A-levels, the final year examinations taken by students in a British curriculum school, are the culmination of two years of hard work post-GCSE. Most students and their families find the time just before and during the exams tough for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the exams are rigorous and require a great depth of knowledge. Many, many hours of revision for each subject are required for success, even for the brightest students. This can take its toll on home routine, as normal life is put aside and time is dedicated to revision work instead. Secondly, there’s always a degree of pressure attached to A-level results. Universities usually offer places conditional on achieving certain grades, so the pressure to perform is enormous. Your child is also on the verge of adulthood. In a few short months, your child will probably be leaving home for the first time to attend university or to take part in a gap year project, or perhaps he or she will be finding their first full-time employment. Either way, your child is about to go out into the world and by now, he or she will be feeling pretty independent. This doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t help; far from it. There are lots of ways that you, the parent, can help and encourage your child to prepare for A-levels whilst still gain some of the independence needed for the next step in his or her life.
Here are 5 ways you can help:
Arguably, the most important job for a parent during exam season is to maintain calm and a normal routine during this stressful, sometimes chaotic time. Your child will be under a lot of pressure so they need to feel loved, supported and encouraged. There may be times when the stress bubbles over, but keep calm and know that this time is short. Be positive and let them know you are there for him or her.
Good schools should teach exam revision methods, but don’t take this for granted. It’s definitely worth checking that your child has some techniques under his or her belt. You want to be sure that revision time is fruitful. If your child wants and needs help, show him or her how to condense lesson notes during revision, mind-map, draw diagrams and flowcharts, and invent mnemonics and other memory joggers. If your child is taking an essay-based subject such as English or History, then remind him or her to practice writing essays. Writing some full essays is wise, but also encourage your child to look up plenty of past-paper questions. Planning the structure and main points of the essay answer can be almost as useful, plus it’s quicker.
It’s important for your child to know their revision is working, so encourage him or her to talk about what he or she has learned. This will help consolidate knowledge and make him or her feel confident. If your child is happy to do so, you could ask him or her to talk for two minutes non-stop on a subject, or if your subject knowledge is good, you could also quiz him or her. Not all students like to be grilled in this way, however. If your child is one that doesn’t, then gentle questions, being interested in what he or she tells you and subtly teasing out more information will help just as much.
Most A-level students are incredibly studious and are more likely to need reminding to work less, not more. Staying up all night to revise is certainly not wise, nor are long days without a break. Some downtime is really important for stress management. Ensure your child does enjoy not feeling guilty about taking some time away from revision work to spend it with you, siblings or friends. Time relaxing at the end of the day will prepare him or her for sleep, which he or she absolutely need. Regular breaks to grab a snack or drink, or just to letting your child’s brain rest for a short time are vital too.
Lots of parents wish to reward their child for the hard work he or she has put into A-levels. Set up a treat for him or her to look forward to straight after the exams are finished, such as a trip or a present. This will help keep motivation levels up. Beware of setting up a reward conditional on grades, which can be tempting. This may only add to disappoint if results day doesn’t go as planned and, instead, adds to the pressure he or she is already under. Self-satisfaction, parental pride and a coveted university place are enough rewards for the right grades should he or she get them. Summer is the best time to explore and try new things, so encourage your child to have a summer of activities planned to keep him or her busy until results day. Otherwise, it can be a very long, anxious wait!