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Easter Revision Courses… Yes or No?

11th February 2016

Would an Easter revision course be of benefit to your A-Level Studies?

It is not uncommon for the national press to feature stories about improving exam results, implying that today’s students have an easier time than ever before. There is even the idea that exams are getting easier, but the reality for students in their late teens however is that things just don’t let up. Often an extra push in the form of an Easter revision course can be just the thing to boost motivation and marks.

From the age of 15 to 18, every spring presents a new challenge; in Year 11 students will be required to sit their first important exam in the form of GCSEs and in Year 12 students will complete the first in a series of exams to secure their A Levels. This is before you even get into university where a number of examinations and term time tests await. All in all, the modern day student needs to master their study skills in order to sufficiently prepare for a modular examination where learning has to be converted into the best possible exam performance.

Parents with children approaching A-levels may recall the stresses from their own youth – trepidation and the fear of failure as well as the uncertainty of what the final results might have on future university and career choices.

Portrait of nervous female college student with textbooks biting her nails looked thinking about her exams

Increasing competition for university entry

The removal of the January exam period has further increased the pressure on today’s students. Everything now rests on performance in the final exams which are sat in June. Get it wrong and you have to wait a whole year to re-sit your exams.

Up until now, many schools have used the January exams to reduce the June exam load for their students. Schools have been able to adapt their teaching throughout the year to focus on particular exams, without students having to worry about learning and recalling the whole syllabus in one go.

This step-by-step progression is what has helped produce the genuine rise in grade performance that fills the news every summer. Being able to tailor learning to meet the needs of a particular test has also made it easier for candidates who struggle with exams or those students who simply find the whole exam process extremely daunting.

This is why so many students and their families find themselves looking to Easter as less of a holiday and more of a chance to make sure that they obtain the grades that their schools have predicted for them and their teachers have worked so hard to help them achieve.

Why an Easter course?

Easter courses are very attractive, socially as well as educationally, offering the chance to meet other students facing the same problems and share ideas within a small group – a major feature given the size of so many school sixth form groups these days. Many courses also offer the opportunity of individual tuition, which can be very helpful for a student who is struggling not only with a particular subject, but with their confidence in approaching and sitting exams.

There has been a surge in applications for Easter courses in the last couple of years, with top universities able to offer more places to students achieving ABB/AAB, while many more students now approach GCSE exams with an understanding that achieving their very best grades could prove crucial two years on when it comes to university entry.

And, it’s now official; university applications are on the rise, approaching similar levels seen during a peak in 2011 which was the most competitive year on record.

So how do you find the Easter study or revision course that is just right for you?

Choosing an Easter Revision Course

Abstract style illustration depicting many directional roadsigns with a choices concept.Before you register for any courses it is important to look at the actual detail of the study course. Some of them are residential whereas others are day courses. Others will combine both AS and A2 whereas alternatives will only focus on a specific component. Courses can also provide group based activities across a broad range of subject areas while other study groups will only offer paired or individual tuition. It is important to speak to your child and find out exactly what they need from their Easter study course.

In terms of teaching, some course providers will use their own permanent staff to tutor attendees of the course or some establishments may draft in new staff specifically for the Easter courses. Other providers will offer educational support all year round as part of the support package they offer to students at school, college or university

Syllabus review

One of the two main ways an Easter revision course should help students is with a syllabus (specification) review. Check that the areas your child wants to study are included in the course. Arts and humanities A-levels, in particular, offer many varied pathways to the eventual qualification – the same is true of English literature, history, geography and modern languages. Before booking, explore the content of courses very carefully. Is the course built to accommodate your child’s needs or merely the parroted learning of the teacher looking after the group? A good course will offer balance of revision, testing through mock exams, and those all-important discussion sessions.

Discussion is a great way of exploring difficult topics, readdressing issues from school with an experienced tutor who is familiar with handling different viewpoints and applying new approaches and techniques to deliver a comprehensive program of revision.

Exam technique

Easter revision courses should also provide assistance with exam techniques. Many students who are approaching their exams simply do not know how best to revise, or in some instances how to approach revision at all.

Parents should provide as much support and encouragement as possible, offering guidance and assistance wherever possible to help them through the difficult exam period. Often, devising a detailed revision schedule which outlines progress may provide students with the extra support that they need to succeed in their exams. The best Easter revision courses should provide teaching which is motivational, helps students plan ahead and approach the June exams with confidence.

In the end, a successful Easter revision course comes down to two things: greater certainty of knowledge and improved technical skills. These strengths, combined, will mean your child is better able to convert revised material to match the demands of the questions waiting in the summer exam room.

Information and advice provided by Andy Thompson of Oxford Sixth Form Solutions

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