Updated: Feb 7
Revising for exams is the key to examination success but when your child has dyslexia, this is not as straight forward for them as it is for their classmates. They may be spending the same amount of time revising, but actually achieving lower marks and grades. How can they improve their exam revision time?
Make a revision plan.
I guess you've heard this one before but did you know that when your child has dyslexia they will have to repeat their learning more times than the average student to remember it? This has a knock on effect to their revision plan as they will need to start revising earlier.
When should the plan start?
At GCSE level, your child will be studying around 8-12 subjects. I have seen recommendations that students spend one week revising each subject so that means revision would have to start 2-3 months prior to the exams. Your child will need to repeat learning more, so having a target of spending 2 weeks per subject would seem reasonable. This means that revision will now take 4-6 months. For exams which start in May, this means having a revision plan in place which starts in November.
How do I help my child put a plan together?
The important thing is to have a good understanding of the subjects your child struggles with and which ones they know the best. Sit down together at a quiet time and have a good chat about this. Putting the revision plan together is more of an art than a science - it will be different for everyone so I can't say, put in 3 sessions for Maths on week 1 because your child may be a maths genius and not need to revise Maths to that extent.
One way of working out which subjects will need more revision time is to download the syllabus from the appropriate exam board. You can then go through this with your child and highlight areas known in green, those they are unsure of in orange and those they don't know in red.
Now you can start to fill in a blank revision plan, spending more time on the areas marked in red, some time on those marked in orange and a smaller amount of time on those marked in green.
Your guideline may be allowing 2 weeks per subject, but you need to be a little more strategic than that.
It may be that your child will need longer to revise Science than Geography, in which case you will need to allocate more slots to Science. You will also need to spread the time around over the months rather than spending the first 2 weeks revising Science, then the next 2 revising History, otherwise your child will have forgotten all their Science by the time the exam comes around.
Revising is a bit like a juggler keeping all the balls in the air - you want to keep the information going for a subject over the whole revision period.
Make the plan realistic.
Your child can only revise effectively for 20 minute periods before needing a short break. You will also need to decide together, what is a realistic amount of time for them to revise each evening and weekend.
You know your child, so do be realistic about what can be achieved. A lot of dyslexic students are very tired after a day at school. They may revise better after an early dinner or following a power nap - again, you know your own child so work with them rather than against them here.
It is as important to put in breaks from revision, even though it may be tempting to cram in revision to all their spare time. It can be more motivating if they get Saturday and Sunday evenings off revision or have a complete break on a Saturday every other week.
You may want to cut down on their social activities but you could still let them attend their favourite club/sport so that everything is not seen as dull. The more realistic the plan is, the more likely your child is going to stick to it.
Do practice papers and questions within the set time allowed in exams.
Practising questions from past papers should form a key part of your child's revision. But bear in mind that it is one thing to be able to answer a question when you aren't under time pressure, but quite another when you are.
When you bring in a timed element you and your child will have a much better idea of how they are going to perform in the exam and also it will help to normalise working in this way.
Many dyslexic students hate being timed. If your child spends the entire revision period not having any time pressure, then the exam will appear even scarier. So, normalising this way of working is a much better idea.
I have also found that a dyslexic student doesn't know what 5 or 10 minutes feels like. So putting on a timer regularly will help them get a feel for how long this is and help them to not rush an exam when the time is coming to an end.
Leave some revision sessions blank nearer the exam time.
It is a good idea to leave some sessions blank to be filled in at a later date. This allows some flexibility for revising something again that your child has not quite understood nearer the exam time.
A really effective way of finding out whether your child needs to revise more on a particular subject, is to get them to teach it to you. When you have to teach someone, the gaps in your knowledge become really apparent.
The key points to remember from this post are that you and your child must prepare a revision plan, it will need to start much earlier than you might think and make sure your child practices exam timings when doing past papers. Be strategic about which subjects your child revises and make sure the plan is realistic.
If your child has not yet found a revision technique which works for them then you may be interested in our programme ' How to Learn with Dyslexia'. This explores and teaches effective revision strategies to make learning stick. You can learn more about this here.
I have written 2 other blog posts around revision:
If you would like more tips and ideas for how you can help your dyslexic child please join my Free Facebook Group here.