Breaking down and planning big tasks (e.g. for exam revision)

In common with many young people in households across England and Wales, for the last few weeks, both my sons have been taking their end-of-school exams (Scottish schoolchildren finished theirs a few weeks ago).

My youngest son had more than 20 exams for his GCSEs; my eldest had eight for his A-Levels. On the lead up to these (and between them), there was a lot of revision to be done.

Creating a plan

Back when they were sitting mock/trial exams, we noticed that schools don’t teach young people how to plan. At least not based on my experience of two state secondary schools in Milton Keynes and Northampton. They might provide a list of topics, or even a per-subject “revision timetable” but my wife realised fairly early on that our sons could just see some dates, and a massive task ahead of them.

So, we sat them down, and helped to worth things through. Using Excel of course (other Project Management tools are available, but probably overkill)!

  1. First, look how many weeks there are until the exams. The days are your columns. Use borders/shading to see the weeks and weekends.
  2. Then, look at the subjects you need to cover. Those “swimlanes” are the rows. Break each swimlane into 3 rows: daytime; after school; evening.
  3. Then block out the time for actual school, part-time work, sports activities, holidays, etc.
  4. You can now see the amount of time that’s available for revision/study and populate each spare block with one or more topics to cover within each subject row.

I expected some push-back, but was amazed how positively they took on the advice (to the extent that they seemed to work it out for themselves and created their own plans when it came to the final exams).

It’s simple project management!

What we taught them to do was effectively basic project management. It’s effectively using a Gantt Chart to illustrate the schedule for completing a bunch of tasks, along with the resource availability and constraints.

This is a life skill but also a business skill. It amazes me that this isn’t taught in schools (even pretty good ones). Or perhaps it is, but it’s lost in the teenage air of nonchalance!

Featured image by Eric Rothermel from Unsplash.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.