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How to revise for the CE 13+ English exams

With the new CE specification for English being rolled out this year and ready to examine next year, how pupils revise for these exams will soon be top of the agenda. But the pupils of 2022 and beyond are different to the pupils who came before them so the way they revise and how they think about the subject is different too. How do we avoid the often-heard cries of ‘But how do you revise for English?’ and cater to a new generation? Here are some ways to get started:

Read, read, read

A long-term strategy to start with, which will help in an exam setting but also provide some escapism as the exams loom into view. Being comfortable with a variety of authors and texts is the key to feeling confident in an English exam. There are countless unseen passages or poems that could potentially be used in English exams, but if a child is used to reading and exploring different types of texts they will not be phased. From sci-fi to classic tomes and poetry to non-fiction, the world is their oyster!

Plant the seeds of a growth mindset 

Children should be encouraged to be open to different techniques and strategies whilst learning and revising. Even if the pupil has their own favourite mnemonics or preferred strategy, it is certainly worth trying the ones suggested by their teachers and revision guides as part of their revision. It may be a pleasant surprise and really work for them or help them see something from a different perspective. 

But it goes further. Going into the exam with the right mindset and confidence makes a huge difference so a varied revision timetable is key. Schedule in free time, time to rest and time to play in the revision timetable. That desirable exam mindset and sought-after confidence, needs replenishing so schedule it in!

Revision should be short and sweet

Gearing up to exams requires some short term revision strategies too. 

All too often a pupil says they do not know how to revise for English other than completing copious past papers. These, of course, have their place but being more targeted can be incredibly beneficial and, most importantly, can feel of the most value to the pupil themself, helping them stay positive through the revision process. 

Revision tasks could involve writing just an introduction or colour-coding a paragraph or verbally drafting an answer. A revision session could be putting themselves in the examiner’s shoes by writing their own questions about a text,  or practicing vital exam skills like speed planning and editing writing. Practicing time management skills can be tricky but this is when leaving time to experiment is key. For example, responding to questions out of chronological order, doing timed practice question by question or even trying out a watch on the desk rather than a wrist is time well-spent.

Have an exam game plan

A professional footballer would not go into a match without a game plan. Revision and exams are no different. Create personal exam game plans to help children tackle the exams effectively. Include timings, top tips and key learnings from mocks or practice papers and teacher targets or previous work, to help them focus on what is important.  

In the Revision Guide, we aim to make English revision for ISEB Common Entrance 13+  active and effective for pupils. It can, of course, be used in the classroom and possibly alongside the Common Entrance 13+ English for ISEB CE and KS3 textbook, but its main purpose is to empower pupils in their own independent revision at home. The new generation is forging their own path so we have to look at revision in a different way too.

Elly Lacey is Head of English at Newton Prep School in London. She has taught English to children from age 8 to 18 but her particular passion is teaching at Key Stage 3. In the classroom, she endeavours to build children’s confidence and love of English through creative activities and cross-curricular links all inspired by the texts on the curriculum. Learn more about Elly here.

Hodder Education (formerly Galore Park) also publishes two skills-based write-in workbooks for the 13+ English exams, covering vocabulary and writing.

Our Study Skills 13+ guide offers a holistic approach to study to give pupils the essential skills and tools they need to learn and revise efficiently, cope with stress effectively and feel confident and fully prepared to do their very best in exams.

Order our 13+ English revision series online here and the Study Skills 13+ book here.

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