How To Support Children With Revision Over Christmas
How To Support Children With Revision Over Christmas

How To Support Children With Revision Over Christmas

Be it the 7+, 11+, or GCSE mocks, it’s inevitable that some children will have to spend at least some of the Christmas holidays revising for exams. As parents, it’s important to help them strike the right balance between Christmas fun and an effective study schedule, which is why we asked a group of tutors, mentor and education experts to share their advice.

How many hours a day should children spend revising?

“This very much depends. The factors people should consider are: how much preparation their child has already done; how good their command of the material is; whether the child has a learning difficulty which makes revision challenging and whether they have any other physical or mental needs.” – Lucy Parsons, academic coach & mentor,

“There needs to be a fine balance between relaxation and study over the festive period. A couple of hours a day spent well is far better than trying to revise all day every day. It’s all about setting realistic goals and working in shorter and more regular bursts of time, which will all be beneficial for children in the long-term. To help parents navigate this, we created the Save My Kids’ Exams resources, which offers advice on revision tactics, sleep, diet and other forms of support.” – Jenna Quinn, head of revision resources at Save My Exams

“If a child is naturally quite studious and enjoys revising, then studying for about three or four hours should be realistic. However, for children that are less motivated, two hours should be enough to go through the topics they’re struggling with and get some practice. I recommend the ten-minute practice books by Bond, which are great for neurodivergent children or those with shorter attention spans. They also allow studying to be broken into digestible chunks so children can complete one or two papers and then take a break before reviewing what they got wrong.” – Victoria Olubi from

“Every student is different; learning styles, concentration and SEND all have to be taken into account before deciding how many hours a student should spend studying. Children who have not covered all the content can use the holidays to catch-up, doing between two to four hours each day, including time with a dedicated tutor or mentor. Others may only need an hour each day, ensuring their work during term-time has been thorough enough. Rest, play, music, sport, and socialising with friends and family is also vital, and a healthy holiday schedule will also take this into account.” – Harry Gilson, senior associate at 

Is there such a thing as a ‘good time’ of day to revise?

“Students should learn when they are at their freshest. This could be in the morning, before they start their day, or in the afternoon or evening, when the excitement of holiday activities or family commitments is over, and they can focus properly on the tasks at hand. It depends and your child’s temperament will be the best indication.” – Harry 

“The only thing I wouldn’t recommend is revising late at night or just before bed, as this can disrupt a child’s sleep. Your best bet is to schedule chunks of revision throughout the day over the course of the holiday, so that their mood or energy levels don’t play too big a role.” – Jenna

Is it ever worth using past papers – or should their notes suffice?

“For older children, existing notes can identify what topics teenagers are struggling with. For example, if they have mock exams or in-class tests, that would be a great starting point. Past papers are one of the best tools for revision but should be used wisely. It can be tempting for students to look at the marking schemes too closely for questions they are struggling with and it can really reduce the value of their revision. I’d recommend doing some past papers and then taking a break (e.g. for a day) before coming back to look at them. It’s important to have that disconnect, otherwise you won’t maximise the value of revising the question. Our resources also include revision notes that children can refer to.” – Jenna 

Should a parent sit with children while they revise?

“Ask your child what they prefer, but generally, I find it’s best to be nearer younger children while they’re studying albeit not necessarily sat next to them. You don’t want them to feel more pressured by you hovering. Try to make any kind of supervision supportive – and remember, not all revision has to be read or written. Verbal recall can be just as effective.” – Victoria 

“Some children find it easier to work with a parent or guardian in the room; for others it can lead to distraction. If you find your child rushing through the questions, sit down with them and vary the delivery of the questions to keep them engaged.” – Harry 

Students should take FREQUENT BREAKS – think of it like INTERVAL TRAINING at the gym. Try the POMODORO TECHNIQUE – 25 minutes of focused revision followed by a five-minute rest.

What kind of breaks should children have & when?

“Students should take frequent breaks – think of it like interval training at the gym. Try the pomodoro technique – 25 minutes of focused revision followed by a five-minute rest. Work out how long your child is able to focus for before they need that break. No-one should be focusing for more than an hour without taking a break.” – Lucy

How do you motivate a reluctant reviser?

“Motivation is one of the hardest challenges for younger students; understanding how to harness your child’s focus is a vital piece of the puzzle but we find regular breaks and systems of positive reinforcement are key to keeping your child on side.” – Harry  

“Start small and reward struggle. It is not just about getting all the answers correct or spending lots of time studying. The key thing is to achieve something from the revision, e.g. getting to grips with a topic that was tricky before. Reward effort and make this kind of encouragement as verbal as possible.” – Jenna

How do you ensure children maintain their motivation throughout the holidays?

“The holidays can be a tricky time as children are often in ‘fun’ mode and see it as a time away from learning. It’s therefore important to remind them exams are only weeks or months away and that every day counts. Sometimes, the best motivator is being reminded of the ‘why’ – in other words, reminding your child why they want to pass their exam, why doing well at school matters and why they should take their education seriously. Do this in a way that’s fun, so it doesn’t feel like a lecture. For instance, I show my students slides and fun gifs and then we discuss why motivation matters. This helps them to visualise the impact that their learning and revision will have on their future.” – Victoria

Do you have any advice if they're struggling & nothing seems to be sinking in?

“The three ‘p’s – practice, practice, practice – come to mind when clients ask me this question. It is important to note that, if a child is struggling, the learning environment, structure of revision and question types should also be inspected. Learning has to be tailored and engaging to be effective, and struggling isn’t only an unproductive blueprint for success, but it can also have a lasting impact on their motivation.” – Harry

“As a parent, it’s so important to encourage effort – reward the attempt, not the achievement. The goal of revision is to check understanding, reinforce what’s been learned, identify what you’re struggling with and then try to improve knowledge and understanding in those areas. Any attempt at that is worth celebrating.” – Jenna 

Should children be tested every day?

“Asking questions about what they've learned (e.g. Can you tell me something about osmosis? What’s the motivation of Macbeth then?) can be a really useful daily routine. At Save My Exams, our model answers are helpful for parents as well as students, as instead of just testing your children, they can help you mark your children's work and learn what makes a good answer.” – Jenna 

“I recommend small amounts of regular testing. The Bond and Letts 10-minute books are great for this. The key thing is to ensure that your child is going through their incorrect answers so they understand the topic and avoid making the same mistakes.” – Victoria

Beyond revision, how else can parents help their children with schoolwork? 

“Staying hydrated, having a good breakfast and finding a comfortable space to revise in are all crucial to maximise success. We recently worked with Dr Audrey Tang to create a guide on how to create the optimum revision environment, which outlines how to encourage productive studying.” – Jenna 

“Consider professional tuition who can provide you with an assessment with an honest and accurate appraisal of your child’s strengths and areas for development, as well as a tailored learning plan to help them cover enough material.” – Harry 

The BEST MOTIVATOR is being reminded of the ‘why’ – in other words, reminding your child WHY THEY WANT TO PASS THE EXAM, why doing well at school matters and why they should TAKE THEIR EDUCATION SERIOUSLY.

What about when it comes to managing their pressure/stress?

“Encourage a positive attitude and support your child's efforts to study and prepare for the exam. This may involve helping your child develop a study plan and stick to a schedule to ensure that they have enough time to study and review all the necessary material, providing a supportive and encouraging environment at home, being available to listen to your child's concerns and offering guidance and advice as needed. Talk to your child about healthy ways to manage stress, too, such as exercise, meditation, and deep breathing. Furthermore, encourage your child to take breaks and engage in activities that they enjoy to help them relax and recharge.” – Harry 

Children with dyslexia and/or ADHD inevitably need more support – any tips?

“To support a child with any of these conditions, take some time to observe their learning preferences and try (where possible) to incorporate their interests into their revision. Also, it helps some children to model the exam experience beforehand. You can do this by acting out a real exam day and explaining what’s involved, describing feelings like anxiety and explaining that pre-exam nerves are normal. Parents can also take their child to the exam hall (with permission) or to visit the school beforehand so they can mentally prepare. In terms of revision, providing your child with lots of verbal support and encouragement is crucial. It can also help to have visual aids and cues around to help them to understand different elements of the exam process. Finally, I always advise parents to inform the prospective school that their child has additional needs so that they can put reasonable adjustments and necessary support in place.” – Victoria 

“It might be worth working with your child's teachers and tutors to develop an individualised education plan (IEP) that addresses their specific needs and learning challenges. Help your child develop effective study skills and strategies, such as breaking down complex material into smaller, more manageable chunks and using visual aids to help with organisation and comprehension. Encourage your child to take regular breaks and engage in physical activity to help them maintain focus during study sessions. Provide a supportive and understanding environment at home, and be available to listen to your child's concerns and offer guidance and support as needed.” – Harry 

What's the best way to prepare children for the actual exam?

“Do practise papers – both short segments and whole ones. You should also talk to them about what the exam will be like – what the room will be like; what will be expected of them; what to do if they're anxious; what to do if they can't answer a question etc.” – Lucy 

Finally, is it worth doing some interview practice too?

“I would check to see whether the school you’re applying for has an interview element so it’s not time wasted and another key factor is to check whether interviews are held before or after the exam. Some schools require students to pass a certain number of exams before they’re invited to interview, so it’s important to know the process. If your child does have an exam coming up, then you should be practising questions and answers with them on a daily basis. You can find a list of interview questions online or on our blog. Start interview practice about two months before the proposed interview date so there’s enough time to understand how to answer questions correctly and also revise important socio-political topics that might come up.” – Victoria  

“To prepare for an interview, it’s worth researching the school to learn as much as possible about it. This will help your child prepare answers to potential questions about why they are interested in attending. Practice answering common interview questions, such as interests, strengths, and weaknesses and role-play the interview with a parent or another adult, taking turns playing the role of the interviewer and the interviewee. Also, prepare a list of thoughtful questions to ask the interviewer about the school. This will demonstrate the child's interest and engagement in the application process. Finally, dress and behave professionally during the practice interviews, as this will help the child feel more confident and prepared during the real thing.” – Harry

Finally, some important pointers per subject…


  • Develop a strong foundation in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
  • Understand and apply concepts such as fractions, decimals, ratios, proportions and percentages.
  • Practice mental maths to improve speed and accuracy.
  • Do regular timed practice.
  • Answer questions without using a calculator and learn to show your workings.
  • Understand how to apply mathematical reasoning to everyday activities.
  • Work on problem-solving skills, including breaking down a problem into smaller parts.
  • Familiarise yourself with the 11+ format and practice sample questions.


  • Develop strong reading comprehension skills by reading a variety of texts.
  • Practice writing regularly, focusing on organisation, clarity and grammar.
  • Work on improving vocabulary by learning new words and their meanings.
  • Pay attention to spelling and punctuation, and practice using these correctly in written work.
  • Revise compound words and idioms.
  • Analyse and utilise language devices.
  • Familiarise yourself with the 11+ exam format and practice sample questions.


  • Complete timed papers.
  • Work on vocabulary by learning new words and their meanings.
  • Learn synonyms and antonyms.
  • Study a wide range of question types including GLA, CEM and CSSE.
  • Review incorrect answers.
  • Develop strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
  • Understand and apply logical reasoning, including identifying patterns and making connections.
  • Familiarise yourself with the 11+ exam format and practice sample questions.


  • Master spatial reasoning.
  • Study 3D shapes.
  • Create cardboard or paper cuttings of shapes and patterns.
  • Play with Lego or STEM toys like magnetic tiles.
  • Examine IQ (intelligence questions).
  • Develop strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
  • Familiarise yourself with the 11+ exam format and practice sample questions.


  • Practise with a parent, guardian or trusted adult.
  • Practise a wide range of questions including socio-political topics.
  • Be confident and self-assured when giving answers.
  • Remember to shake hands with the interviewer.
  • Research the school to learn as much as possible.
  • Practice answering common interview questions about your interests, strengths, and weaknesses.
  • Think about what makes you unique and why you would be a good fit for the school.
  • Be prepared to talk about your academic achievements and extracurricular activities.
  • Dress and behave professionally.


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