An Expert’s Guide to Exam Revision


Exam season is drawing near and many of our children will now be spending the holidays embarking upon the dreaded revision. Alicia Drummond, our In-House Parenting & Mental Health Expert talks to us about some of the processes we go through to avoid revising, along with top tips on how to help combat them.

“In this increasingly competitive world the pressure on pupils to do well in public exams is enormous. As parents we need to help our teenagers view the exam process with a sense of balance and that means keeping our own anxiety in check. If we are overly anxious we will give them the message that we don’t think they are capable which will do little to boost their confidence.

When my kids were little I used to tell them that exams existed to check their teachers were doing a good job. As they got older the message was, exams exist to open doors. The better you do the more doors you get to choose from but behind every door is an opportunity so, relax and know that you are worth far more than any collection of certificates you might achieve along the way.

We all know that failing to prepare equals preparing to fail, but there is often a big gap between knowing and doing. It is called resistance and it is one of the most subtle ways we self-sabotage. Think about it, have you ever really wanted to do or achieve something but always found an excuse for not doing it? Are you someone who puts in loads of effort at the beginning but then tails off and finishes poorly thereby sabotaging the whole? Perhaps you are someone who is so afraid of an outcome not being perfect that you don’t start? Or maybe you have spent so long living up to the expectations of others that you need to self-sabotage so that you can get off their pedestal and breathe freely again?

Our children will have all the same unconscious processes at work so if they are struggling to get down to revision it is worth exploring their resistance with them. What are they afraid of and what can you do to help them overcome it?

It might be that they are self-sabotaging by overwhelming themselves. They set out to do three hours revision but when they actually sit down to start, they can’t…

Top Revision Tips

  • Creating a realistic revision timetable will help. Start by dividing the day into three parts – morning, afternoon and evening – one of which must be kept free for doing something they enjoy. If an hour’s revision seems too hard, encourage them to break it down into three twenty minute sessions with a short break between each one.
  • They also need to learn to prioritise. Right now many will be more interested in their social lives than their studies. They need opportunities to socialise but keep these low key – a big Saturday party can impact on their ability to study effectively for several days.
  • Some young people find sleep difficult around exam time. Warm milky drinks not only help us get to sleep, they also help us stay hydrated through the night and the fat and protein help our brains assimilate and absorb information.
  • Exercise also aids sleep, helps relieve stress and reenergises our brains. All too often our children try to get out of sport to spend more time revising but it can actually be counterproductive.

After the exams

For all of our children the exam season is likely to be a little stressful but it can be helpful for them to understand that stress is not always bad – in small measures for a short time it gets us through life’s challenges. Once an exam finishes let them talk it through and remember that they are likely to focus on what didn’t go so well rather than what did, so don’t panic.

On results day if things haven’t gone according to plan – acknowledge how they are feeling. Tell them that you are disappointed for them NOT by them and whatever you do, try not to start blaming the teacher, the school or the exam board for their failure because this takes responsibility away from them. It might feel like you’re being nice but actually you are disempowering them and making it harder for them to bounce back. Finding out what went wrong is an investigation for a later date.

So we come to the end – you can’t do these exams for them but you can create the conditions that will give them the best chance of success. Good luck!”

Make sure you also read Alicia’s brilliant series on mental health – Setting up for Success


More about Alicia Drummond

Alicia Drummond, therapist, talks to School Notices on exam revision tipsAlicia is a therapist accredited with the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy; she is also a pastoral care consultant working with over 100 schools in the UK and abroad and, perhaps most importantly, is a parent.

Alicia set up Teen Tips when she noticed that as a therapist working with teenagers it became obvious that the number of young people needing mental health care had grown exponentially

An advocate for being proactive in creating an environment for teenagers that promotes positive mental health, well-being and resilience, Alicia believes that if schools and parents can work together to create such an environment, great things can be achieved.

Teen Tips Courses, Talks and Workshops are designed to give you information, advice and perhaps, most importantly, practical tips and tools to help you to help teenagers fulfil their potential.

Visit her website for more information here www.teentips.co.uk/

If you need more help you may find the Teen Tips online course on Motivating Teens useful along with a podcast on Performance Nutrition.



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