How To Help Your Teen Ace Their GCSEs: Part One

It’s not easy being a teen studying for GCSEs. It’s also not easy being a parent of a teen studying for GCSEs.

It can be tempting to periodically bark at them to “get revising” and beyond frustrating when all they seem to be doing is watching TV, playing on the Xbox and seemingly doing anything but studying.

Why, why, why will they not study? Don’t they know how important these exams are for their future?

The truth is that they do know. They are being told this day in, day out every single day at school. Then they come home and you remind them again. And again. They are caught like a rabbit in the headlights as their GCSEs hurtle towards them at breakneck speed. But for some reason, they just can’t seem to move.

The simple truth is this: the reason that they are not revising is most likely because they simply do not know how to.

You see, most schools are brilliant at taking care of the teaching side of things. They will give engaging lessons, give handouts, give workbooks, give homework.

But the only person in control of how much your teen is taking in, and learning, is your teen. And the scary part is that they might not even be aware of this.

This became abundantly clear to me this weekend as I chatted with my own daughter (who has just started Year 10) about what she had done already at school this year. I recognised a pattern that I have seen in many of my students over the years. It became clear that she had been taught a great deal – she had reams and reams of neatly written notes but does not (yet) KNOW much of the information.

If she doesn’t know it yet, when will she learn it, I wonder?

In my mind’s eye, I looked ahead to next year and imagined her working into the small hours whilst she tries to cram 2 years’ worth of knowledge into her brain in the final few months. I imagined the sleepless nights and exhaustion and the inevitable tears and tantrums.

She doesn’t need that and neither do I.

BUT there IS another way. It involves teaching teens how to be in control of their own learning right from the beginning of the course by helping them set up a simple system.

I set about putting this into practice with my daughter this weekend.  

Step one is simple: gather all the information in one place.

  • We set up a shared folder in the drop box with a folder inside it for each subject.
  • We put an example past paper into each folder so that she knows what she’s aiming for at the end. These can be found here.
  • We put in a list of the topics she needs to learn for each subject. These can be found here on GCSE – BBC Bitesize under the relevant subject area.

That’s literally it.

In just a couple of hours, we have already moved to a place where she feels more empowered.

  • She knows how what she is learning fits with the bigger picture.
  • She sees how each subject is divided into topics which she can “tick off” as she moves through the course.

I was spurred on to do this by reading Michael Tipper’s book “How To Give Your Teen An Unfair Student Advantage: The Step By Step Guide To Stress Free Study Success.” I highly recommend this book for any parent who wants to help their child glide gracefully through their GCSEs.

I for one will be continuing to work through his steps to help my daughter through the next few years and I’ll be sharing tips, tricks and short cuts that I learn along the way.

If you want to join us, simply sign up below to get my weekly blog delivered straight to your inbox each week.