GCSE & A-level Exams Parental support is never over until the last exam

It’s never over until it’s all over – not until the last exam paper is done …

Now the summer exams have started for GCSE and A-level students, many are relieved as they have realised that it’s not as bad as they had anticipated it was going to be. Other teenagers wish they had been better prepared. As for the parents, we are not there in the exam room with them, so it’s difficult for us to fully understand what is going through the teenager’s mind.

The key point of this piece of writing is to emphasise that there is still much that can be done at this late stage which can make a difference to the outcome of the exams. It’s of no use   dwelling on what they have done and what they have not been able to do. What matters is making the best of the time between now and the last exam paper sometimes in mid to late June.

When my son was taking his GCSEs last summer, I was pleasantly surprised as to how much he took responsibility for his own learning and preparation. On many days, I had to persuade him to go to bed and not to get up too early… At that late stage, there is not much I could do but to keep speaking to him and trying to help with his personal organisations, travelling logistics and perhaps getting and remembering to pack the equipment that he needed. I have to say that not all what I said was taken on board, as, being a typical sixteen-year-old, he knows it all! To be fair, there is so much information out there and most young people are sensible enough to decide on which advice to utilise and what to ignore. It is still helpful, however,  for us parents to at least just try and have those conversations anyway. They may not agree there and then, but part of what we are preaching may get into their psyche and they may in the end find it useful. The fact is that we parents do not know everything – we are learning as well. The slight advantage we have is experience – good and bad (perhaps I should use the word “lesson” instead of “bad”!)

There is a piece of work called 21 Exam Success tips, which I put together with a bright, young person called Megan Smith.  These tips are primarily the thoughts Megan, now a barrister, studied at Cambridge, after attending a comprehensive school in North Wales, the first in her family to go to university. You can see links to this at the bottom of this blog. Passing exams is not in isolation to everyday activities, and these tips are helpful during exam periods.

I’d just like to summarise by providing a few bullet points on practical day-to-day thoughts and actions – call them habits and perhaps rituals.  Let’s face it, whatever we do or do not achieve in life is a result of our daily rituals.

  • Revision plans to be constantly reviewed. Yes, you can still make one, if  it’s not already in place!
  • Revision time to be used strengthening weaknesses, and less time on what they are already confident about
  • Self-management during the exam period. Good use of time – to be more productive so as to avoid unnecessary anxiety and panic
  • Good habits – both in relation to studying and other aspects of life. Remember that examinations are not in complete isolation from  other day-to-day tasks.
  • We parents can help relieve our teenagers of certain chores; however, this should be negotiated and there should be conditions attached, so as to ensure that the time saved is invested in doing their study or related activities such as sleeping more, and not unproductive activities such as… (fill in the gap!)

I hope you will find some of these useful in some of those conversations with your teenager.

Finally, I’d like to briefly speak about the psychology of exams. Like everything in life, energy is important, but it all starts in the mind. I have the advantage of speaking to many teenagers and there is one main point that I keep repeating to them at this critical time: you CAN do it – just give it your best.

To have the motivation and the energy to keep going, confidence matters, and confidence comes from believing in oneself. I just say to the teenager:

  • believe you can do it,
  • put in the effort,
  • maintain focus and concentration (avoid unnecessary distraction), but keep taking breaks.

Just one key point: remember to reward yourself. Not just a big celebration at the end, but lots of little celebrations along the way – to keep up motivation and energy. For me, I have a little secret:  Lindt hazelnut chocolate – so delightfully yummy! And, as Megan says: make sure you work for your reward. It’s more enjoyable that way!

Yes, you CAN do it.

Full list 21 Tips –  https://excelinkeysubjects.com/21-exam-booster-tips-full-list/

Video – 21 Exam Success Tips – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7gv97s_YCc

The highlighted phrase in pink makes no sense  – good or lesson?