Should you make teenagers revise for exams?

Belle is currently in the middle of her GCSE exams. They started around mid-May and her last one is on June 19th. There seem to be a LOT of them, and you do not want to take chances with these exams.

Her revision programme has gone something like this:

  • English literature: watching a rap about Macbeth on YouTube in the car on the way to school
  • English language: me saying ‘don’t forget to use your wow words’
  • Music: eating some pulled pork and watching Vampire Diaries

Now I know school has changed a lot since I went, but to me this doesn’t feel like your classic exam revision strategy.

But what am I meant to do about it?

How to make teenagers revise

Photo by Lacie Slezak on Unsplash

I guess the question probably isn’t ‘should I make my teenager revise for exams?’ and more ‘HOW do I make my teenager revise for exams?’

In fact, the last couple of years in particular for me have been very much ‘how do I make my teenager do anything that they don’t want to do?’ How do you physically make a 15 year old clean their teeth before bed if they are still up when you fall asleep and they JUST DON’T WANT TO?

Exam revision is a tough one though and as stressful as GCSEs are for her, the pressure I feel as a parent (and a single one at that) to support her and to do the right thing is immense.

On the one hand I know that school piles on the pressure and I want to do something to balance that out a little bit. They seem to want secondary school children to believe that unless they get the very best marks at GCSE then basically their lives are ruined. Whatever hopes and dreams they might have for the future will be meaningless without at least a level 7 in biology.

Of course that’s nonsense and I don’t want Belle to feel so stressed out that she can’t sit the exams at all.

On the other hand I know from experience that one way to reduce how nervous you feel about something is to be prepared. ‘If you could just do a little bit of revision,’ I tell her, ‘so that you feel confident about the basics, it would help to reduce the anxiety.’

She just can’t make that connection though, and so for whatever reason we are left in the YouTube rap/pulled pork situation. I have encouraged, offered support and incentives, bought revision guides and helped her tidy her bedroom but when it comes down to it, I can’t stand over her with a stick and MAKE her revise can I?

Perhaps in not being stricter I am teaching her a valuable lesson? At some point in their lives teenagers do need to face the consequences of their actions and take responsibility for motivating themselves don’t they?

And in the meantime we just have to hope that a pulled pork related question comes up in this afternoon’s music exam.

What do you think? Can or should we be making teenagers revise for exams or is there really only so much you can do? How does your child feel about exams?



  1. 6 June, 2018 / 6:26 pm

    Flea isn’t quite this old yet, but I quickly stopped the “You’re not leaving this house until…”. revision technique. One friend advised me to remove every form of entertainment from Flea until she’d done her revision – empty the room of furniture if needed.

    But I’ve realised that terrifying her into studying isn’t my job. My job is to be her cheerleader. I can help her have a space to revise and the materials she needs. After that what she does is up to her. I’ll stick to congratulating her when she does well, and picking her up and giving her a hug when she needs that.

    • Jo Middleton
      7 June, 2018 / 9:46 am

      This is spot on Sally – exactly my thoughts. Belle is already anxious enough, how on earth is it going to help her to have me putting extra pressure on? A cheerleader is a great way to put it. I want her to feel like we are a team, like I’m always on her side.

  2. Jonet Muddleton
    6 June, 2018 / 11:01 pm

    No you can’t make her and it just becomes counter productive to try. Don’t blame yourself, you have done really well just to get her into the exam room! Hopefully she will find what she enjoys doing and put her efforts into that xx

  3. Anette Crick
    7 June, 2018 / 9:09 am

    As a mother of 3 boys and a girl, it seems that in my family there is little connection between lack of revision and consequences. My 15 year old boy who definitely has the potential to do well, seems unable to revise constructively for long. He just said “ the teachers expect us to know everything” ! I am not prepared to ruin family life over the constant nagging so I am taking a back seat and providing nice food and support. Watch this space ….!! He will be disappointed on results day but maybe that is the life lesson required?

    • Jo Middleton
      7 June, 2018 / 9:44 am

      I totally agree with you Anette – nice food and support is generally my approach to the whole of parenting!

  4. msedollyp
    7 June, 2018 / 10:52 am

    I agree with you, life will go on whatever the results, its their life and decisions to make, take off the pressure, there is enough from school. Be supportive be you x

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