks, give them treats, maybe even clean their room for them!

It is important for me to carve out time in my schedule to spend quality time with my family.

Belinda Johnson

Any help we can offer is bound to make things easier to cope with, and at exam time I'm sure our teens would be grateful - even if they don't say so!

Helping Your Teen Learn How To Revise For GCSE | It may be your teen taking the exams but you can help them too!

Have you helped your teen with revision?

Keep your younger kids occupied so your teens can revise by grabbing this Captured! colouring page, and you can enjoy a hot coffee while your kids colour in!

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