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Y11 revision tactics needed, please! Sorry, a bit rambly!

(34 Posts)
Tansie Tue 04-Nov-14 10:35:05

Recalcitrant, somewhat under-performing DS! Also very teenager!

He's considered 'bright enough' in that at his high-performing comp, he's in the Triple Science set (only fast track available and only permitted to do it if considered capable of at least a B, far more get A and A*); 2nd set in Maths where the top set include DC with Maths 'A' levels already... etc

So the school consider him 'able enough' just so you don't think I'm being completely unreasonable and MNetty 'My DC is a genius, why can't they see it??'.... grin

But DS's end of Y10 report sang quiet a worrying song. It appears DS really isn't doing very well; some exam results were frankly shocking for him; and he failed the end-of-Y10 GCSE they all take (Business), which only a fifth fail! BUT I know he did revise for this exam!

He is now being mentored (my suggestion, though the school are 'on board' with this); We bought MyGCSEScience and he did a topic a day, within reason, through the summer holidays but DH and I work and we cannot, nor should we have to check everything DS is doing, but I did discover, for instance, that what he was doing was:

- read the exam style question
- watch the associated video
- answer the question
- marking himself

I suggested that this was a silly way to 'learn' as obviously he was only scanning the video for the exam answer, not learning the topic. And yes, I delivered the lecture about 'Only fooling yourself'!

The website suggests you print off the 'powerpoint' images from the video which has space alongside to write on, watch the video and then make any additional notes for yourself. You file this as your revision file.

SO he tried:

- watching 2 or 3 videos whilst making notes, then
- answering the first video's associated question etc

But he says this didn't work for him, that he hadn't retained the knowledge from video 1.

I am a great believer, incidentally, of testing your knowledge by answering (then checking!) individual questions about it to reveal what you thought you knew but transpired not to! Which is why we pay for MyGCSE.

DS has been told about mind-maps etc but I don't think he gets it. He doesn't use words as triggers; for example, mine might have:

Topic: Weathering; divided into: Chemical, Physical, etc etc. end of.

DS's would have:

Weathering; divided into Chemical, chemical weathering is where x, y and z happens, the effect being a, b, c. Physical is where this process happens, as seen in d, e, f.

To me, he's just rewriting the textbook, not forming keyword prompts which I thought was the purpose of mind-maps!

Now, DS, in a rare act of chattiness (he is 15!) told me this morning that tomorrow the school have hired in revision experts to chat to Y11. I said 'Fantastic! Please take on board what they say!' I imagine they'll talk about mind-maps, how to form a revision file, whether to form such a file... but I will bet money on the fact DS will come out apparently none the wiser.

I know not all methods work for all DC- but what worked for yours? In particular your non-bookish, clever enough, non-swotty boys? I need suggestions to prompt DS to consider some possible revision strategies as he needs to nail it, pretty soon!


Needmoresleep Tue 04-Nov-14 11:14:49

Have you thought about a revision course or two. We had a good experience with Justin Craig. You cover the ground, know more about what is expected from the examiner, and it is useful to know where you stand in relation to kids from other schools, especially if your son is coasting a little in his school's top set.

TeenAndTween Tue 04-Nov-14 11:29:35

DD1 is y11. She is not as bright as your DS, and is currently being assessed for dyspraxia which as well as motor skills also manifests itself with v. poor organisation. So what I say may be of no help at all.

Mind maps don't work at all for DD.

We have gone for old fashioned straight forward revision cards.
A set of cards per subjects. 1-2 cards per topic. Created by looking at the revision guides (you do have them don't you, especially for science?). They have worked reasonably well up to now.
Then learn from revision guides/cards and do questions from the books

I will need to manage her revision though. On her own she will not be able to
- make a revision list per subject
- make a revision timetable
- focus herself to ensure she is getting value from time spent
- ensure she doesn't just do her favourite subjects
- ensure she actually does practice questions

In an ideal world I wouldn't need to do all of the above. But her GCSE results will be with her for life, and I will not let her fail because she is unable to organise herself.

Tansie Tue 04-Nov-14 13:05:04

Teen I am with you in that GCSEs are very important and we can't allow our disorganised teens to 'learn a life lesson' by not stepping in! I was wondering if I'd get: 'OP, your DS is 15, it's his revision, his GCSEs, his future; he and he alone must take responsibility, step away'.... always from someone you've erstwhile seen post about the incredible self-belief, self-motivation, confidence, intelligence, engagement, involvement, achievement and overall compliance of their own Wunderkind. grin

Now, tell me, what would you see written on a revision card? Pick any representative subject you like and please give me a demo! Are they memory jolters? Single words that trigger memories? How much depth as in my Geography example: Would it say just 'Weathering'; Chemical, Physical, Whatever the other 2 are (!). Or would it under each one, say 'Chemical' list the factors involved with chemical weathering; Physical; list those factors, etc? Do you 'flash' them and have the DC tell you all about it? What it it's difficult Physics and you don't know if they're right?!

And yes we do have the revision guides where applicable!

How long a revision time would you dedicate per subject, per week?

Does a revision guide say, for example:

Monday, 30 mins Maths, 30 min Biology etc; or does it say Monday 3rd Nov, 30 mins quadratic equations, 30 mins respiration? If so, how do you know how much time to dedicate to each specific topic?


TeenAndTween Tue 04-Nov-14 13:58:16

My DD's Biology1 'Genetic Disorders' revision card reads thus:

Genetic disorders p9

^Change in DNA = Mutation
Genetic disorders are result of inheriting genetic mutations
Cystic fibrosis & Sickle cell disease
If mutated cell is dominator inherited 2 copies of mutated cell they will be affected
pedigree charts^

I have tended to encourage listing factors where appropriate, eg actually listing pros and cons of different types of power station for example. Sometimes though we just write 'Can you name 3 advantages and 3 disadvantages'

For some subjects we also have cards on question answering technique. e.g 'How to answer a Source question', or '5 things to remember before the maths exam'.

DD has revision cards for all topics completed by half term this term, so now we add to them. If doing questions and needing help she has to show me a) the relevant revision card and b) the page in the revision guide before I will help.

For the y10 exams I went through with DD per subject, and on a spreadsheet we listed every major topic per subject (~6-12 per subject for the meatier ones) and also listed update revision cards, question technique, final run through for each one.
I then estimated effort to revise each. DD reviewed (and tended to revise my estimates upwards).

We then did a second page on the spreadsheet where we listed every day before exams and numbers of hours revision she could do. (So not much some nights, 3 hrs a day at weekends, something like that). We compared the work to do with the hours planned, realised one was way bigger, adjusted both.

I didn't allocate subjects to timeslots, but I asked her to record what she actually did so we could ensure some level of balance in subjects studied. I also let her tick off things revised at school (they do quite a lot for some subjects).

How much to revise? That is as long as a piece of string.
DD seems to have no spare bandwidth at all at the moment, what with CAs and some subjects setting revision for tests. The mocks are in Jan. DH and I have been debating what is reasonable for over Christmas holidays. I can't see her managing with more than 5 hrs max. I know some kids could do much more.
For y10 we estimated around average 10hrs per GCSE, but science and history get more, and languages less. With DD though with science it is understanding that can take her a lot of time.
The only way to revise maths imo is to do questions.

I did get her to mix and match revision.
So of an evening it would be a mixture of
- a learning topic
- a doing questions topic
- a doing online topic
She can't do more than 45mins of straight 'learning' in one go.

I try to get her to do 'active learning' eg writing down what she thinks she has just learned. But she rarely does.

Sorry for the essay. I don't claim to be the expert in this, but it has worked reasonably well for DD1.

TheWordFactory Tue 04-Nov-14 14:14:09

I have two year 11s OP grin.

I have no clue how DS revises...he just locks himself away in his room and seems to just stare at his books whilst laying on the floor, his lips moving as he repeats things to himself!!!

But DD has a proper regime.

She has mocks in four weeks and has got under way.

First she makes a timetable, setting out what subject she will do on what days. Experience has taught her that some subjects need a fair few more slots than others! Experience has also taught her that this timetable will need to be rejigged a few times before the exams.

Then for each subject, she reads through the text book, worksheets etc topic by topic and makes flash cards, the idea being that these will act as an aide memoir.

So she might have one card that says osmosis on one side. And the definition on the other. Or one that says treaty of Versailles and then on the back will be the basic facts.

The idea is to get to the point where she say what's on the back of them all.

For languages, she has sheets of verbs with the English down one side and French or Spanish down the other. She does look, cover, test.

DD likes me to test her on stuff a lot. It is boring for me, but I know it helps her.

TheWordFactory Tue 04-Nov-14 14:16:59

I suppose what I'm saying is that DD does a lot of learning prior to application.

And to be fair, her school has consistently insisted upon tests along the way in most subjects so that the learning isn't starting now. Agian, boring, but so useful.

titchy Tue 04-Nov-14 15:08:46

Mind maps don't work for me either,I much prefer bullet points which force you to pick out the important bits. So...

....- Chemical
.............- point A
.............- point B
.............- point C (sentence to clarify if I'm not confident about point C)
....- Physical
..............-point A


Once I know the basics I might then do further detailed bullet points on Chemical (point c)
........- fact 1
.........- fact 2


Coconutty Tue 04-Nov-14 20:10:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

chumaniward Tue 04-Nov-14 20:24:14

I'd say cgp revision guides are useful as a basis but certainly nowhere near detailed enough to achieve a and a* grades

Coconutty Tue 04-Nov-14 20:27:29

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

skylark2 Tue 04-Nov-14 20:42:53

I was a bullet point person too - DD's mind maps would have been useless for me. Whatever works for him.

But he does need to start watching the videos before he reads the question. What he's doing now would work for open book exams, but it's useless for GCSE.

Tansie Tue 04-Nov-14 21:20:14

Thanks, all. I'm going to read them all in depth tomorrow.

Eastpoint Wed 05-Nov-14 06:19:16

Do mind maps work for anyone? I was shown them when I was doing O levels (yes, that long ago) & I never made them, DCs have also been shown them at school as revision techniques & don't use them. Sorry to derail thread intentionally. Dd used the CGP revision guides last summer & did v v well.

JeanSeberg Wed 05-Nov-14 06:34:35

Past papers worked here alongside the revision guides. And then go through the mark scheme.

TheWordFactory Wed 05-Nov-14 06:42:11

Neither of mine have ever used a mind map!

hellsbells99 Wed 05-Nov-14 06:47:07

DD's chemistry teacher was a firm believer in past papers!
Initially doing them using notes and revision guides, and then checking marking scheme. Then getting to the stage where they were doing them properly without notes.

shinysparklythings Wed 05-Nov-14 06:55:40

I am a maths teacher and getting students to do effective revision is tricky.

For maths I believe that past papers are the best way forward. The best way to learn maths is to do maths! Also lots of students are fine with the skills but struggle to unravel what the question is asking because maths exams are also English exams these days At our school we also you mymaths and maths watch as interactive resources, so if pupils are stuck on a topic they know to go watch the video and answer the questions.

For my tip set year 11 we are creating revision cards at the end of each topic. I modelled the first one and then students have been making their own, high quality cards.

Coconutty Wed 05-Nov-14 07:06:01

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

lalsy Wed 05-Nov-14 08:28:43

I've heard that about the CGP books too but dd used them for the sciences and barely dropped any UMS. I helped her mark past papers and when we compared the mark schemes with the CGP book, it was spot on - exactly what you needed to say to get the marks (I am not saying this is a great way to learn - but it was a great way for dd to revise). Both my dc have found using textbooks and their own files to make revision notes too time-consuming - there is vast wads of stuff that isn't in a helpful format (pages of experimental write ups for experiments where all the plants died - the CGP book will have half a page with a clearly labelled diagram and the "right" results).

No-one here has ever used mind maps either - unless writing notes in a random order on a page counts? smile.

OP, I think it is hard to know how best to revise. The dc school makes all sorts of suggestions about mind maps ad quizzes but sometimes it is too much I think and means it is hard to cover everything. dd is disorganised and that was another reason she liked the CGP books - she could start at p1 and keep going and know she had covered the syllabus. The science videos sound similarly systematic - have you done some of them with him to show him how to use them to revise (similar to shiny with her maths set). My dd was astonished when I showed her how to go through a syllabus, say, ticking things off when she knew them (she has now gone to university so she did get the hang of all this in the end!).

TheWordFactory Wed 05-Nov-14 08:35:38

Spurred by this thread I pinned DS down this morning to tell me how he revisesgrin.

He says he basically tests himself. He reads 'stuff' then waits 'a bit' then tried to write down what he remembers.

lalsy Wed 05-Nov-14 09:04:41

Sounds familiar grin

AtiaoftheJulii Wed 05-Nov-14 09:10:46

dd2 does mindmaps, but on fairly specific topics. I just looked at a photo of her bedroom wall from earlier this year where she had loads of revision stuff stuck up. There were quite a few mindmaps about "Of Mice and Men" - one on symbolism, one on Curley, one on Lennie, etc. She likes to have different branches in different colours.

I think if you just had Weathering in the middle and four different processes stuck around it that would be a very simple mindmap. I thought the point of them was to break topics down into smaller bits? So weathering in the middle, then Chemical as a first node, with facts about chemical weathering attached to that, like your son has done, is exactly what I would do for a mindmap on weathering.

I wouldn't make a mindmap, I don't have that sort of visual memory, but I would write it out in bullet points like titchy.

Answering questions is very useful - the process of retrieving memories is a really good way of strengthening those memories.

Does you son have textbooks? My dd didn't for most subjects, so I bought a lot, plus revision books. Basically revision for most people is make notes, answer questions. Just reading will get you so far, but won't be so effective. Your notes shouldn't just be a short version of the textbook - if there's something you find difficult, your notes should explain it to you in a way that you understand.

Coolas Fri 07-Nov-14 06:44:51

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

summerends Fri 07-Nov-14 08:09:32

Tansie gleaning from my DCs, taking good notes in class and going over them soon after to organise further is a first step to learning and worth pushing for the rest of this year. The key is really trying to understand the concepts of what is being taught.
If your DS is more of an auditory learner so that videos are better than reading/ writing, I would suggest that after each video or appropriate section he paraphrases the material out loud as though he was teaching it and then also out loud he says the key points (those that he would be writing down). He can then record himself speaking the key point and use that for his revision with his headphones.

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