Case Study: How I used Study Skills 13+ with my pupils
By Nicola McCormack
26 Apr

I first discovered Elizabeth Holtom’s Study Skills 13+ book when I was training to be a specialist teacher. It is the most highly regarded and recommended study skills book available for younger pupils. My one-to-one pupils found mind mapping effective for both revision and planning stories/essays in class. The clear step-by-step guide in the book is easy to follow and gives them a skill they can use for life. Many children struggle with organisation and the book has lots of excellent tips for organising their revision resources, managing their time and helping them to become successful learners. They particularly benefited from practising the simple breathing techniques, which helped them manage their anxiety around tests and exams.   

Fortuitously, I was later privileged to be mentored by Elizabeth prior to taking over the teaching of study skills in an independent prep school. She had created and established a very successful study skills course for the pupils starting in Year 3 and progressing through to Year 8. Each year the pupils added to their study skills toolkit, developed their metacognitive (thinking about thinking) skills and their knowledge of how their brains learn best. My pupils enjoyed using the book and found the layout and content easy to follow and apply. They learned multi-sensory strategies and revision techniques that suited their individual learning preferences. Success in exams depends on being able to revise efficiently and effectively but also on being good at exam technique. This book helps pupils to develop and practise these skills. It is aimed at preparing pupils for Common Entrance examinations but they will use the revision techniques throughout their education at senior school and university.

Pupils in Year 5 were introduced to our amazing brains and how we learn best. They learned how to take care of their brains and how our attitude can affect our performance in exams. The book has lots of memory tricks, such as flashcards, that help make remembering tricky facts easier, which is especially helpful for children who struggle with recall. The children learned the benefit of using multi-sensory revision techniques as we learn best when using all of our senses. They were taught good note-taking skills that could be used both in class and when making their revision notes. 

In Year 7, pupils completed a quiz to find out their learning preferences, which helped them to understand why they found some approaches to learning more difficult than others. They learned how memory works and were shown how to organise their revision to maximise its effectiveness. They learned the value of regular reviewing, especially just before going to sleep. This knowledge helped them to develop their metacognition and encouraged them to become independent learners. Pupils continued to develop their mind mapping skills and were shown how to use index cards in a question and answer way to help with revising. Alongside mind mapping, this remained a popular revision technique for pupils throughout their education.

In Year 8, pupils continued to add to their toolkit. They created box and bubble flow charts – these are good for learning history topics on a timeline. They learned how to get organised by using the weekly and yearly planners. Finally, the pupils focused on exam technique and maximising their performance to get the most out of all their hard work.

I would highly recommend this book to parents looking for an accessible guide to help their children with revision and preparation for Common Entrance examinations and beyond.

Nicola McCormack is a specialist teacher assessor and former prep school learning support and study skills teacher.

Learn more about Study Skills 13+, download a free sample and order online here.

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