Catherine Hill
Head of Upper School


Supporting your son/daughter through a stressful exam period can be daunting, but parents can have a real impact on a smooth exam season. Just a few tweaks to their daily schedule and approach to revision can really help boost their performance.

Here are six research-informed tips to help your son/daughter:


Plan the time

Being well prepared and knowing how to organise their time is key to exam success, but it’s especially important when students have a busy exam schedule.

Within this revision timetable, students should plan to space out their learning. This means having more frequent revision sessions spaced over a larger period of time, rather than cramming it all at once.

Research has shown that spacing is very effective, with those who spaced their learning out over time performing better than those who crammed their revision. The gap to leave between each session depends on how far away the test is. They should also work in relatively short chunks i.e. 30 minutes and then have a short break. All students in Years 11, 12 and 13 already have an example timetable that they can use and adapt.


Active revision

Revision must be active. Students should not just read or passively highlight notes. They need to work out what they know and don´t know and focus on what they find challenging. Research has shown that students often revise work they find easy as it makes them feel good! Students should make flashcards, complete practice papers, teach someone else or get someone to test them (this could be you!). They need to continually repeat this process.


Schedule down time

It is essential that as part of their revision timetable, students schedule time for themselves whether it is watching TV, spending 20 minutes on their phone or doing sport. Too much stress can be harmful and can affect a student’s performance so this time is key. If this relaxing time is planned, it should not cause arguments at home.


Prioritise a sleep schedule

When having a lot of exams in a row, students often feel tempted to prioritise late-night studying over their sleep. However, this can be very damaging.

In a study, researchers found that people who were sleep-deprived found it harder to remember things compared to those who got a good night’s sleep. It can also affect your concentration levels, with studies finding that having enough sleep helps improve your attention and alertness.

In fact, another study found that students who prioritised getting 8 hours of sleep per night during exams outperformed their peers who didn’t. As exam fatigue can be physically and emotionally draining, prioritising sleep (which is important all year round) takes on even more significance during the busy exam period.


Revise away from the temptations of a mobile phone

Research has shown that the mere presence of a mobile phone can lead to a 20% reduction in concentration, attention and performance. In order to be truly focused on revision, a mobile phone should not be in the same room as the student. Students can have mobile phone time as a reward in breaks in between revision sessions. Several studies have also shown that listening to music has a negative effect on concentration when revising or doing homework.


Eating breakfast

One final yet very important point for your son/daughter is to make sure they keep having breakfast every morning. Many students skip breakfast on a regular basis, but even more could be tempted to do so during exams as they feel they don’t have enough time.

This can have an impact on their academic performance. In one study, researchers found that students who ate breakfast were twice as likely to gain above average scores in their tests compared to those who skipped breakfast. A reason for this is that breakfast helps students stay alert and have improved memory throughout the day. For students that have numerous exams on the same day, fuelling their concentration for the latter stages can be key. Eating breakfast can help ensure this.