Specialists at Gordonstoun, which educated three generations of the royal family, are urging young people to combine exam revision with regular periods of dancing, hiking and even breathing to achieve success.
The advice has been issues as millions of pupils receive the results of their mock GCSE exams.
Each year, the independent boarding school runs a unique one week ‘Active Revision Course’ which is based on the latest scientific research and focuses on both body and mind in order to boost performance. It intersperses study with yoga classes, physical activity and ‘brain food’.
Sixty percent of students who took the course last year achieved two grades higher than their mock exams, with the majority of the remainder achieving one grade higher. Parents also commented on an improvement in the general wellbeing of their children.
Active Revision Course director Kate Gibson said: ‘Studying is only one part of exam success. We know from neuroscience that exercise speeds up brain functioning. If you’ve been out for a run your reading speed and comprehension goes up by twenty percent.
‘So you have to attack revision from all angles and make sure that your whole body contributes. A healthy body and mind which is well rested, well fed and fit can support your brain through the tough times ahead much better than one which is exhausted, and lacking in nutrients.’
Experts at Gordonstoun have written the following ten tips for parents and pupils to help them improve their performance before their final exams.
1. DANCE YOUR WAY TO SUCCESS
Recent evidence has proved that the mind focuses better if study is broken up with exercise. Everyday do something aerobic which you enjoy to get your heart pumping such as running, dancing, swimming or cycling.
Schedule in mindfulness activities to calm your body and mind. Stress is not helpful for memory. Learning to manage your stress now means you will have better chance of conquering it when exam nerves try to choke.
3. PLAN DON’T CRAM
Research shows that people remember things much better if they are given time without pressure. Create a calendar showing the Easter holidays, when study leave starts and when each of your exams are and create a realistic schedule which includes all your subjects, time to rest and time to move.
4. EAT BLUEBERRIES AND AVOCADO
Sit down with your parents and google brain boosting foods. Select ones you enjoy and build them into your weekly meals. This will nourish your overworked grey matter as you head towards the summer. Eating healthy snacks will give you more energy than junk and stodge (top tip: dark chocolate is a brain booster!)
5. MIND THE GAP
Once you get your mock papers back, read the marker’s comments carefully and make a list of exactly what you could have done to get a higher grade. If the comment is brief or difficult to understand go and talk directly to your teachers. Where do your knowledge gaps lie? What skills need to be worked on before the real exam? Do it now before you forget!
Get to bed early in these next few weeks so that you are fully alert in the final lessons. Sleep is essential for your brain to function properly. Minimise screen time before bed as the blue light stimulates your brain at a time when you want it to be feeling sleepy.
7. GO INTO THE GARDEN
Sitting at a desk may not be the best way for you to learn. Record topics and questions on your phone and walk around your garden talking to yourself, get your family to ask you questions, team up with classmates and teach each other a topic.
8. TEST LIKE A NINJA
You have to be engaged with your revision, just reading is very ineffective, the best way is to do practice questions from past papers to train your brain, get a feel for timing and also discover what you don’t know. Get your teacher to mark them or find mark schemes online.
9. GO OFF-GRID
Turn on the ‘do not disturb’ setting on your phone, or better still leave it in another room whilst you are revising so you aren’t tempted to look at it. Don’t spend every revision break on it either – your friends will still be there on social media when you’ve finished revising for the most important exams of your life so far.
10. MOVE TO IMPROVE
Revise in short bursts and do something active in between. After 90 minutes the brain stops taking in new things so get up, get outside and get moving. Getting into good habits now puts you firmly on the path to success in the summer.
For more information about the Active Revision Course click here.