12 steps to studying for summer exams

Summer is a testing time for young adults (photo: Getty Images/Eyecandy Images RF)

Summer is a testing time for young adults (photo: Getty Images/Eyecandy Images RF) - Credit: Getty Images/Eyecandy Images RF

Ah, June, the month of roses and revision, strawberries and stress, long light evenings and long, heavy exams

After 12 summers my sentence is almost over.

Not this one, as full of similes about tests as treadmills and success as sausages, as a student revision timetable overflows with wildly optimistic colour-coded strategies for learning stuff unfeasibly quickly.

But this one, the sentence I have been serving for the 12 consecutive summers I have been blessed by a teen preparing for GCSEs and A levels.

Three children, four years of exams each, no overlapping, no conferring, no reprieve from the worry of it all. And that is just me when I realise there are not enough highlighter pens in the house, past papers on the internet, cheery revision manuals in the world or fatuous advice on keeping carp and marrying wrong in the universe, to get the latest exam fodder through the digestive tract (draw as an annotated diagram or express as a flowchart) of the grim grade monster (discuss its political habitat and social impact using one of selective quotation, selective hearing or natural selection, on one side of paper only.)

Soon I should be out on licence. Or in licensed premises.

The exams don’t go away but the children do, taking their testing ways to distant university cities where they can finally be free of my unsolicited advice, uneducated guesses and unhelpful tendency to want to know when they plan to start revising.

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But it would be a shame to waste those 12 years a slave to exams, so here is my 12 step programme/idiot’s (translation from teen: parent’s) guide to making the grade. I cannot offer help on which grade, as some of the letters are changing to numbers this year and I haven’t revised that yet.

1) It is impossible to tell the difference between revision and listening to music/messing around on the internet. Don’t try without specialist protective equipment.

2) It is impossible to tell the difference between revision and hanging out with friends. Don’t even go there.

3) It is sometimes impossible to tell the difference between revision and sleep.

4) Encourage sleep when they want to be awake (aka the night) and discourage it when they want to be in bed (aka daytime).

5) It is highly unlikely that feeding them fish oil, snake oil or similar will make them do better, but knowing their diet includes fruit, fish etc will make you feel better.

6) You say showing a friendly interest, they say the Spanish inquisition. Tomayto, tomarto. Both are both spelled wrong but the knowledge of history is impressive.

7) Their burgeoning ability to manage (parental) expectations after a paper and during an inquisition is a wonder to behold. It turns out the entire internet is full of memes revealing how unfair the questions were.

8) If the book is open, revision is occurring.

9) Even if the book is closed, some kind of quantum revision might be occurring. It involves Schrödinger’s cat. Or cats on the internet.

10) If we are talking mock exams, ignore all the above, the clue is in the title. They are there to be mocked.

11) Some families work on a cash-for-grades system. Ever the optimist, I don’t in the hope it might get costly.

12) Don’t take it personally when they try out their book learning and demonstrate they know the meaning of “patronising,” “exasperating,” and “pointless psychobabble”.

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