Start GCSE and A-level revision in Easter holidays to keep away from stress, say academics | Exams

Students making ready for GCSE and A-level exams ought to begin revising in earnest in the course of the Easter holidays to keep away from higher stress as examination time attracts nearer, in accordance with skilled academics and training consultants.

Across the UK near 2 million youngsters can be gearing up for his or her exams, with college students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland sitting their first papers on 16 May, 5 weeks away.

Barnaby Lenon, the previous headmaster of Harrow School, mentioned college students taking exams this 12 months have been anxious for legitimate causes, and mentioned the key to decreasing stress was good preparation.

“If stress is something that worries you, then you’re going to have more stress if you haven’t done some revision over Easter. A little bit of stress in the Easter holidays may be a price worth paying to avoid ‘super-stress’ in May,” Lenon mentioned.

While this 12 months’s candidates have suffered extraordinary disruption to their research, consultants who spoke to the Guardian mentioned college students ought to keep away from panicked cramming. Instead, they urged college students to tempo themselves and have good revision methods.

“Current exam students have lost several months of learning and may never have taken a public exam. Given the time they have lost and their unfamiliarity with revision, it is all the more important that they revise using techniques that are proven to be effective,” mentioned Daisy Christodoulou, a former instructor and director of training at No More Marking, an internet evaluation organisation.

Many college students equate revision with highlighting notes and re-reading textbooks. But Christodoulou mentioned these strategies have been largely ineffective: “It leads to the ‘illusion of competence’ – students get familiar with the material they are re-reading but they don’t really understand it.”

Instead, utilizing self-tests and quizzes results in way more efficient revision, as a result of the act of recalling one thing from reminiscence – referred to as “retrieval practice” – helps to consolidate understanding of a subject.

Adam Boxer, head of science on the Totteridge Academy in north London, mentioned: “The best way to execute retrieval practice is via quizzing – asking questions in written or verbal form. Reading your notes is being reminded of content, answering a question is retrieving your knowledge of that content from your long-term memory.”

But Boxer warned that college students wanted to be lifelike: “When self-assessing they will tend to be lenient on themselves and say things like ‘oh I meant that’ or ‘it was just a silly mistake’, absolving themselves of the need to do meaningful follow-up.

“Instead, students should not lie to themselves. They should speak or write down every answer they make, and be honest and robust when it comes to self-assessment.”

Christodoulou mentioned that utilizing a method referred to as “spaced retrieval” might additionally enhance revision: “If you have two hours to revise a subject, you are better off splitting it into four half-hour sessions on four separate days than doing two hours in one go.”

To assist, Boxer and Christdoulou recommend college students make use of free apps and on-line instruments equivalent to flash playing cards as an environment friendly method of studying issues like international language vocabulary, historic dates or maths formulae. Christodoulou really helpful the flash card app Anki, whereas Boxer is director of training for Carousel Learning, a free on-line quizzing instrument.

But how a lot time needs to be spent revising over Easter? Lenon mentioned it was more durable to offer clear recommendation this 12 months on what number of hours a day every pupil needs to be working.

“Different students are going to have different capacities to revise, reflecting the fact that students are different and students have had different experiences during the pandemic,” Lenon mentioned.

“Do as much as you can but don’t exhaust yourself because that would be crazy. Always get a good night’s sleep, never revise late in the evening, because good sleep helps your brain to retain information in the long-term memory, which is what we are trying to achieve.

“Don’t get over-stressed in the Easter holidays, don’t feel you have to bust a gut.”

David Didau, senior lead for English on the Ormiston Academies Trust, mentioned his recommendation to college students this 12 months was no completely different from every other 12 months.

“Basically, if you want to do well in a subject, sit a past paper – there are commercially available mock-ups – three times a week from now until the exam,” Didau mentioned.

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