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Coping with revision and exams

Fiona Holmer Fiona Holmer | 18:53 UK time, Thursday, 12 May 2011

Tension is rising slightly in our household as exam season is fast approaching and my daughters are deep in revision. A couple of years ago I had my son doing A-levels and the my daughter preparing for GCSEs. We all survived but I did learn a few lessons myself during that time, in my supporting role.

As a parent, by the time your children are 15 or so, you will probably be moving into the role of consultant rather than manager and your new skills will come into their own during revision time.

answersheet @ Lorelyn Medina - Fotolia.com

So it is more a question of being around, making sure they are eating balanced meals and getting enough sleep, rather than endlessly nagging them about revision. They may appreciate the offer of practical help: more revision cards, revision books, highlighters or past papers, BBC Student Life has some useful revision planners too.

Suggest they take a break and get some physical exercise once in a while. My son found it really beneficial going outside and practising his basketball skills for 15 minutes every so often or going for a run round the block.

Professor Sergio Della Sala from the University of Edinburgh, gives this advice: "The only way to really learn is to put the book away and test yourself, or test your buddy, or better yet, explain what you have just learnt to somebody else - a victim - younger brother, sister, your granny." My daughter has done some productive revision with friends, testing each other on chemistry and helping each other out if they don’t understand something.

If your son or daughter is taking an oral exam in a foreign language, it can seem like a real struggle preparing as often the spoken aspect of a language can take second place in the classroom. Why not listen to podcasts in the relevant language or listen to a radio station from that country? Try BBC Languages site or GCSE Bitesize for some useful audio content. This can be a good way to get immersed in the language and practise speaking skills.

A BBC News Magazine article reminds us of how little students actually learn things by rote, apart from times tables and lines for a school play, they are no longer required to learn poetry by heart like French school children have to. One time learning skills do come into play is for GCSE and A-levels. Scores of students across the UK are writing out revision cards and scanning them at any available opportunity.

Jo Lamiri refers in an earlier BBC Parents Blog, to different types of learners. Identifying what type of learner your son or daughter is, can be really helpful when it comes to revision. This can be the key to effective revision time. 

There are a number of useful resources online. GCSE Bitesize is always a good place to go for some online revision. Also the Radio 1 Advice page has some useful hints and tips as to how to handle study-related stress.

Once the exams are over, things can seem a bit flat. So it may be worth encouraging them to think of some way to mark the end of exams, going to see a movie, sorting out a trip away or just hanging out with friends. Even if the results won’t be out for a while, it’s a great achievement simply having come through the other side and it’s something to celebrate!

Fiona Holmer works on the BBC Parents Blog.

Check out the BBC Learning Scotland blog on exams. 



  • Comment number 1.

    When revision gets on top of you..... look up The Revision Song (I Won't Revise) to cheer you up.

    Here's a link:

  • Comment number 2.

    Exam time can be one of the most stressful times in a student’s life especially when they have just realized that probably they shouldn’t have missed so much of that Chemistry, Biology or Economics class because their notebooks are partially empty. Tempers run high during this time and in my household this is the time when arguments constantly surface between parent and child. I agree with Professor Sergio Della Sala with the study tip he offered. That method is how I know I have really grasped what I have reviewed since I am able to see how much I know by educating and testing others. In addition to the many tips that you have offered Fiona, I would add my own recommendation to the students, which is to get sufficient sleep. The body requires at least eight hours of sleep to function properly.[Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator] Success is near to impossible if you don’t adhere to this rule.

  • Comment number 3.

    Setting boundaries should not be an obsession Claire! I agree with you that in order for a child to learn the acceptable behaviour and to prevent them from straying, boundaries are important. However have you ever considered the flip side to this boundary setting? Why if after all the boundaries you have set for the child is intact, the child still rebels? Too much or too little boundaries will cause confusion. It is therefore of essence that a communicative relationship is developed between yourself and the child in order to avoid rebellion. Sometimes you have to let go. Give the child some rope. Let them try new stuff, make mistakes and allow them to make the right decision. Parenting should not be restricted to one method or else it can be a burden.


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