13 yr old (not) revising for exams. What do you do?

(42 Posts)
DopamineHit Fri 22-Feb-13 10:54:42

Our older DD is a very bright girl, works hard, revises hard, does her best. 13 yo DS appears (in contrast at least) utterly unmotivated. Has exams coming up in March and then another lot in May/June.

Coming to end of HT week when he should have been revising. He won't do any revision at all unless he's absolutely forced to. Unless someone is physically sitting with him going through the work with him he simply won't do any. It's exhausting (but tbf mainly for DW who does 80% of it). Feels like we're back at school - thought we'd done all that.

Tried being nice parent / nasty parent - nothing seems to work. What do we do? Just let him flunk? He won't care. He is absolutely not an unpleasant boy - he's polite, good natured, kind, has a nice bunch of friends. He's averagely bright - mostly in middle sets at school. Just won't do a damn thing unless you nail him to the desk and watch him like a hawk.

Any advice would be much appreciated.

HeathRobinson Fri 22-Feb-13 10:57:54

Are these mock exams? I asked my 13 yr old a few minutes ago about exams and, apparently, they don't have any until summer. hmm

Bluebell99 Fri 22-Feb-13 11:05:28

My ds is the same and our school had the genius idea of making all the children in yr 9 sit 2 gcse this year and two next year. I feel like I am taking my gcse in German again the amount of input I have had. All my ds wants to do is play minecraft. He is-also 13. My own parents had zero input into my o levels.

DopamineHit Fri 22-Feb-13 11:52:12

HeathRobinson - yes they're mocks. Real deal in June. But if he doesn't get the message now nothing will change til June. He's yr 8 btw.

Bluebell - ditto, only substitute Xbox for minecraft. And same as you, both DW and I (and DD for that matter) worked hard and were motivated and needed zero input. DD just needs a bit of guidance occasionally, nothing more.

What is it with the boys? We can't play substitute school teachers for the next three years - it'll drive us nuts. But if we don't he won't get anywhere and won't be bothered. Do they grow out of it? How do you convince / persuade / cajole them into having a bit of initiative to get on with their work...?

niceguy2 Fri 22-Feb-13 12:52:37

Does he know what he wants to be yet? See what sort of grades he needs?

A big incentive is to be honest family and yourselves. What had motivated my dd most has been the desire to get a "good job" like me and also loss of FB photos of my half sister at uni going to party after party!

Year 8 doing GCSEs? hmm.
This is exactly why GCSEs are aimed at 16 year olds not 13 year olds. Early entry not only ensures mediocre grades for all but the very gifted but also pressure on children when they are too young and immature to be sitting GCSEs.
OP I suspect that in 3 years time when he is doing them for real you will see a very different child who is old enough to study for exams.

HeathRobinson Fri 22-Feb-13 13:14:34

Hmm, an hour's worth of revision = an hour's work of Xbox?

With a goal that you can see he's reached by the end of the hour.

HeathRobinson Fri 22-Feb-13 13:15:12

Ahem - an hour's worth of Xbox. Not work. hmm

DopamineHit Fri 22-Feb-13 14:18:27

Thanks for the replies everyone.

secretscwirrel no, not GCSEs ("mocks" is confusing, sry), but moderately important school exams. He's not doing any early entry stuff at all - it's just standard school exams that all of them take. I totally take the point that he will be a very different person at 15/16, but the worry is that right now he has close to zero self-motivation to apply himself. Does this change as they get a bit older...?

Heath - sure, we apply sanctions like this but he'll just sit in front of his textbook for an hour with glazed expression on his face. Unless we "tutor" him he'll learn virtually nothing. Of course we expect to help him but surely he should have some ability / desire to work by himself without being monitored every second..?

I suppose what I'm really wondering is if this is - if not "normal" - then not exactly unusual for a 13 yo boy, and they get better habits as they get a bit older. Or is it the case that by now they should be able to work constructively and independently most of the time? (our DD certainly could at 13).

DopamineHit ah just end of year exams then. It was the mocks that confused me.

My point was really that yes, they do change. Boys in particular grow up unrecognisably in those 2 or 3 years.
I also think that in year 8 the exams are a measure of what they have learned for the teacher's benefit and not something requiring intensive revision. In year 8 I would ensure homework is done routinely but I would not be heavy handed about punishing for lack of revision.

I have 2 DSs. DS1 needed encouragement and supervision at 13. By year 10 I had no need to interfere at all although I couldn't restrain myself at GCSE time. He got 11 A* / As.
DS2 was exactly like you describe your DS in Year 8. He is nearly 15 now and in Y10. He is getting A* in all his work despite appearing to be so laid back he is horizontal.
I have also always used the carrot rather than the stick.

webwiz Fri 22-Feb-13 16:57:19

We used to call DS "Slippery Jack" because he would agree that he was going to do some studying and the minute you turned your back he would disappear back to the xbox!

He's 16 and in year 11 now and he works really hard without any prompting (but of course appearing to be very laid back about it all).

someoftheabove Fri 22-Feb-13 17:05:06

Has the school done any work with his class about actually how to revise? If he thinks he just has to sit in front of a textbook to revise, no wonder he doesn't want to do it. A good school will teach the students how to revise, using mind maps and various other techniques, so that what they do revise stays with them. If they haven't done any of this, talk to his teachers and ask that they set aside some time to teach them some revision tips that work.

MuchBrighterNow Fri 22-Feb-13 17:44:41

I had the same problem and ended up subscribing to a really good revision web site with tutorials, quizes and exercises all based round the syllabus. It has incentives to working as you can check your score against other users and see how you're progresssing. Adults can check in and see how much and what exactly has been done.

My Ds finds it a much more enjoyable way to revise and his grades have gone up. I don't live in the uk so probably not much use telling you the name of the one we use but I'm sure there's stuff available in english.

Yes completely normal! My DS was like this all through Year s 7-9. He had some Yr 10 assessments just after Christmas and it was the first time ever he had sat down completely independently and tried to learn the material.

He started too late and didn't do some of the subjects in enough detail, but he has just started to see that when he did put in the work he got some good grades. He is also just starting to have ideas about what he wants to do when he leaves school and is beginning to understand how important the GCSEs are.

He has already asked me to help him improve his revision notes over the Easter break so that when he has exams next term he can crack on with learning and revising the stuff and for the first time ever he admitted he just hadn't worked hard enough. He is now 15 so light does eventually dawn!

DopamineHit Fri 22-Feb-13 18:55:18

Thanks everyone - some useful suggestions and encouraging responses here. Maybe we've been lucky having a very bright, able girl who just sails through school and it's coloured our judgement as to what to expect in the early teenage years with a boy. We'll keep persevering with a carrot rather than stick approach. Any further feedback / suggestions very welcome.

(it's not relevant here but it does make you wonder at the fact that boys end up ruling the world - the girls are just miles ahead at this age in every department other than kicking a ball around....)

timetosmile Fri 22-Feb-13 21:00:22

He is absolutely not an unpleasant boy - he's polite, good natured, kind, has a nice bunch of friends.

He sounds lovely.

I am currently reading a book about how (despite our best efforts) we want our children to achieve either what we ourselves achieved, or what we failed to achieve and thus are trying to relive our lives through them..interesting..

I think the posters are right though, lots of boys are just not 'into' school at that age and grow up over the next 2-3 years.

I guess it depends how big a deal/how unhappy you are prepared to make DS and DWs wife over it?

disclaimer, DS only 12 so am on this thread to learn really!

The thing that is working for DS1 so far has been to do some bits and pieces of work that he didn't enjoy, for a low wage.

It seems to motivate him into studying much harder as he is hoping to get qualifications that will enable him to pursue a career that he enjoys and/or pays well.

bonkersLFDT20 Fri 22-Feb-13 21:13:43

I am inclined to regard the school exams they do in year 8 and 9 as ones to prepare them for the real thing in year 11 (or year 10 in some cases).This is the time for them to realise that they do actually need to revise.

IF he flunks them all in year 8 then he'll maybe be placed in lower sets. If this bothers him then he'll pull his socks up. If it doesn't bother him then you'll have to try other approaches.

My year 9 son, who is pretty conscientious and high achieving is starting to see the correlation between input and output. He sees some pupils (usually girls) getting higher marks, I ask him to think about how much work he put in and how much they put in. I don't usually need to say anything else.

CointreauVersial Fri 22-Feb-13 21:18:32

I could have written your post myself, OP. We have a 13yo DS with two motivated younger sisters.

We have fallen into the "good cop bad cop" routine at the moment, whereby DH wants to stand over him waving a big stick, whereas I would rather let him find his own way, and take on more responsibility for his own success/failure. Neither is working at the moment.

invicta Fri 22-Feb-13 21:22:35

Phew, my 13 year is normal. His marks are always alt better when I sit and test him, after he has supposedly revised. If I leave him alone, he doesn't do so well. I had to give him tips about revising. Ie. write summary notes, and he has slowly improved.

Littleturkish Fri 22-Feb-13 21:24:39

Good revision techniques I encourage my form to use (so broad- not subject specific)

-record themselves reading out key facts, definitions and terms into their phones to make a podcast
-create a learning mat on an A3 piece of paper, lots of bright colours and boxes of information (great for boys as it splits the key information up)
-write your own quizzes or pose own test questions. For essay questions, write a plan, for test questions (single response answers) make flash cards
-pair matching game for key terms and definitions
- for English/History/RE where it requires whole text understanding, try condensing ideas down into tweet-size definitions
-key quotation posters around a photo of the topic/subject
-turn a wall in a bedroom into a learning map and let him pin up his revision as it is done to encourage a sense of achievement

Hope that helps!

DopamineHit Fri 22-Feb-13 22:59:08

More excellent feedback - thanks again everyone.

ThreeBeeOneGee - we thought about an incentive, financial or otherwise, but decided against it. Surely he should be encouraged to do good work for its own sake and his own self esteem (otherwise he might grow up to be a banker...). Also DD might take a dim view and start demanding back payments....

bonkers - Take your point. I was sort of thinking that these exams are more a dry run rather than the real thing. Just concerned that if he didn't knuckle down now maybe he never would but other posters seem to have different experiences of boys maturing around 13-15, which is encouraging.

Littleturkish - some very good suggestions there. Thank you.

Theas18 Fri 22-Feb-13 23:45:24

What are the consequences of not doing well in these exams?

I'm very hands off-nudge then and give them the opportunity to do it (maybe remove distracting technology too) but in let them so lots or a minimum if that what they want....see what grades he gets in his regime and what he should have achieved maybe? Would it shock him onto action for the summer? .

pollypandemonium Fri 22-Feb-13 23:48:23

Year 8 exams aren't important as far as I know. Pick your battles, let him be now and start worrying in year 10.

BackforGood Sat 23-Feb-13 00:01:54

Absolutely normal. A high % of boys are not wired to be self motivated academically until they are in their late teens, or even twenties. Certainly it would be fairly unusual at 13 / in Yr8 to be at all motivated by 'mock' internal exams I'd have thought.
It's taken until 6th form for my ds to actually acknowledge that he needs to work at things. Sometimes though you have to stand back and let them learn.
ds actually said to me a couple of months ago that he wishes he'd done a bit of work before his GCSEs, and achieved what he'd hoped for in a couple of subjects where he dropped a grade. I actually think it better that he's learnt this lesson now, than have us do everything for him while he is at home, and then fall flat on his face once he leaves home, and doesn't have that spoonfeeding available - be that for University or work

Sorry, I think my comment might have been misinterpreted. We don't bribe him or give any financial incentives for grades.

He has become self-motivated as a result of his own experiences doing jobs he didn't really enjoy for a wage he wasn't impressed with. He wants to have more choice about what sort of work he does, therefore he has realised he has to work hard and get the qualifications he wants.

Quite a few people end up coming to this realisation. Sadly for a lot of them, it happens after they have already left school, by which time it's harder to study and take exams, especially if you are working full-time as well.

In an ideal world your son would be studying hard for its own sake, but not everyone finds fulfilment in that way. If he studies hard as a means to an end for the time being, then is that not acceptable too?

As well as encouragement, I would tell him that there will be no XBox between the March exams and the ones in May/June if he does not perform at a suitable level in the March ones.

AT 13 he is not able to see the benefit of studying for its own sake - I have DSs of 14 & 12. I have already banned week day XBox sessions as a result of their end of term reports - they were rushing stydy in order to get to game time, this was a flaw in my original system!

Maryz Sat 23-Feb-13 14:02:44

When you find the magic answer, can you please let me know smile

I have tried bribery, persuasion and old-fashioned nagging.

None of it works.

So I suggest wine.

yellowbrickrd Sat 23-Feb-13 15:44:10

Me too please!

Ds also 13. His school has a system of sitting GCSE's from year 9 onwards and he has been put in for 4. He is not academically gifted but considered a good bet for a solid 'c' which is all the school needs for the league tables.

I want him to get a good grade as I know he will be disappointed with c's but I can't get him to make the connection between getting a good grade and studying hard at home. He will only revise if I sit with him and supervise and he spends the whole time whining to be allowed back on Minecraft. He seems to think if they've covered it at school it will all be magically fine. Someone mentioned upthread that the school should also teach them the best way to revise but i've seen no evidence of that.

I've agonised over it and decided I can only cajole/encourage so much and i'm probably going to have to leave him to do badly in this first round of exams and hope that will encourage him to do better next year which is hardly ideal. My big worry is that it will damage his confidence and make him disengage from his education.

yellowbrickrd my comments up thread about early entry are aimed at those like your DS. Getting a C at 13 is good for the school but no benefit to the child who would likely get much higher grades with two or three more years study.
I hate to agree with Gove on anything but on the subject of early entry he is right IMO.
There is a plan I believe to measure league tables on average grade which might steer schools away from early entry.

yellowbrickrd Sat 23-Feb-13 16:00:43

Yes, also find myself in the unique position of agreeing with Gove secretscwirrels! The school have already had to re-jig their position on Science GCSE's which they were trying to put him into early so that has been a partial weight off my mind but he still has to sit the 4 this year and at least 3 in yr 10.

I don't think he is being deliberately bolshy - as with the op, he is generally a lovely boy and enjoys school and learning - it really seems to be a question of maturity where the part of his brain that deals with consequences hasn't properly developed yet!

lljkk Sat 23-Feb-13 16:13:33

I am probably an uncaring hard ass but I would explain clearly the consequences as I understood them and let him get on with it. I am pretty increasingly certain that nothing I can do can do beyond being generally supportive will affect DC grades.

(I already have a screen-time for homework incentive scheme, but that's for homework not revision, how do you measure revision done, anyway?).

From what I've read Gove's proposals do NOT prevent GCSEs completed at age 13, instead require that the exams are always sat in June as opposed to January. Could be June of yr8 or yr9, etc.

I think that schools are to rated by average grade achieved.
So a C grade would be of less value in league tables than the B or A that might be the child's true potential if they sat the GCSE at 16 which is the age they are meant for.
No incentive for early entry, though I agree not forbidden.

Maryz Sat 23-Feb-13 19:32:35

Yes, ds2 would (relatively) happily sit at his desk for hours revisingdaydreaming, if I was to reward him for it hmm. He would also sit there resenting me if I was to threaten punishment.

Neither would do much for his grades though.

I'm in Ireland - ds2 is 14 and doing his junior cert this year, which is (allegedly) an important state exam. I can't get him to care at all, but I assume when he realises what he wants to do when he leaves school he might motivate himself.

LynetteScavo Sat 23-Feb-13 19:43:46

The only thing that makes my DS do any work/homework is the threat of being moved down a set.

I've never tired to make him revise. It would be pointless. (I'm just happy if he does his homework).

Emmy02 Thu 28-Feb-13 11:34:33

My 13 year old DS is exactly the same. He will study if I sit down with him and go through the work and ask questions. I have found out he sat a couple of exams and didnt tell me, so he didnt do any study for them and his marks were not that great. I have told him he must look over his work and I will help him before an exam. Hes just not motivated. If there was an exam in xbos/minecraft he would pass with flying colours!!!

Cosmoqueen Fri 01-Mar-13 06:57:23

First message on for on this site and I have logged in desperately looking for some answers (firstly what does DS &D mean, sorry I am new to this) I have a
14 year son who I love dearly but frankly find him hard to like sometimes (hate me if you want for saying that but have to be honest) . The school tell me he is one of their brightest students as he tests well but his class work and attitude are terrible, he refuses to complete work, puts minimal or no effort into studying and is often rude to teachers in a cocky sort of "can't be bothered" attitude, pretty much the same at home. The only time we really get to help with homework is at the weekend and it can take over our lives. All of the above comments suggest we are doing the same as every other family, good cop/bad cop/rewards/Xbox/Internet privileges etc. I worry that he will never take ownership or responsibility for himself or his actions. There is always a reason for not doing as he is asked and always someone else's fault. My parents never took an interest in my school work or homework. Perhaps we push too much but his latest school report again shows below target in all subjects and yet more emails from his teachers about his poor attitude and lack of work. We try to keep him organised and make sure he has everything he needs but we can't do that for ever. As parents we feel we are failing on every level and constantly putting out fires. I have another meeting with the head of year today to try and find another solution to help him get through year 10. He complains his teachers are "always on his case" he only sees the negatives and not that they are trying to help him. he wants to go on a school trip that will cost £750 can I really justify that money on someone who cant be bothered. I think he needs to contribute to it by showing a commitment to his schoolwork. Time to go and wake him for school. Funny he never wants to go to bed and never wants to get out of it the next day!

yellowbrickrd Fri 01-Mar-13 15:07:11

The 'D' stands for Dear so DS=dear son but you will sometimes see people put the D in brackets when they are feeling particularly fed up with the dear one!

Times certainly have changed - like yours, my parents had no idea how I was doing in school and didn't have time for parent's evenings. Now you get reports and emails and meetings and parent-school contracts which all pile the pressure on without explaining exactly how you are supposed to motivate a teen who can't be bothered.

Did the head of year come up with any solution at your meeting? When you say 'get through yr 10' is there a danger they will exclude him?

Re the school trip - if it's something he really wants then it might give you some leverage. When is the trip and what is the latest time you can cancel?

Littleturkish Fri 01-Mar-13 21:38:08

When you say Cosmo queen, that you've tried 'all of the above' exactly what did you try, for how long and with what success and why did you stop?

Hard to advise what to do without knowing what resistance you've faced.

sashh Sat 02-Mar-13 06:18:41

Let him fail.

It's not GCSE, it's not going to stop him getting a career. This is the time to let him fail.

Chubfuddler Sat 02-Mar-13 06:34:40

Leaving aside the wisdom of having mocks for in school end of year exams (sounds like madness to me) is day at this stage you can let him bear the consequences - if he does badly it doesn't really have serious consequences but he won't enjoy failure and hopefully will pull his socks up.

My brother was like this - clever, popular, funny, class clown. He didn't get with the picture until A levels but then did very well. He had to put a hell of a lot if work in late in upper sixth to make up ground but he did it.

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