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External Examinations: Preparing for Success

03 April 2018

As we reach this last month of revision it is important that students use time effectively and think of the most effective strategies that match their individual style. The following tips may prove helpful.

As the busy Spring term draws to a close it is time for our hard working Year 11 and 13 students to begin to finalise revision and preparations for the IB and IGCSE examinations that commence shortly. It is hard to believe that almost two years of hard work and perseverance are almost coming to an end particularly for our first cohort of IB diploma students. Teachers, students and Heads of Year have worked tirelessly to ensure that they are fully prepared for the examinations and the challenges that follow whether it be continuing onto sixth-form, University, College or study in another country.

As we reach this last month of revision it is important that students use time effectively and think of the most effective strategies that match their individual style. The following tips may prove helpful.

British International School Hanoi

Make a revision timetable

Most students may have already prepared a revision timetable with the support of Heads of Year and form tutors.  Research shows that shorter 20-30 minute spells work best, because concentration is much higher. It is therefore advisable to take short breaks. Variety is also important and therefore students should aim to revise a mixture of subjects throughout the day to help maintain interest and retain information. Below is a sample of what a day timetable could look like:










Subject 1

Subject 1

Subject 2

Subject 2

Subject 3

Subject 3

Subject 1

Subject 2

Subject 3

During holiday/study leave days’ students should aim to revise during what would be school hours (as above). The brain is most active in the morning and revision tends to be less productive as the evening time approaches, so students should make an early start to optimise their time. The timetable should include regularly scheduled breaks (to move around) as well opportunities to eat snacks/lunch. There have been proven links between the consumption of certain foods and brain stimulation so students should also aim to eat a diet rich in nuts, eggs and fish rather than foods that are high in fat or carbohydrates which may leave them feeling tired and demotivated.


I have already mentioned the importance of students being active during their short breaks in revision. Physical activity is very important, even going for a short 30-minute jog after a day of revision could make a huge difference to the wellbeing of your child.  As well as increasing your child’s heart rate and making the blood circulate faster it also enables the brain to get more oxygen which helps to reduce tiredness and stress.

British International School Hanoi External Examinations

The importance of a quiet space

Has your son/daughter already identified a quiet space in the house where they can revise? If not, then support them in finding an area of the house where they can have complete control and will not be interrupted for long periods of the day.  Make sure that all members of the family are supportive of their revision efforts as any distractions can prove disruptive to the retention of revision material.

Practice, Practice, Practice

All students will have been provided with targeted revision materials by their subject teachers. These may range from revision guides to past papers.  At BIS Hanoi we value personalised feedback and all students should be aware of specific areas of their course content where they have met challenges or not achieved as highly as they would have hoped. It is sensible to spend more time revising areas where they are lacking in confidence, though some time still needs to be spent on revision of the whole course content prior to the examinations.

British International School Hanoi External Examinations

Revise in the best way to suit your learning style

Form tutors and Heads of Year have worked hard with students on identifying their preferred revision/learning style, I also referred to the different approaches in my HUB piece back in September.  Some students may prefer visual approaches such as taking notes, making mind maps or sticking revision cards up around the house, others may learn in auditory ways and will prefer recording their voice explaining certain concepts and playing them back. By now every student should know the ways that work for them.


As I mentioned it is important that students have time for breaks in between periods of revision. Balance during the examination period is also important. Look for opportunities to reward your child if they have had a particularly successful day of revision. Encourage them to go to the cinema with friends or take them out for a treat.  Students that can strike a balance between revision and leisure time are far more likely to be successful.

British International School Hanoi External Examinations

Revising with family and friends

Everyone has their own style. Some students prefer to revise alone and others benefit more from discussing difficult content or testing friends. It may be that some students get benefit from both. Revising with family and friends can be a useful way of helping your child retain/understand some of the more complex subject content.

And finally…


The mind is a powerful thing and therefore a positive mind-set can help in maximising the chances of success. Approaching the examinations with confidence is important.

I know I speak on behalf of all the teachers at BIS Hanoi when I say that we are exceptionally proud of the journeys that our students have undertaken. Two years of hard work has led to this point and we know that with continued hard work, perseverance and a positive mind-set throughout this final revision period all students can reach their individual goals and achieve the examination results that they hope for.


Nicola Witton – Assistant Head – Teaching and Learning