The main out-of-school teaching for pupils of this age (A2 and GCSE candidates) comes in sessions that form part of expensive, subject-specific, commercial revision courses. And it seems daft to fork out hundreds of pounds for what is, basically, a dose of common sense.
Because there is no mystery to study-skills. All they consist of is knowing what kind of learner you are; and knowing how to revise efficiently and prepare for exams. With the help of a good book, or a helpful website or two, your children can easily learn how to organise their work.
Step up Martin Davis, study-skills tutor of Norwich City College, whose snappy online seminar "Helping Yourself With Study Skills" covers all your children need to know, from time planning and motivation, to note-taking and exam techniques. Find it at www.ccn.ac.uk/library/online.asp. Or go for a run-down of a range of relevant study-skills sites at www.support4learning.org.uk/education/revision_and_study_skills_cfm.
The hard thing will be to get your children interested. Try explaining that with good study-skills under their belt they will get much better returns for much less effort, because they will be better focused, and able to use their time more wisely. If they still don't get it, enlist the school's help. Talk to their tutors, explain what you see as the problem, and urge them to stress the importance of good study habits. But first check that the school is not already doing this. Most schools now teach study- skills. It may just be that your children haven't been paying attention!
Having seen three children through all their school exams, I believe their biggest problem is not getting overwhelmed by everything they have to do, and panicking themselves to a standstill. This happened to our first child, and after watching the pain of that, we sat down with the others and helped them plot a revision timetable. We made sure it included a lot of short revision sessions, as well as time for seeing friends and watching television, with the result that they did not spend hours at their desks pretending to work but actually doing nothing - and they all got their university grades.
Maeve Dennis, Oxfordshire
As a sixth-form tutor, I cannot believe your children have not been taught these things at school. Sometimes schools do this in the form of after-school sessions. But pupils often fail to take advantage of them, and parents do not know they are taking place. Are you sure this has not happened in your case? If it has, the teacher concerned may have study notes that he or she will be willing to share with you.
Janet Goddard, Manchester
The two keys to good studying are motivation and self-awareness. Motivation can come in the form of monetary reward, a university place, or the need to compete and win. Then, the student needs to understand how he learns. Does he need to see things written down? How does he remember things? How long can he concentrate for? Know thyself is the best advice to give any prospective exam student.
David Weatherall, Nottingham
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