Gear up for success with the end of year school exams

Despite current disruptions to the academic term, end-of-year school exams are fast approaching. In this latest blog we thought we’d cover some of the issues relating to these exams: why they matter for students, how they can prepare, and how they can keep happy while balancing exams on top of other stresses.

Why end of year school exams matter

End-of-year school exams are like stepping stones. Unlike school entrance exams, they probably won’t cause your child to move school, and unlike GCSEs or A Levels, they aren’t going to go on your child’s CV. That doesn’t mean they’re not potentially important, however.

They are like stepping stones because they offer a route to eventual success on the other side, one jump at a time. For year 10 and 12 students, these exams are ‘test runs’ for challenges to come in the following year, allowing students to better appreciate the size of their task and how to balance preparing for that many subjects thoroughly. Perhaps even more crucially, for students taking school entrance exams the following autumn and winter, this is the last opportunity for formal exam practice before those future-defining tests.

These exams are also of great use for teachers, and, crucially, for us: your tutors! What matters for us is less how well your child performs – although high marks can be a great confidence boost – but rather the fact that our tutors can undertake a detailed analysis of your child’s performance to identify the areas that need targeted work over the summer. End-of-year exams can also be a good opportunity to motivate tutees to consolidate their learning.

Revision tips for your child

‘How should I (or my child) revise?’ is a very common question we get asked. When revising, the most important thing is that your child gets to know their own learning style. Do they take things in when they are reading? Or, do they learn better through conversation, or by making pictorial charts? There is no ‘right’ way to revise, and different approaches will work for different children. It’s important they are given a chance to work this out for themselves, which is another reason why end-of-year school exams are so crucial. Children can experiment with revision strategies, without compromising the results of more significant exams to come.

Next most important is that your child is given (or decides on for themselves) learning objectives which are clear and achievable. There is no point them sitting down to revise a subject without having broken that down into chunks that they need to know, and having a time frame to learn a certain topic. One of the best things parents (and tutors) can do is work with the child to settle on a timetable together. This process should be mutual, though, and not imposed top-down by parents or tutors.

If you need some more guidance as to the essentials of revision – setting aside a proper work space, helping as a parent, whether students can revise with friends – then we recommend that you watch this video with our amazing consultant, Charlotte Faber.

Online tools to help your child revise

Pending any change to the situation with schools, it is likely your child will continue to do a lot of work online, including revision. Although this poses challenges in terms of screen time and engagement, it is possible to make the most of the amazing resources there are available online for revision.

First of all, a good note-taking programme can make a massive difference to a student’s organisation and motivation. Google Drive is an obvious, free solution – allowing for the creation of folders, documents, spreadsheets and slides – but Evernote and Microsoft OneNote would be examples of other, more comprehensive solutions. You could sit down with your children and look through the different options together, and create their first note with them to get them going.

For creating different resources there are other options for students who respond to different stimuli. Quizlet is a free flashcard making tool, while Mindjet is a more complex option for making mind maps and other, more spatially-arranged notes. In terms of actual course content, BBC Bitesize offers a plethora of resources, while beyond that you might want to think in more subject-specific terms. The British Library website, for example, is a fantastic resource for GCSE and A Level students studying English Literature. Ask your tutor for subject-specific guidance.

Next steps

If you or your child had any concerns around exams, a learning assessment with one of our tutors could give them the boost they need to take the end-of-year exams in their stride. Indeed, many students feel that they like guidance from schools over how to revise, and due to our tutors and consultants taking a tailored approach, they can help students find and refine their own revision style.

Going further, if your child is preparing for school entrance exams, you might consider signing them up for one of our summer courses, running the week commencing 25 May. These intensive courses, run by our fantastic tutors, could provide the final boost needed for your child to tackle their exams with optimism and determination. Please email [email protected] for more information.

However, within all of this we know it is crucial to keep the overall well-being of your children at the forefront. Exams are stressful at the best of times, and given this year has seen intense disruption to your child’s normal pattern of learning, it is understandable if they approach exams with more reluctance or trepidation.

Rather than increasing the pressure, see this as an opportunity for your child to focus on the how of revision and learning, rather than the result. Help them explore their own learning, have conversations with them about how they think and what kind of lessons and revision they most enjoy or benefit from. Also, given the government’s guidelines around sport and exercise under lockdown are loosening, don’t forget to give your child some much-needed outdoor time. The happiness and sense of freedom gained from this can only be beneficial to academic performance.

Hopefully this has given you some ideas for how your child can approach end-of-year school exams. If you need any further guidance, please don’t hesitate to contact Ivy Education today!