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How to revise effectively
By Vicky at Galore Park
21 Jul

The Oxford English Dictionary definition of revision is to reread work done previously to improve one’s knowledge of a subject, typically to prepare for an examination. In Louise Martine’s book Study Skills: Building the study skills needed for 11+ and pre-tests, she looks at how you can help your children revise more effectively by looking at how they learn.

In your child’s case, they may be catching up on revision over the summer, preparing for topic tests, pre-tests to their senior school or their 11+ senior school entrance exams. Whatever the reason, they will have a greater chance of improving their level of success if they revise.

Although study skills can help your child to become more effective in their revision, they are just one piece of the ‘successful learning jigsaw’. The whole picture becomes clearer when you understand the science behind how our brains work. In Study Skills 11+, Louise sets the scene in the first chapter by looking at:

  • What happens in your brain when you learn something new
  • What happens to that information if you don’t do anything
  • How you can develop the right frame of mind to remember and recall as much of it as possible

If you and your child have a clear understanding of how they learn, you can assess how well they are doing and set goals for improving. It is always a good idea to set goals. By having a goal, your child has something to work towards and the motivation to succeed. Success will give them the confidence to think and achieve for themselves. If they can master this now, it will set them up for the rest of their lives.

What makes a good revision session?

Two things can affect how receptive your brain is to the information you are learning: attention and motivation.

If your child is not paying attention when they revise their brain won’t be able to absorb the information. If they lack motivation and can’t be bothered to learn they probably won’t. They are more likely to be successful if they really want to learn. This increases the chance of better recall of information when they need it in their exams. Be positive! Remind them to think about how good it will feel to sit an exam when they know how to answer the questions and how rewarding it will be to get a mark that reflects their hard work.

Make a plan

It is up to your child when they revise, but they should motivate themselves by having a plan (see section 3C in Study Skills 11+). Don’t let them work late into the evening – sleep is essential (covered more in section 2C) as it’s important to give our brains a rest.

Have a break

When your child is revising it is vital to take breaks. Working non-stop for hours will not help them remember what they are trying to learn as when you get tired your brain switches off.

Your child should plan breaks in their revision sessions. They will need to move around and take a break every 40 minutes or so. Their brain will have a rest and when they go back to work it will be ready to learn again.

This graph shows how our memory recall falls during a revision session but is revived after a break.

memory recall graph

What to do in a break?

Your child needs to keep their breaks short, around 10 minutes long. They should do things that are good for their brain:

  • Have a stretch
  • Go outside, play some football or other (ball) games, dance around to some music
  • Breathe in some fresh air
  • Drink some water and have a healthy snack (see section 2B in Study Skills 11+)

Electronic games should be avoided as they are not good for your child’s brain as it is still trying to process information from their last revision session.

When your child makes their revision plan (see more detail in section 3C of Study Skills 11+) they should include breaks so they don’t forget to take them.

Keep the workspace tidy

Before your child takes a break, they should make sure their desk is tidy. Encourage them to look at their revision planner and make a mental note of what they have just revised and what they are going to revise after the break.

Louise’s Study Skills book is packed with brilliant research and ideas to help provide your children with the tools they need to succeed not only in their exams but throughout their whole school career. The book is divided into six chapters, starting with how you learn, then how you can get the best from your brain, then how specific study skills can help you retain and recall information. Finally, it covers those skills you need for the 11+ tests.

The book contains a contents and progress record which helps your child keep track of their progress. When they have covered one of the skills, they should record their level of achievement: ‘I’ve got it!’ or ‘Not yet’ when it’s a challenge they will return to. This will encourage them to develop a growth mindset. Watch this talk from Carol Dweck (professor of psychology at Stanford University) on ‘the power of believing that you can improve’ for an introduction to the concept of the growth mindset.

contents and progress record

There are also handy hints and notes throughout the book so you and your child can make the most of the tasks.

study skills how to use

Find out more about Study Skills: Building the study skills needed for 11+ and pre-tests and order online here. Now also available as a digital eTextbook.

Tags: 11+, 11+ Revision, 11 plus, 13+, 13+ Common Entrance, 13+ Revision, 13 plus, back to school, Common Entrance, Entrance exams, home schooling, learning, Parents, revision, revision prep, Revision Tips, school entrance exams, Study Skills, Studying

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