April 2019. Exam preparation: review, reflect, revise. School application process explained.

Friday April 19th, 2019

Welcome to our April issue.  Easter weekend is behind us, with chocolate eggs, glorious sunshine and 24C throughout England. Today, April 23, is St George’s day, celebrated in schools, high streets and churches across England. St George is the patron saint of England.  Some interesting facts about St George are: he was not English and never actually visited England, more likely, he was an officer in the Roman army. Also he never encountered a dragon, the legend of St George slaying the dragon was created in the 15th century, over 1000 years after his death.

More of this month will be spent away from school than in school, we realise just how important some downtime is for the students.  However, with end of school year and some important exams approaching, it is a crucial time for revision too, so we will touch on some of the revision techniques here.

Exam preparation: review, reflect, revise

With exams looming in the summer term, the Easter holidays were a good time to kick off the revision schedule.  It’s really important that students take time to reflect on the work they’ve done to-date.  It’s this process of reflecting and reviewing what’s been discussed in class and completed for homework that really embeds knowledge and deepens understanding.  Good, structured, active revision helps children see what might have seemed separate, discrete facts as part of a network or bigger picture.  For example, they might have nailed the process of photosynthesis in plants – and got the hang of the circulatory system in human biology – but it might only be when they look back at their learning that they suddenly see the synergy between the two.  The same might apply to history.  Students will have learnt specific dates and delved into the artefacts and heirlooms associated with a particular period.  Reviewing this learning as part of their revision can result in a real light bulb moment: appreciating how one event in history triggered a multitude of others.

Effective revision

How do you make sure your revision is effective?  How do you achieve this holy grail of structured and ‘active’ revision?  Appearing to pore over pages while your mind wanders off and wonders what’s for tea doesn’t help anyone (although we’ve probably all been there!)  There are various ways to impose structure, and these will vary according to your child’s learning style.  However, techniques tend to share one common theme: actively making new notes based on existing learning (rather than simply regurgitating or reading what’s already written).  This could be in the form of a mind map; collating key themes from a Shakespeare play, for example.  Or it might be tables, grids or matrices that enable you to compare and contrast literary devices in two poems.  Structured and active revision always means taking your initial learning and considering it a new context; moving it on, developing it, if you will.  That can be hard to do by yourself, especially for GCSE students who may be juggling eight to 10 subjects.

Tutoring and revision courses

At Regency Education, we can provide you with subject tutors to help your child achieve exactly the sort of structure that will work for them.  Our tutors are highly qualified, DBS-checked, well-experienced in helping pupils prepare for exams and have a track record of success in helping students achieve high grades.  We also work with companies that provide revision courses; highly structured sessions run by subject specialists.  These courses can be a great way to immerse children in the subject or subjects they find most challenging.  It’s an intensive approach, and one that sees real results in a short timeframe.  We can advise you of the solution that would best suit your child’s learning style and needs.  Get in touch to find out more…

Past papers, planning and ‘pomodoros’

Another way to create or impose this all-important structure and be exam-ready is to work through past papers.  Most exam boards make these available on their website for anyone to download (along with mark schemes and examiners’ comments).  We can help you navigate this if you require, either with a consultation to explain the mark scheme or with tutoring that specifically focuses on past papers.  You might prefer to take up a combination of these services so you and your child can work through papers together once we’ve talked you through a few examples.  Past papers not only focus students’ minds on the information they need to know and the skills they need to apply, but they also build confidence.  Pupils will be able to approach the exam knowing the exact format of the paper; the precise style of the questions and (crucially) the way marks are applied and answers are ‘weighted’.  Practising past papers in timed conditions, in the knowledge that two questions carry equal marks, helps pupils pace themselves to maximise their marks.  It’s no good using all your allocated time on one perfect answer – if you lose 50% of the potential marks because you ran out of time for question two!

So planning is a key part of successful, effective, exam-ready revision.  Not just planning what you will revise and when – but also how you will approach the questions in the exam.  Time spent planning during revision and exams can increase your efficiency significantly.  In exams, it can help cut out pauses, panics and tangential paragraphs that can make the difference between a top grade and a fail.

Staying power is important too: some essay-based exams will be three hours long.  Students have to be able to maintain focus for the duration. But research suggests that in the learning or revising phase, we’re at our most efficient in bite-size chunks of time.  Just 25 minutes of intensive, active, structured revision will be way more effective than three hours of distracted, draining re-reading of past work.  We recommend the ‘pomodoro technique’ – which suggests 25 minutes of work or study followed by a five-minute break.  After four consecutive 25-minute blocks of work, the idea is to take a longer 20 to 30-minute break.  This technique is proven to enhance productivity; the benefits are two-fold: frequent breaks keep your mind fresh.  Fixed time blocks force you to stay focused.  The outcome is that you finish tasks more quickly.  Or large, otherwise daunting projects feel more manageable because they’re spread over several ‘pomodoros’ (the 25-minute time frame).  You can download apps to help you keep track of time.  Read more: https://zapier.com/blog/best-pomodoro-apps/

Embrace endorphins, dogs and your friends during the downtime!

What you do during the downtime is up to the individual, but time spent outside, with friends and exercising is time well-spent where exams and revision are concerned.  A 30-minute power walk with the dog is the perfect antidote to being hunched over a desk or computer.  Playing a sport will also release the endorphins that are a crucial part of managing students’ mental health and well-being during what can be a stressful time.  Socialising is also important to ensure pupils don’t feel isolated; why not get together with friends for a group discussion or revision session after some in-depth solo revision? In our experience, discussing an exam topic or section of the syllabus with your peers is a great way to enhance learning.  You hear different perspectives; get more confident at expressing or defending your own opinion and you reap the benefits of interacting with supportive, like-minded people you care about.  If you can’t do this in person, why not plan a group Skype, Facetime or What’sApp video call with friends?

State schools – the application process

UK government-funded or ‘state’ schools (also known as ‘maintained’ schools – there’s a useful summary of the different categories of state schools here: https://www.frg.org.uk/types-of-state-school) sent offers to applicants last month.  State schools in the UK are often over-subscribed – so sadly not all students get a place at their school of choice.

State schools allocate places according to strict criteria.  Different schools will apply different orders of priority.  Criteria include:

Independent schools – the application process

In contrast, private or independent schools in the UK will each have their own admissions process, but these are likely to include:

Registration – you’re asked to complete a form and pay a non-refundable fee.  You can register for more than one school at the same time.  We recommend visiting a school before registering, but some of the top UK independent schools now require you to register before allowing you to visit.  To secure a place at these schools, you’ll probably need to register at least a year in advance of your child starting there.


Some of the top UK independent schools will test each applicant.  This might take the form of an interview and taster day at the school.  This has the advantage of allowing you and your child to observe and feedback on their experience and preference too.  Other schools might ask applicants, especially those older than seven, to sit tests in English, maths, verbal and non-verbal reasoning.  If students are looking to join aged 11 or 13, tests are likely to cover a wider range of subjects, such as science and languages.  Every school will request a report and a reference from the student’s previous school.


Should your child be successful, you’ll receive a written offer and a two-to-three week window in which to accept it.  Most schools will then require a deposit and / or first term’s fees up-front.  By accepting an offer, you enter into a contract with the school as you would with any other company providing a service.

We can advise you about each school’s policy in terms of these three stages of the application process.  Get in touch to find out more.