It’s official – exam season is back in 2022. The Department for Education has confirmed that in-person school exams, including GCSEs and A Levels, will go ahead as planned.
After two years of cancelled assessments and controversial teacher assessed grades, pupils will have to adapt to working towards specific exams. Given the timescale of the pandemic, this may not be an easy adjustment to make. A Year 13 taking their A Levels this summer term will not have faced a public exam their entire secondary school career, having had their GCSEs cancelled in the pandemic’s first wave and their AS Levels in the second.
Studying towards an exam requires a mindset and focused approach that most pupils have never been given the chance to learn at school. With the weeks until the assessments flying past, parents might be considering how they can do their bit to help their children make up for lost time. But where should parents focus their efforts? Let’s work through the specific competencies that this year’s exam cohorts will need to catch up on, and how you can give them a hand.
Managing their own study time
Passing exams takes one thing above all: revision. Breaking it to a teenager that they will have to spend the Easter Holidays holed up with textbooks might not go down in your list of favourite parenting moments. But in order to succeed in their GCSEs or A Levels, your child will need to understand how to study.
The central skill here is time management. With mere months left to go, pupils will need to be taught how to plan and prioritise their revision sessions. This will mean auditing the areas of the exam curriculum they feel the least confident with and apportioning more of their time to tackling these weak spots.
Once your child has a blueprint for how they’ll structure their revision, it’s worth thinking about how they should organise their time within study sessions themselves. The most useful thing you could do for your child before they start off might be to put some curbs on their use of digital devices. It has never been easier to fritter away hours of study time in a state of permanent semi-distraction. While laptops and iPads are often necessary for schoolwork in 2022, it may be useful to install some content blockers that will prevent a revision session turning into a two-hour reddit scrollathon.
Even when these distractions are bypassed, quality of revision time should still take precedence of quantity. This is the basis for time management frameworks like the Pomodoro Technique, which splits work into manageable, 25-minute bursts of pure focus, punctuated by five-minute breaks.
Ahead of their GCSEs or A Levels, you should try to work with your child to find their optimal framework for effective revision
Getting to grips with exam technique
Everyone who has ever spent two hours frantically scribbling into a folded booklet in a silent, draughty sports hall will understand that simply knowing the right things is not the only criteria for exam success. The problem is that most of this year’s GCSE and A Level exam candidates won’t have any real experience of this.
With only a couple of precious hours to play with, good time management is just as important inside the exam hall as in individual study. Even the most academically able pupils can lose marks by failing to pace themselves properly. They might spend too long on questions that elude them, or rush through sections of the paper that require a more meticulous approach.
You can help your child get used to sussing out the right tempo by simulating exam conditions during their revision. Sit them down with some past papers and a timer. Once they’ve finished and they’ve marked their work, encourage them to think about how a more judicious use of time might have prevented any mistakes. After doing this a few times, they will have a better idea of how to adapt their approach to the length of each exam.
Your child should also read carefully through the mark schemes for each exam to find the smaller, less obvious exam techniques that might make the difference between grades. For instance, at GCSE Maths, pupils can gain extra points for showing their workings out.
Learning the breadth of a curriculum
Exams like the GCSE are carefully drawn up to check whether a candidate has a working knowledge of all the building blocks of a subject. Pupils with glaring gaps in their knowledge will have nowhere to hide.
The interim system of teacher assessed grades and coursework offered more opportunities for high performance in one area to compensate for weaknesses in others. This won’t be on the table this time. Ahead of your child’s exam, they need to go through the curriculum with a fine-tooth comb.
Parents can play a part in this process by holding their kids accountable. If you know there are particular areas they find more difficult than others, ask them every time they finish a revision session if they spent any time on them. This light pressure will help prevent them from spending too much time in their comfort zones.
When it comes to core subjects like maths, any parent with a GCSE-level education can probably help shed some light on the topics their child is struggling with. Yet if maths hasn’t been much a part of your daily life since you took your own exams, you might well feel a little rusty. Our recent article on how to help your child with their maths revision should give you some valuable pointers.
The most effective way to help your child
The average pupil has lost a third of their expected learning in the last 24 months, yet will have had just one academic year without school closures by the time their exams roll around. Parents will do everything they can to help their children thrive, yet the scale of the catch-up work required might well outstrip the time you can spare.
If your child is feeling nervous about the impending exam season, they will almost certainly benefit from a structured series of lessons with a trained tutor. One of the primary benefits of private tutoring is the individualised attention it provides your child. While a classroom teacher will need to attend to the different needs of 30 pupils, a tutor can concentrate on identifying a child’s critical areas of weaknesses and rectifying them with greater precision.
If your child is feeling demoralized about their chances in their upcoming exams, the support of a positive role model or mentor figure can help them acquire the confidence to succeed. A good tutor will get to know their pupils as real people with their own talents and ways of working. These bonds of trust give lessons greater impact.
At TuitionWorks, we specialise in matching young people with expert educators for the most personalised maths tutoring solution on the market. All our tutors are qualified teachers with decades of classroom experience between them. They will work with you and your child to tailor a course of one-to-one, online lessons designed according to the relevant curriculum and tailored around your child’s current abilities.
Just 10 lessons with our tutors helped Aneesa, 17, move up a grade in her GCSE resit and get onto the college course she wanted. They’re ready to help your child emerge from last two years’ adversity with maths results they can be proud of. All you have to do is book your first lesson. If you’re not satisfied, we’ll refund you (but we think you will be).