Exam Matters

by ParentalChoice
in schools, Education
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As Parents with children going through exams, at what ever age, we can feel helpless as they are the ones having to do the revision and sit the dreaded exam. How can we as parents help them study and find the right revision technique to suit their style? We asked Rachel Vecht, former school teacher, mother of 4 and founder of Educating Matters for her input and we are very grateful for her very practical advice.


It is not necessarily the hardest working or the brightest child/teen who will achieve the highest marks in exams. How well a child does in school reflects their attitude and study methods as well as ability. Parents and schools can give children the learning tools but then of course the child has to accept responsibility for their learning and be willing to put in the hard work!!!

4 key elements to success in school:

? Knowing the subject matter
? Organisational skills
? Revision and exam technique
? Attitude/mind-set

Parents play a key role in terms of helping children to be organised, stay motivated and keep calm.
Many children use traditional methods to revise by re-reading the text book or highlighting school notes. This is quite boring and is not very effective since it ignores the way the mind works and does not require any understanding. Memory needs to be treated like a muscle so that dull information can be stored. Brains need a hook: picture, pattern, colour, story or connection with other memories. The more interested the brain is, the easier it is for the information to go in and stay in! The left side of the brain is used for thinking about words and numbers whilst the right side is for imagination and creativity. We need to engage the right side during revision and work to get information into the long term memory.

Most children feel bored, resentful and anxious during revision periods but it should be effective, interesting and enjoyable. Good study habits dont come naturally to many children and they need to be taught. This should happen at school but it also helps tremendously for parents to make suggestions and share ideas about effective revision techniques. People learn and process information in different ways so its about helping your child to find a method that suits them and changing the method so the brain remains alert.

Some top revision techniques include:
Post it notes/flash cards
Key words or phrases on one side, definition/answer on the back.

My 14 year old son is doing GCSE science early and has been using a brilliant online resource recommended by a medical student, to create flash cards. Please see

This helps to remember information but doesnt require understanding.

Mind maps
The mind tends to absorb and understand pictures better than words.

Summary page
Reduce and condense notes as much as possible until a whole topic is on one side of A4. Practice reconstructing the sheet from memory. This is a method I relied on studying for my history degree but mainly because no one had told me about other effective methods!!
Link to song/rhyme
Kids often have an amazing ability to memorise words to their favourite songs. Encourage them to tap into this by making up a song with a catchy tune.
Linking method
This involves memorising a list by creating a story with connections between each item.

Record notes
Read out notes and listen to them in bed/ travelling to school
Teach others
Explaining out loud to parents or friends in their own words is a great way to secure and clarify understanding of a subject. Ask questions to stimulate your childs thinking.
Practice papers
It is absolutely essential for students to be familiar with the format and rehearse what they are required to do in the exam. Move to completing papers under timed, exam conditions.
For GCSE & A level, all the exam boards have past papers on their websites. Also see where they are all in one place
The most effective way for children to learn material in the long run is to test themselves and try to retrieve material from their memory. Also planning ahead and not doing all the revision on one subject in a block before moving on to the next (distributed practice) helps to store the material in the long term memory.
Best of luck

Rachel Vecht ?

Rachel Vecht is a former school teacher, mother of 4 and founder of Educating Matters. Educating Matters deliver seminars, webinars and course to thousands of parents/carers in the workplace and schools on many education related topics such as supporting children with reading, writing, numeracy, homework, exams and choosing schools along with more generic parenting skills such as sibling rivalry, boosting self?esteem and emotional intelligence. Rachel also delivers a 10 week Positive Parenting & Family Skills course in homes and offers one to one telephone support to parents across the UK.

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