GCSE and A-level exam time for the teenager – body, mind and soul and the role of the parent…
For 16 to 18 year olds and their parents, August is so far away, yet also, at the same time, very close – depending on how you look at it. Far away in the sense that there is so much happening between now and then, in terms of exam preparation, perhaps a family holiday and the release of the GCSE and A-level exam results, which happens near the end of August! So close because there is a relatively short time to prepare for the exams they will do in May and June.
One thing I’d like to say first is that taking examinations by teenagers is not in isolation to other activities that happen in their lives – it is just another activity, but a very important one. The challenge for all teenagers is trying to strike a balance between preparation of the mind, soul and body for the examination and also doing all the other necessary things that one does on a daily basis. The role of us parents in helping to manage the situation is vital; after all, as parents we are all experts because we’ve been there before! We’ve done it when we were teenagers and we are well-equipped in helping our children to guide and advise them at this critical time.
A little bit of bit of anxiety does no harm!
I’ve seen situations wherein the parent(s) is more nervous about the whole exam thing than the child in the weeks and months leading up to the exam. A little bit of bit of anxiety is not that harmful, but, like everything, too much of it does no one any good whatsoever. For the teenager, being curious, pensive and perhaps a little anxious – all these emotions help to keep the mind focus and stay motivated. It’s not all just about hard work, but hard work and perseverance are both essential tools, as part of the mix for the teenager.
It’s OK for the parent to be a little apprehensive, as long as we do our best to disguise it, after all, we are the rock for them. We are the go-to person – well before their school teachers and other people in their lives. We should not appear to be too nervous. The role of us as a parent at this time involves having a lot of conversations, as well as doing other things, such as finding out how we can help our children in areas where they need it, and then following that up with doing what we can to implement whatever we need to do.
A barrage of information – filtering out the gems…
We are so blessed these days as there is plenty of information available for whatever we need to do about anything at all. The slightly tricky bit is filtering out the less helpful pieces of information and making the best of what we consider to be more helpful. There are two things I’d say on this. The first is that, having searched for information, we need to be quite decisive in picking what we consider useful. The second thing I’d say is that there is usually no magic bullet anywhere; it’s all about testing things out. We have a good knowledge of our child and we know what stands a good chance of working for him or her. We’ve just got to start testing, and experimenting within the time we have, learning lessons from what does not work before discarding that and moving on to the next one.
It’s not too late!
One important note I’d make at this point is that it is not too late. Not too late to do things that have a very good chance of making a real difference to our child’s exam results in the summer examination – even at this stage. Certainly, for GCSE, the period of about two and a half or so months that we have left is enough to make a significant difference. For A-level, the barrier to jump in a short period is quite high, but nevertheless possible.
Just one point: the teenager and you should not think at all about giving up this this stage, for two reasons. One is that, for most of the core academic subjects, there are some important exams in the second week of May or so; however, most of the big exams are after the May half term – from the end of May to the second week of June. For GCSEs, apart from language orals, Art and a few other non-core subjects, the first exam for core GCSE subjects is on 12th May. There are just under half of the exams before May half term and all the others are from 1st to 12th June. For most A-level subjects, Paper 1 for one or two subjects is just before the May half term and all the rest are spread between 1st and 18th June or so.
The second point is, yes, the preparation ought to have started yesterday, I mean several months ago, but preparation and revision will carry on all the way to the very last exam paper. Just one last point I’d like to make on the issue of making the best of ‘now’ is that exam resits do not work – at least not for most students any way. For example, there are not many of those who retake GCSE and actually get a higher grade than they did at the first attempt. There are very frightening sets of statistics and one of them is that only 11% of those who resat English GCSE actually got a higher grade than C in 2016 and most do not improve on their previous grades. The figure for GCSE Maths is worse, with only about 7% getting a higher grade at the second attempt. Please see a link below to the Sunday Times article on this.
A process and not an event…
A lot can be achieved in the few weeks we have left before the summer examinations. As a parent, I’d like to give you an assignment! And that is to begin having those conversations with your son or daughter. I know it can be a challenge trying to have a relatively long conversation with a teenager, but I do not think there are many alternatives. You’ve just got to bear in mind that this is not an event, but a process and there will be several conversations to come; however, the process has got to start now, if it hasn’t already.
Some of the points I made here are probably something you’ve been doing already, and you may see this as a confirmation that there are like-minded parents who think in a similar way and you just want to do more of it.
The best time to plant an Oak Tree is 25 years ago, the second best time is now! You’d better get planting…
My colleagues and I at Excel in Key Subjects have been writing blogposts on sharing useful information with parents for quite a number of years. Below are some links to some of those and also other websites with information you may find useful.
21 Exam Booster Tips – from next week, we have a three-week long campaign, during which we will be sharing with you a series of Exam Booster tips. There are 21 of them and we will send you one link every day for 21 days – that’s a tip per day! You also have an opportunity to receive it by a text message every day, and, if you wish to do so, just send us an e-mail so that we can put you on the list and we’ll send you a tip a day for 21 days. In fact you can forward the e-mail or text message to your child or, if you wish, provide his or her mobile number or e-mail and we’ll send the tips directly to him or her. We will not use the contact detail for any other purpose except for sending success tips. We do not market to children so we will not even use their details to inform them about our courses.
Peter’s Blog – Peter is a young graduate who recently finished his masters at LSE: https://excelinkeysubjects.com/top-tips-for-the-examination-period-from-a-recent-graduate/
Very detailed exam success tips and practicality – by Dr. Gordon Esler – https://excelinkeysubjects.com/maximising-marks-in-the-exam-a-few-tips-2/
GCSE Resit – shocking set of statistics – https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/half-of-resit-pupils-get-a-lower-grade-8nwrsbj6vk2
GCSE Resit – https://www.tes.com/news/GCSE-pass-drop-resit