Mastering revision techniques over the holidays
By Elizabeth Holtom, Author of Study Skills, the complete guide to smart learning
26 Oct
Holidays are the perfect time for children to start building up a collection of entrance exam revision resources.  They can begin to create their own learning library.  I recommend that they get into the habit of doing this as soon as they have embarked on their Common Entrance syllabus.  By the time they get to their final exams in year 8, they will have a well- stocked library to draw upon.
Here are some tips to get started.
  • Revision guidelines may be available on the school website or learning platform. If not, check with the form tutor?  Tutors may be able to gather a list of suggestions from colleagues.  Alternatively, if children already know which subjects they want to tackle, then approach those teachers directly. 
  • Make sure children have all the books they need, whether text books, files or exercise books and make sure they come home over the holidays.
  • Remember, your child is the team leader.  Teachers are key members of the back-up team.  Encourage your child to check out revision priorities with teachers.  Check they really are bringing everything home they need and have all the equipment they need.
After a couple of days’ complete break, children should sort out their revision schedule.  Download a weekly planner or two from and then fill it in:
  • What time of day works best for studying?  Be honest!  Choosing a time late in the day in the hope that study time may never happen just builds up stress at home.
  • How long will they work for?  A mind map or box and bubble flow chart may need to be completed in several sessions.  If children are actively revising, then they should allow for a 20 minute session of learning, a 5 minute break and a review. Two blocks of learning along these lines will take about an hour. 
  • What treats are they going to have?  Put these on the planner too so they can see what they have to look forward to. 
If children have completed the Learn how you Learn questionnaire in the Galore Park Study Skills book, then they will already have some idea of which techniques will work best for them and what equipment they need. 

There are a range of techniques to choose from.  All of them are dealt with in detail in my book.  I’m going to focus on mind maps and flashcards.
Mind maps:
  • Firstly children learn how to create a mind map based on a simple, four paragraph piece of text.  Next they need to develop the ability to create one based on a wide ranging topic using a variety of source materials. Ask the teacher to provide students with a photocopied black and white skeleton mind map on A4 paper. The teacher puts the title in the central bubble.  Children can convert this into a picture if they prefer.  The teacher also sets out the main branches with key words along the top of each one.  Children can then convert this into a full mind map on A3 paper in colour, adding all the detail on the sub branches.
  • When children are actively revising from their mind map, they could pin it up by their bed and talk it through to themselves before they go to sleep. They could even photocopy the teacher’s skeleton mind map and see how much detail they can add.   This does not need to be done in colour as it is a quick review.  Then add in a different colour the points they missed out or got wrong so they can focus on those next time.
  • If children are technology minded, they may prefer a mind mapping programme such as Inspiration 9 or Prezi.  Check with a school expert to help with choosing the best option.

  • Small flashcards are ideal for modern language vocabulary, formulae or other bite size facts.  It is a great idea to start building up a flashcard library of, say, French vocabulary.  Use pink fine liners for feminine words, blue for masculine and another colour for other vocabulary.  Add picture clues where possible.  Make them as humorous and unusual as possible as they will be much easier to remember. 
  • When children are actively revising from them, they should revise a few cards at a time, say, ten.  Put these into two piles: the ones they knew instantly and the ones they either hesitated on, got wrong or did not know.  Then focus on re-testing themselves on the second pile.  Store them in the lid from the 1000 cards box.  See suppliers in the appendix of my book.  Create subject dividers if necessary.  Keep the ones they need to review regularly at the front and only check the others occasionally.
  • If children are technology minded, there are flashcard apps such as Brainscape. It takes a little while to type in the information but once they’ve done this, it is a really convenient way to review how well they know a set of words, formulae etc.
Learning is a process. Children will become adept at choosing the best technique for each topic and for their learning style.
I hope revision goes well over the holidays!

Elizabeth Holtom, Author of Study Skills, the complete guide to smart learning


Tags: 11+, 13+, Elizabeth Holtom, Revision, Skills, Study

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