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8 Steps to effective GCSE revision

Working hard, or hardly working?

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Preparing for exams can feel like an up hill struggle. Many teens would sooner do anything – nothing – rather than study. Sometimes it’s a denial there’s anything to do. But mostly commonly it’s the belief there will be time later.

But of course, delay and procrastination is not the formula for exam success! 

Here we cover the 8 simple steps that will help you to better support your teen when it comes to creating a GCSE or A Level revision schedule that works.

Step by Step

  • Agree the ground rules

  • Remove any distractions

  • Create a backlog (a to do list!)

  • Work out available time

  • Sensibly allocate study time

  • Review progress

  • Celebrate successes

  • Repeat!

The best time to start is now!

With the mock exams on the horizon, it’s really important to make the most of time. Not only will it give your teen the best chances for success, it’s much less stressful than leaving everything to the last minute.

The 8 Steps, explained.

Agree the ground rules

Our approach is free and straightforward to use. We also have tools and products in our shop that can help you support your teen, for those who want to get up and running quickly.

Ground rules are important. They are also easier to agree on before they are needed. Popular ones include:

  • Putting the phone in a cupboard,
  • Making sure that students get a good night’s sleep,
  • Not sleeping in past 11 am.

But rules work both ways. Keeping a supply of snacks (preferably not the sugary kind) in the house, or promising not to nag about progress are great ways of showing that everyone’s pulling together.

Remove any distractions

When faced with a chore we’d rather not do, it doesn’t take a lot to go off task. For many teens, studying is just such a chore. Make sure that the little obstacles don’t become huge roadblocks by removing them. So, sharpen all the pencils, organise folders and buy the required variety of coloured highlighters. Get everything ready so that you limit procrastination.

Create a backlog (a to do list!)

Knowing exactly what you have to do is essential to working systematically. It is the cornerstone of The Study Buddy approach. Using textbooks, exam specifications or even school notes, you can create a comprehensive list of the topics and sub-topics. Write these down, preferably on their own cards, or tick lists also work. Think about sub-topics as being the level above the detail. For example History > The Norman Conquest > The Battle of Hastings. This way you can target getting a unit done in one revision session.

If you want to get going quickly, then take a look at Our GCSE Revision Bundle. Everything that you need to plan effectively, bespoke to your teen’s courses.

Work out available time

A balance of study and social life is crucial, not just for personal growth but also for healthy mental wellbeing. Before structuring the revision, sort out when you can’t do it.

  1. Block out time for commitments such as school and extracurricular activities.
  2. Build in time for having a life: parties and the all-important lie-ins.
  3. Now, the blank time is fair game for studying.

All of a sudden it doesn’t feel like it’s all about studying, and it’s so much easier to see this as reasonable and fair.

Sensibly allocate study time

It’s counter-productive to spend all your free time studying – not to mention bad for mental wellbeing. How much study a student can do will differ wildly from one to another. Be realistic.

A plan should be geared to success because if you consistently fail then motivation will bottom out. Build in regular breaks and encourage exercise – even if that is simply taking a walk to the cupboard to retrieve the phone between sessions!

Review progress

Key to the process is to uncover what is working well and what needs to be adapted. A regular, scheduled session prevents the feeling that this is an intervention. Because they shouldn’t be. During the reviews, you should think of yourself as a coach, rather than a parent. For the next 20 minutes your function is to guide and support – not dictate what needs to be done or pass judgement.

Start by looking back at the week. With our approach and physical units, there is a lot of satisfaction derived from moving a card from ‘to do’ to a ‘done’ pile. This process feels good because you can actually see the list of what needs to be done getting smaller. It helps because it brings the focus to near-term goals. Getting to the end of the week is so much more in our grasp than some far-off career.

Seeing weekly progress feels like winning. And that feeling is highly motivating.

This is no time to be judgemental if things haven’t happened exactly as they should have. Anything that wasn’t done simply returns to the ‘to-do’ list. It’s important to look for root causes. Is there something that should be changed for next week? Perhaps energy is low on Wednesdays, in which case don’t schedule revision for then. It won’t always be necessary to adapt the plan, sometimes we just have a bad day!

Celebrate successes

There’s absolutely no evidence that outlandish rewards for grades have any effect on effort or attainment. However a spontaneous ‘pat on the back’ for trying hard or simply ‘sticking to it’ can positively reinforce self-belief. This in turn drives confidence and a desire to follow the process. In the early days, the promise of a treat for effort can be the jump start revision needs, but it’s short term only.


Buoyed by the success of the process, keep it going. Those topics aren’t going to revise themselves! As you go through the amount of control that the student feels has a direct bearing on the desire to continue. Over time, they will open up about their challenges. You should encourage this. Again, being judgment-free is the key. If your child worries about what you will say or think, then they are more likely to hide what is really happening, and that doesn’t help anybody.

Don’t delay – start today!

There’s no time like the present. To fulfil their potential, they need to put the work in. And not just time spent in front of YouTube or near an open book, but actually rehearsing and revising the content that they have been taught in school throughout the last two years. 

These 8 steps to effective GCSE Revision will help you reframe the idea of planning with your teen. For more support visit our store to create bespoke plans covering all GCSE and iGCSE courses. And do get in touch if there’s anything we can help with!

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