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A girl revising at her desk at home24 April 2024

Exam time can be as nerve-wracking for parents as it is for students not least because the teenage angst can ramp up several notches. If you’re racking your brains for ways to support your child through their A level examinations, here are our top tips for parents ahead of exam season. 

1. Find the best learning environment  

While some youngsters prefer to revise entirely at home, others find it motivating to study elsewhere, either with or without friends around. It might be called ‘study leave’ but your child may find working at school more productive so see if it’s an option and which areas your school makes available – the library, sixth form centre etc – as well as the hours they’re open. To mix things up further, you could also suggest a public library or local coffee shop or café for a portion of their revision time. 

2. Offer practical support  

You might be new to this situation but school will have seen innumerable children through revision and exams. Ask your school for ideas on how you can support your child practically, eg drawing up a revision plan, helping them set targets, locating past papers etc. The teachers should have plenty of ideas and may even do a specific talk or workshop for parents around this in the lead-up to study leave. 

3. Limit stress 

Remind your child that exam time is stressful and feeling nervous is normal. However, if you notice it’s tipping over into something more serious, encourage them to speak to their teachers to get a bit of perspective and boost their confidence with praise (more credible than when parents give it). If they attend a very academic school, remind your child that it’s only their personal best that matters, not everyone else’s – and don’t be afraid to ask a teacher your child respects to reinforce this too. If necessary, find out if the school counsellor has any appointments.  

4. Take advantage of extra study support  

Find out what your school provides by way of top-up revision in the lead-up to, and during, study leave. They may offer subject surgeries, additional marking and even one-to-one revision sessions for any areas your child is really stuck on. As there may be variations between the subjects, be sure to ask each subject department.  

5. Consider a tutor 

Tutoring can really help A level students get to grips with particularly challenging parts of the syllabus or over revision hurdles. While it’s obviously best to start as early as possible, many of the tutor agencies we review have a number of exam-focused slots available with tutors who are skilled at stepping in last-minute. 

6. Help your child stay focused  

Your school will have plenty of ideas on how your child can spice things up with different methods of revision – reading, verbalising, mind maps, flash cards, watching videos and podcasts etc. Get your child to consider productivity apps too, such as Flora or Forest, which help them stay off their phone and build positive study habits. 

7. Encourage good routines 

There isn’t a school in the country that would recommend round-the-clock revision. Nobody can be productive without regular breaks that allow the brain to reset. Encourage your child to build these into their daily routine, ideally incorporating exercise to energise them and sleep better. At night, remind them that half an hour of unwinding (no screens) followed by at least seven hours knocks the socks off burning the midnight oil with last-minute revision. 

8. Stay positive 

Be supportive, not critical and don’t catastrophise. Your child is likely dealing with their own worries about revision and exams and they certainly don’t need to shoulder your anxiety as well. Let it go if their room is untidy, they haven’t done the washing up or they’re bickering with their siblings. When the exams kick off, be reassuring and upbeat, and after each exam let them offload if they need to – gently steering them into focusing on what went well, rather than what they missed or found challenging.  

9. Your SEN child 

Preparing for exams can be stressful for all young people, but for those with SEN – who may face issues with processing, working memory and time management – it can feel unbearable. Use the school’s learning support department to help your child find the best revision methods to suit their individual learning needs, eg visual learning vs auditory or kinaesthetic revision. Smaller chunks of learning, built into a realistic revision timetable, are helpful for those with SEN, as are low-stimulation learning environments. You might want to double check any special exam arrangements too. 


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