Exam and Revision Tips For Parents & Their Teens

Exam Revision Tips for Parents & Their Teens

Exam season is here again which means only one thing – revision and lots of it. Seven hours a day was the recommendation of one leading school head for all those facing GCSE’s and A’levels this year.

Opinion is divided on whether this is necessary but hard work is generally rewarded by success.  My experience is that five to six hours is the norm and that requires incredible discipline on the part of the teenagers and patience and support from the parents.

Here are some tried and tested ways on how you can help your teens survive those long days of revision and ensure they approach their exams not only well-prepared but with confidence.

  • Revision Timetable

A thorough revision timetable gives teens a structure for their exam preparation and means they won’t waste precious revision time, flicking through text books deciding what to do on an ad hoc basis and most importantly that they won’t miss anything out.

Research shows that short periods of learning interspersed with regular breaks is the most effective approach to revision.  Ensure your teen writes down all the topics within each subject that they need to revise before preparing the timetable.  The general advice is to allocate 30-40 minute revision sessions to each topic with a 10 minute break between each and to vary the subjects, rather than sticking to topics all from one subject.

  • Breaks

Incorporating breaks within the timetable is essential.  A 5-10 minute break between each revision session is sufficient with an hour for lunch.  The important thing is that they take advantage of the breaks and are not tempted to just carry on through.  The brain can only absorb so much information at once.

  • Stationery

Writing  notes and learning them is one thing, but it is a good idea for teens to test their knowledge before exam day and practice papers are a good way to do that.  Be prepared and stock up on lots of paper and printer ink cartridges in advance, as well as post it notes and blank post cards – you can never have too much of any of these during the exam period.

  • Brain Food 

Revising uses up a lot of energy, so their body and brain needs good nourishment.  A nutritious breakfast to kick start the day is important, as is a well stocked fridge of healthy snacks and food they can prepare themselves for lunch if you are out, to ensure they are not just grazing on rubbish all day.  This is also true of sugary drinks, which while tempting when they are feeling tired will only cause a crash in their energy levels.  Drinking plenty of water will keep their brain well hydrated and make sure your teen is performing at their best.

  • Regular Exercise

With such an intensive revision timetable it can be difficult to find time for much else during the day, but sitting at a desk all day is not healthy.  It is absolutely vital they get out and take regular exercise, even if it is just a quick walk around the block to clear their head; it will enable them to put a fresh perspective on what they have learnt that day.

  • Sleep

The importance of sleep during exams cannot be emphasised enough.  It is restorative and will enhance their exam performance.  Encourage your teen to stick to a firm bedtime and not to be tempted to stay up late in the lead up to exams and particularly the night before an exam.  Cramming all night is futile as there is only so much their brain can absorb in one day.

  • Digital Detox

Effective revision and quality sleep can only be achieved without distraction.  Encourage your teenager to turn off their phone or any other electronic device while revising so that their concentration is not broken by text or facebook messages from friends.  Similarly when they go to bed persuade them to turn their phones and tablets off or put them away as the blue light they emit is particularly disruptive to a good night’s sleep.

  • Revision Help

Apart from ensuring your teen has a quiet area to do their work and revise, be prepared to test them on what they have learnt or to sit and listen as they talk you through a topic – even if you have heard it a hundred times before – you never know you might learn something new!  Challenge them on what they have learnt and get them to think outside the box.  Encouraging them to develop an inquiring mind will ensure they are prepared for the unexpected.

  • Stress-Free

Normal routines maybe disturbed during the exam time, try not to stress about it and keep home life as calm as possible for them.   Teenagers taking exams are stressed enough so any additional nagging about the state of their room is unnecessary. The long term gain of their hard work will alleviate the short term inconvenience. Remember to just keep calm.

  • Positive Support

Relentless revision is physically and emotionally draining and your teenager will at some point during their revision feel the pressure and question their ability.  Don’t dismiss their concerns out of turn.  Listen to what they have to say and try to alleviate their fears with gentle words of reassurance, congratulate them on the work they have put in, tell them you are proud of what they are doing and no matter how old or cool they are a hug works every time.

Exam Revision Tips for Teenagers


Do you have any revising teens in your house?  How do you help them through the exam period?


Editor’s Note: This post was first published in 2017 and has since been revised and updated.  




  1. Saf
    May 16, 2018 / 10:08 am

    Thanks! We are in the middle of A-level revision right now in our house. I have learned from experience that my job is to be calm and cool to avoid the stress getting too much. I listen to her, as my daughter finds it helpful to read her notes out loud and simply needs someone to nod and be there (I understand none of it). Avoid the panic creeping in even if things are getting behind because there is simply no point pointing out the situation. Useful article #tweensteensbeyond

    • Jo
      May 31, 2018 / 12:02 pm

      Ah yes that sounds very much like our household this time last year. I found my son became very “needy” of my company. He liked me to be around for his revision breaks so that he could discuss what he had learnt. I became very good at listening and nodding and actually learnt quite a lot in the process.

  2. May 1, 2017 / 8:51 am

    I feel so old, I remember revising for my GCSE’s ?
    We’ve got a few years yet before this, but I’m already thinking about how we will help them manage this workload. Very handy tips! Thank you
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    • Jo
      May 1, 2017 / 5:36 pm

      The biggest challenge is getting them to find a way of revising that they are comfortable with and getting on with it. Once they have that it is very much over to them and our role as parents is far more supportive than active. Thanks for commenting.

  3. April 28, 2017 / 8:47 pm

    I am just SO glad to be past this period, though I have to admit to having had it easy – with a huge gap between my two children,there was only ever one doing exams 🙂 #TweensTeensBeyond
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    • Jo
      April 29, 2017 / 12:30 pm

      Lycky you. I so can’t wait – only another 4 years to go! Thanks for commenting Mary. #TweensTeensBeyond

  4. April 28, 2017 / 10:33 am

    Great tips, and particularly reminding them to exercise, and also not nagging them about the minutiae! Breaks are really important.

    • Jo
      April 28, 2017 / 1:03 pm

      Thanks Megan. I am glad you thought so. Thanks for commenting. x

  5. April 27, 2017 / 3:45 pm

    Such great advice, Jo. The planning of the topics they need to revise before planning the timetable is essential. Structured breaks, healthy snacks and hugs all the way. The timetable I have found is essential in coping with the amount of work as opposed to English one day, maths the next etc. I’ll be revisiting this post shortly, for sure, so thank you for sharing. #TweenTeenBeyond
    justsayingmum recently posted…Social Media and Our ChildrenMy Profile

    • Jo
      April 27, 2017 / 8:38 pm

      Yes it is a lot of work and without a timetable I don’t know how they would cope. My son swiped my gorgeous Ella Iconic weekly planner as soon as it arrived! He loves it! Hilarious really. Thanks for commenting. #TweensTeensBeyond

    • Jo
      April 27, 2017 / 12:44 pm

      Lucky you. I have another 4 years to go before this becomes an exam free household. Thanks for your comment. x

  6. April 27, 2017 / 11:17 am

    These are great tips Jo. It is the digital detox one that is a struggle. I find it hard to get my 15 year old to leave her phone in another room! She also likes to revise with background noise (i.e. loud music) whereas I couldn’t think of anything worse. On the plus side – she has tidied up her desk! #TweensTeensBeyond

    • Jo
      April 27, 2017 / 12:43 pm

      Everyone works differently I suppose. I wish I could get my son to tidy his desk! It is a tip and if I ask how he can possibly find anything he just says I do and I can. #TweensTeensBeyond

  7. Alisa
    April 26, 2017 / 1:47 pm

    This sounds like good sensible advice for those of us who sit at a desk for most of the day too! Your tips are so sensible and organised. Am book-marking for my own daughter 🙂

    • Jo
      April 26, 2017 / 8:35 pm

      Omg I know I swear I have become more lazy since blogging and need to follow some of my own advice. x #TweensTeensBeyond

  8. Jo
    April 26, 2017 / 10:59 am

    That is great. At the end of the day they have to want to do it for themselves. Making them work hard without them recognising the personal benefits is pointless. Thanks for joining us. #TweensTeensBeyond

  9. April 26, 2017 / 10:42 am

    These are fantastic hints!! The revision timetable was crucial here during GCSEs last year. As is the minimising stress. I found when I backed off the nagging he was way more productive!! He knew better. #TweensTeensBeyond
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    • Jo
      April 26, 2017 / 11:13 am

      Yes my son freaks out if he doesn’t have a plan which is quite bizarre for a boy really but his plans are so meticulous and keep him focused. Sounds like your son is the same. Like you I don’t nag other than when he insists on filling his revision breaks with reality TV! Thanks for joining us again Kelly. #TweensTeensBeyond

  10. April 25, 2017 / 10:47 pm

    Good article will get my teen daughter who will be sitting her GCSEs to have a look! Their school had an outside company come in and talk to them about revision and how long is long enough. My daughter said it was really good and very helpful. It was said that regular breaks are very important as their is only so much your brain will absorb at any given time. I have told mine that I expect her to revise as you only ever get out what you put in, but that said she knows herself what she needs to do and how she needs to pace herself. #TweensTeensBeyond
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    • Jo
      April 26, 2017 / 11:16 am

      Absolutely right that is what my son said that there is only so much information your brain can absorb in one go and 30-40 minutes is the ideal. He is also not one to revise late at night, he gets his all done in the day so he can relax in the evening. Sounds like your daughter is focused! It has to come from them really, they have to want it for themselves. Good luck with it all. #TweensTeensBeyond

  11. Cal at Family Makes
    April 25, 2017 / 10:28 pm

    5-6 hours a day sounds so much! Although I guess it is like a normal school day, but these tips are so good. I wish I’d had that level of support when studying, and hope I can offer the same to my kids. Thankfully, we just missed out of the SATS craziness by moving to Scotland! But I know our time will come. Good luck to your kids! #TweensTeensBeyond.
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    • Jo
      April 26, 2017 / 11:19 am

      That is the plan I think to repeat the structure of the school day and then it shouldn’t seem such a struggle. The end is in sight now so fingers crossed it all goes well. Thanks for joining us again. #TweensTeensBeyond

  12. April 25, 2017 / 9:25 pm

    With a daughter in year 9, it won’t be long before we’re in revision territory and these are such useful tips. I was impressed that our daughter’s school put on a parent session about exam stress and how to support our children.

    Oh, it makes my stomach flip just thinking about it all and how much it ruined the holidays! I hope my girls will take it all in their stride and not get too upset or anxious! #TweensTeensBeyond
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    • Jo
      April 26, 2017 / 11:22 am

      Oh same here. My daughter is Year 9 too and we are just starting on that GCSE journey with some of her subjects as the new system means there is so much to learn without the course work involved. That was such an advantage for my eldest. It’s great your school are doing a stress session for parents, sometimes it is useful as a parent to be told what to do too isn’t it? #TweensTeensBeyond

  13. Nige
    April 25, 2017 / 9:13 pm

    Just popping back thanks for hosting #tweensteensandbeyond

    • Jo
      April 26, 2017 / 11:22 am

      Thank you Nige. Appreciated. #TweensTeensBeyond

  14. April 25, 2017 / 7:10 pm

    I have printed this out and given it to both our teens. Telling them will have no effect whatsoever, but leaving it for them to read just might. Thanks for putting it together #TweensTeensBeyond
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    • Jo
      April 26, 2017 / 11:23 am

      Yah! Great, glad it has been of use or for you at least! Let me know how they get on. #TweensTeensBeyond

  15. April 25, 2017 / 3:27 pm

    agree with all of these. I think having a schedule in place and sticking to it can make these times so much less stressful. #teenstweensbeyond
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    • Jo
      April 26, 2017 / 11:24 am

      It takes alot of effort to put it together but it is worth it in the end. It is a bit like planning an essay in an exam – it may seem like 5 minutes wasted but it keeps them focused. Thanks for joining us again. #TweensTeensBeyond

  16. April 25, 2017 / 3:18 pm

    I am so over revision and school work (as is DD) poor kid, halfway through her A levels. It feels like exams will never end by this age!

    • Jo
      April 26, 2017 / 11:25 am

      It is such a long haul journey isn’t it? Drives me nuts too and will definitely be kicking back and enjoying this summer for sure. x

  17. April 25, 2017 / 2:30 pm

    Sleep, breaks and the loving help/guidance of a parent. Your teen is all set!


    • Jo
      April 26, 2017 / 11:00 am

      Fingers crossed! The next couple of months will not be easy. Thanks for joining us. #TweensTeensBeyond

  18. April 25, 2017 / 2:21 pm

    These are such good tips! My son is 15 and doing his GCSEs this year. He’s doing three hours of revision a day on non-school days and two hours on school days. He’s very good at taking breaks (possibly a little bit too good!) and making himself snacks (not necessarily healthy ones), he has refused to make an exam timetable and assures me it’s all in his head! Compared to his previous schoolwork efforts, he’s actually doing really well, so I just have to trust he knows what he’s doing.
    Sarah MumofThree World recently posted…Talking to my daughter about pubertyMy Profile

    • Jo
      April 26, 2017 / 11:27 am

      Everyone has a different system that works for them and it sounds like he is putting in the effort so that is the main thing. Hope it all goes well. Thanks for joining us again. #TweensTeensBeyond

  19. April 25, 2017 / 12:35 pm

    Great tips. It’s the getting them to actually do it that I sometimes struggle with. There’s so many other things to do instead!
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    • Jo
      April 25, 2017 / 1:29 pm

      I think I am lucky in that respect, my eldest in particular just gets on with it. He hates to fail and puts himself under huge pressure but as he is a cricketer and loses a lot of revision time due to the length of the games he probably needs to be more disciplined. My youngest is easily distracted and needs a bit of encouragement. Thanks for joining us again. #TweensTeensBeyond

  20. April 19, 2017 / 12:37 pm

    Great tips. I’m sure these will come in handy for many. Thanks for linking up to #ThatFridayLinky

    • Jo
      April 20, 2017 / 11:18 am

      I hope so. Thanks for commenting Emily and hosting #ThatFridayLinky

  21. Nige
    April 17, 2017 / 4:44 pm

    Fab tips and sleep is vital I keep telling my teenagers not sure they listen Thanks for linking to the #THAT FRIDAY LINKY come back next week please

    • Jo
      April 17, 2017 / 5:15 pm

      Sleep is vital for us all – the older I get the more I value it. Will definitely be back. Thanks for hosting #ThatFridayLinky

  22. Oldhouseintheshires
    April 14, 2017 / 5:26 pm

    A great post….I have written a similar one and posted on the Linky. #TweenTeenBeyond

    • Jo
      April 15, 2017 / 10:10 pm

      Great minds! Must be the time of year?!! Thanks for linking. #TweensTeensBeyond

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