How to Help Your Students Manage Revision

April 26, 2022 by Molly Underwood
Image It’s that time of year again! The Easter holidays always seem to be over in a flash, and students often start the summer term feeling nervous about the exams on the horizon.

This year is especially tricky. Pandemic disruption and exam cancellations over the past few years have left many feeling apprehensive and under-prepared. The cohort currently preparing to sit their A-levels missed their GCSE exams entirely two years ago. It’s fair to say that students may need a little extra guidance and reassurance, this term. That’s where you come in!

If one of your students will be sitting their external examinations soon, here are a few ways you might get them started on their revision journey…

Use exam board resources

Exam boards provide a range of important materials for free on their websites. Subject syllabus overviews, past papers, and even detailed teaching plans can all be found online.

Use these resources to help your students structure their revision. The syllabus provides a detailed list of topics that students should be familiar with. It’s a good idea to walk through this list together, getting your students to highlight anything that looks unfamiliar or that they don’t feel they have a good grasp of. 

You might even ask them to rank each topic ‘Fear Factor 1-5’. Number ‘5’ represents“I’m very comfortable with this topic” and ‘1’ represents “this topic fills me with terror!” This process will provide both you and the student with a list of topics to focus on before the exams. It will also ensure you don’t waste too much precious lesson time on topics the student already knows well.

In the same vein, download specimen or past papers for each of the exams your student will be sitting, and walk through them together. Ask your students which question styles they are happy with, and which might need more work. Are they clear on what’s expected of them? Familiar with the ‘assessment objectives’ outlined in the syllabus, for relevant subjects? Comfortable with how to hit those objectives?

This year, exam boards have also published information on which topics have been cut from the syllabus. Check out exam board websites to get a sense of what resources are available - or visit this past papers site

Make a schedule

Making a revision schedule can take a couple of different forms. 

You may want to produce a schedule specifically for the content you plan to cover in upcoming lessons. If you’re teaching right up to exam time, it’s a good idea to find out when your student’s exams begin, so you can use your remaining time efficiently. 

A rough idea of the timings involved is important. For example, perhaps you only have four lessons left to go but the student has rated six topics ‘Fear Factor 1’! This might prompt a chat about what you can realistically fit in and what the student might need to tackle independently. 

The second type of scheduling you might help your students with is creating a timetable for their own revision. Current Year 13 students may never have done this before, having missed earlier external examinations due to lockdown. Encourage your students to think realistically about the time they can dedicate to revision in the lead-up to exams; what they might be able to fit in at the weekends, or during study leave. Once they have an idea of the hours available to them, and a ranked list of the topics they need to tackle, they’ll be able to make informed decisions about how they spend their revision time - and avoid last-minute panic!

Reassure them

This year more than ever, students are nervous about upcoming exams. Encouraging them to structure and schedule their revision may help channel these nerves into something productive. But it’s also important that you offer reassurance.

Talk to your students about what worries them most about the exams. Are they scared their mind will go blank in the exam room? That they’ll run out of time to finish, or that they won’t understand the questions? Have they got a university offer that they’re terrified of missing?

By getting them to think about and name what’s making them nervous, you can put these worries into perspective and come up with a plan to tackle them. You might recommend that students practice timed answers at home. Or you might come up with a simple checklist or memory device to help ground them if their mind goes blank on the day.

Most importantly, make sure they know that students up and down the country are feeling exactly the same as they are. Explain that examiners will be taking the disruption of the pandemic into account - and that students are not expected to know everything, or answer perfectly, especially this year.

Exams are naturally a stressful time…

… but students shouldn’t have to feel panicky, terrified, or under undue pressure. Everything can be broken down into manageable chunks: syllabus topic lists, revision session timetables, and even the students’ own anxieties. Things always seem less scary when you have a plan!
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