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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

Since the summer is a time for many children to sit both public and school end of year exams, I want to focus on revision techniques.  Many children rely on revising by re-reading or highlighting their school notes or the text book.  This is quite boring and is not a very effective method 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 but 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.  People learn in different ways so it’s about helping your child to find a method that suits them or changing the method so the brain remains alert.

Top Revision techniques:

Post it notes/flash cards

Key words or phrases on one side, definition/answer on the back.

My 15 year old son has been using a brilliant online resource to create flash cards


Mind maps


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.

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 child’s 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