Why isn’t my child revising for their GCSEs?

February 28, 2019

Whether your child is in year 10 or 11 there is always GCSE revision they could be doing.  Whether it’s just going over their notes from the day’s lessons or revising for a specific test or exam there are lots of ways that they could be getting down to revision. So why is it that your child isn’t revising? Here are some of the most common reasons and what they can do about it:

They don’t know HOW to revise 

Much of the time at school is spent learning content as the curriculum is so extensive. Teachers often have time to cover effective revision techniques so students are often at a loss how to actually commit all this content to memory in a way that ensures they can effectively answer the exam questions.

SOLUTION: Encourage your child to try new ways of revising which are active methods, meaning they have to actually use the content they are revising rather than just reading and re-reading pages of notes from books and folders.  Active revision methods include doing past papers, revision guide questions, creating and using flashcards, preparing mind maps and posters, revising in groups and discussing subjects, making videos and audio recordings and getting friends and family to test them on topics.

They don’t know WHAT to revise  

The curriculum is so large for most subjects that it can be very overwhelming for students to work out exactly what they need to revise. What they often end up doing is to just start at the beginning of their notes or a revision guide and read through their notes. Sometimes this can mean that certain topic areas are missed.  It also means that students may not be spending the right amount of time on the right topics.

SOLUTION: One of the most useful things students can do is to get hold of a syllabus for each of their subjects (for the correct exam board) and create a mind map for each of their subjects which lists all the topics and sub topics they need to cover. They can then use this document to work out what they know and understand well, what they know a bit and what they don’t know at all. Colour coding the topics green, orange and red accordingly can help them to get to grips where they need to spend the most time. The red topics are those that they need to spend more time on and essentially re-learn before they can revise.

They don’t know WHY they need to revise

Motivation is key to a task such as revision. It takes a lot of time and effort and if students don’t really understand why revision is important it will be very hard for them to get the appropriate level of motivation for it to be a success. This is one of the main reasons why students don’t actually get down to enough revision – They don’t see the point of it when there are far more interesting and enjoyable things to do with their time.

SOLUTION: Students who seem to show the highest levels of motivation have a clear idea of what they want to do post GCSE (and beyond in many cases).  Thinking about the future can really help to focus student’s minds on the task in hand. If they want to do A levels for example then they will need to achieve certain grades for their GCSEs otherwise this may not be possible.  Perhaps they could think further ahead to a particular industry or career they are interested in. What grades will be necessary for them to enter their chosen profession? Seeing GCSEs as a first step in their career or life path can make a real difference in student’s motivation levels. They start to feel motivated from within themselves to succeed rather than being nagged by parents and teachers.

They don’t have the right resources

Resources could be the right equipment such as folders, paper, pens, flashcards, past papers or access to a computer to research on-line. Resources could also be the right place to study. If students aren’t able to find a place at home that is free from noise and distraction this can also be a big challenge. The right resources can also include having the right support network. If students feel they are not being supported in their revision it can be very difficult for them to keep going when they are struggling.

SOLUTION: Make sure that your child has the equipment, environment and support they need. A trip to WHSmiths could be a good way to kick off their revision schedule. Think about where the best place in the house is for the to study.  Many teens like to work in the privacy of their own room, but consider public areas if you need to keep an eye on them or be there for support and help. Praise them when they have done a good stint of revision.  Also remember to keep healthy snacks in the house so they can refuel when necessary.

They are feeling too stressed or anxious

When we get stressed or anxious our ‘fight or flight’ response kicks in and it becomes very difficult to focus, concentrate and process information. If your child is feeling stressed or anxious this could be a key reason why they are finding getting down to revision particularly difficult.

SOLUTION: Encourage your child to speak about their feelings and anything that may be worrying them. Listen to them without jumping in to try and fix things for them. If they are not able or willing to speak to you then see if you can find someone they can speak to either at school or outside of school. Also make sure that they factor in some healthy emotional well-being activities into their week such as exercise, spending time outside, meditation, listening to music or reading. Emotional self-care is vital during stressful periods of life.

They have too many distractions

Distractions come in many forms and one of the most common distractions for teens are screens. Either phones, video games, YouTube or TV. Considerable chinks of time can be lost by students checking their phones or taking a ‘quick look’ at social media or ‘just one more level’ of a game. This often leaves students with far less revision time that they thought they would have or that they start their revision too late in the evening.

SOLUTION: Sometimes it’s necessary for parents to ‘police’ the distractions.  Perhaps you can agree that phones need to be handed over to you for certain times after school until revision done? Perhaps there could be a curfew on video games before a certain time in the evening? A useful way to deal with distractions is to swap them into rewards.  This means that the screen-time can only be ‘earned’ after the revision has been done. This does take some effort to enforce, but it can have the biggest impact on students’ time management and productivity. They will thank you for it one day!

If your child needs extra help with their GCSE revision strategy then take a look at my HeadsUp! Revision Strategy programme. Designed specifically for year 10 and 11 students to take the stress out of revision and make it more enjoyable! Available as a half day workshop, 4 part live webinar series or a 1-2-1 tailored programme.


Practical and interactive workshops to improve the effectiveness of GCSE revision and boost motivation.

Click HERE for more details


The HeadsUp! Webinar Programme is a series of 4 live and interactive webinars covering all aspects of GCSE revision.

Click HERE for more details


For students who prefer a more personalised approach, over 4 one hour 1-2-1 sessions we will cover a variety of techniques an strategies to improve GCSE revision strategy – either in person or via Skype

Click HERE for more details


for 7-11 year olds full of strategies to boost confidence, reduce worries, deal with anger and improve friendship skills.
Click HERE for more details


Calm Tookit for Parents stackEasy, useful and highly effective strategies to keep you in control even when your kids are pushing your buttons!
Click HERE for more details


Parent PowersA 4 week programme to take the stress out of being a parent and make family life more enjoyable.
HERE for more details

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This post was written by Beth Parmar