school success

Starting the school year with A* study skills

The summer is nearly over and the new school year is almost here.  Your teenager may be starting GCSEs or A levels, maybe with new teachers and new subjects.   There is certainly going to be a different atmosphere than before Covid-19 and the lockdown, so how can your teenager start the new school year with A* study skills?

They want to do well – very well – but there’s a lot to take in and it’s going to move pretty fast. So how can you help them stay on top of the subjects and have their eye on that elusive A* or level 9, right from the beginning?

Luckily there are some simple, but highly successful, ways to do this. They need to develop amazing study skills. And they should do it right from the start of the school year.  

study skills


It is really important that they take notes every lesson, every time they read a textbook and when they watch films or other media for their course.  Notes are very important, because they absolutely will not remember key points, crucial facts or great examples without notes.  When they get to the end of their course, they will not remember the first part of the course if they didn’t make notes at the time.  They will need their own set of notes to jog their memory.   

A* TIP: A* and Level 9 students use the notes from their course to create revision aids before the exams


Exams 2020: how to retake your GCSEs or A Levels



Great notes won’t be much use  if your teenager can’t find them at revision time, or if they are all mixed up.  There is a logic to the way GCSEs/IGCSEs and A levels are taught, with building blocks of different topics and skills taught across two school years.  Encourage them to keep their notes in order, in ring binders and notebooks, so you (and they) can see how the course fits together.  They should use headings and subheadings to make sense of them.  If they are a visual learner you can help them to use different colours to divide themes, modules or topics.  If you are unsure how the topics divide up, check the textbooks, ask their teacher, or check out the syllabus online.

A* TIP: A* and Level 9 students are organised and know how the course is taught. This means they can easily revise by topic at exam time. They also understand which topics are likely to appear on the exam papers.


Learning Style: which style is your child?


dad helps son study


Explain to them that if they need help, to ask for it.  And to ask for it as soon as they realise they are getting muddled, don’t understand, or are getting behind.  The longer they  leave it to ask for help, the worse the problem will become and the more stressed they will feel.  At a time when students are potentially more stressed due to the uncertainly and disruption Covid-19 has brought, it is more important than ever that they know it is ok to ask for help.

They can ask their teacher, speak to you or another family member, or even a friend who is getting high grades and obviously understands the topic.  It’s important that they don’t try to struggle on alone if it all starts getting too much – GCSEs and A levels are hard, so assure them that no one will think badly of them for asking for help.

A* TIP:  A* and Level 9 students ask for help when they get stuck or don’t understand.  They take control of the problem and work with someone to overcome it


Back to school: How to Help your Child Catch Up Quick


Essays analysis


It is vital your teenager does the homework and develops the habit of studying outside school.  To get an A* or level 9 they will have to work out of the classroom as well as in it.  This is especially true for A levels – they won’t get everything they need for the highest grades in the classroom, they will need to put in effort outside class too.  There is no way around this!  Encourage them to read books, watch films or media that are relevant to the subject and to do the assessments set by their teachers.  Encourage them not to think of free periods as a mini holiday – it’s a chance to go over their notes, make sure they understand what was said in class, and to read or work alone.   

TIP: A* and Level 9 students work outside the classroom from the beginning of the course.  This helps them stay on top of the workload and gives them time to understand each topic before the teacher moves on


Essay Writing. What do teachers mean by analysis?



Have a strategy to catch up if they  need to miss class.  Everyone has to miss class sometimes, maybe because of illness or because there is something very important, like a medical appointment or a funeral, to attend.  The trick is to have a strategy to catch up on what they have missed.  If it is a short, planned absence then maybe a friend could let them copy their notes, and take copies of handouts for them?  They can ask the teacher what they will be missing, then encourage them to read up on the topic themselves.  If it is a longer absence, as for an ongoing illness, then you could contact the teacher to arrange for to have work at home and copies of resources.

A*TIP: A* students have strategies in place and keep up with their studies, even if they need to be absent 

The key to success then, is to start the course with some A* / level 9 study skills. Encourage your teenager to get into the habit of taking more control of their learning.  It will pay huge dividends when they eventually get to the exams.   

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