How to help your child prepare for exams

stressed student

Is the thought of impending school examinations filling you and your child with dread? Worry not – here's how to get on top of prep ahead of time – one month, one week, and 24 hours before the big day.

One month before the exam

revision schedule

Preparation is key

Step one: getting organised. Make sure you've got all the exam dates on your calendar ahead of time, and get hold of a list of key topics for each subject.

It's worth sitting down with your child and going through this list, and their course notes, deciding which topics they feel confident with, and which they need to focus on. The earlier you do this the better – that way, if there's anything they don't understand, there's time to ask their teachers.

Once you've got an idea of what needs to be covered, you can schedule this into a timetable, fitting revision in around school and other commitments – remember to be realistic. Dedicating each revision slot to a certain topic means less time wasted trying to decide where to begin, and ensures you have everything covered.

To make everyone's lives a little easier, agree on an area that can be dubbed a revision zone – a quiet, peaceful space away from distractions like smartphones and siblings, aka revision kryptonite.

Experiment with revision strategies

Reading through notes and exercise books might work for some students, but for the majority, it's not going to cut the mustard. There a host of techniques for students at different stages – here are some you might want to try:

Revision for primary school students

primary school revision
  • Turning revision into a game can motivate even the most reluctant learner – avoid the word 'revision', and arm yourself with stickers or treats as motivation.
  • You could also set studying targets for them with rewards when these are met.
  • Don't sweat it too much though – at primary age, eating healthily, getting enough sleep and staying relaxed will work wonders in the exam room for many children – so reinforce this attitude.

Revision for secondary school students

  • Try some visual learning – turning topics into mind maps and diagrams, using colour-coordinated stationery.
  • Recording videos or voice memos is also a good way to engage your child and turn revision notes into more memorable information.
  • Encourage them to attend revision sessions at school.
  • Help design a set of flash cards that you can quiz them on.
  • Put notes or key facts on the walls around the house – seeing the information on a day-to-day basis should help it stay in their mind.

One week before


Review what they've learned so far – and set the scene

This is a great opportunity to go over everything your child has covered, and prove that the information has stuck – they're sure to know more now than they did a few weeks ago.

Half the battle with exams is knowing what to expect and how to approach an answer: so tackle some past papers or practice questions. Try completing these under timed conditions, away from any notes or resources they'll be without in the exam room. And whether it's over breakfast or in the car, a quick spot test gets kids thinking on their feet and readies them for any curveballs.

The night before

stressed child

Try to relax

Fight the urge to do any last-minute cramming – it's often more of a hindrance than a help. Remind your child that the important thing is doing their best. It might be easier said than done, but try and have a calm evening – a nice meal and a bit of light-hearted television will help ease frazzled minds and encourage a good night's sleep.

Make sure they have all their equipment ready well before bed time the night before to avoid a panic the next day. Pens, pencils, calculator – whatever it is, you really don't want to be worrying about these things on the morning of the exam.

And finally, an old favourite method – give your child something to look forward to when their hard work is over, like a day out or fun family night in. It's a tried and tested way to motivate them – and remind them their is life after exams.

Check out the best online learning resources to help your child revise.