Parents: How To Support Independent Study During Term Time

If your child is studying their GCSE, IGCSE or A Level courses, the skill of independent study will prove essential.

You might think that as a parent, you have no role to play in this skill development: however, that is far from the case.

There are a multitude of ways in which you can help your child to become a robust, confident and creative independent learner – setting them up for success in their exams and, eventually, at university

Read on to explore the advice from the Save My Exams education experts. 

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 What is independent study and why is it useful?

There are many ways of defining independent study, but the key characteristics are: 

  • Deciding what to study and when
  • Knowing how to find and access information and resources
  • Allocating time efficiently to different tasks 
  • Maintaining focus on a task without the presence of a teacher or other adult 

In the upper-secondary school environment, where students are expected to complete significant amounts of work outside of the classroom, their productivity will depend on their independent learning skills. 

By the time they reach university, the vast majority of studying will have to be carried out independently – including researching, writing essays, preparing for exams and delivering projects.

Why now is the perfect time to develop the habit

Owing to the disruption of the pandemic over the past year and a half, most teenagers will have had some experience of learning from home without their teacher’s supervision. 

This means that they will have some idea of the challenges which the task presents – including wavering motivation, a need to problem-solve alone, and an ability to self-direct a daily schedule. 

Studying for exams will require a similar level of independent study, so it’s essential for students to build on and develop their independent learning habits now, ahead of any major exams on the horizon!

What should your role be?

It’s important that parents don’t try to micromanage their teen’s journey towards mastering independent learning. 

Your main roles are to facilitate and to motivate. So how does this work?


This means providing the resources which your child can use for their independent study. For example, helping them to choose a laptop, creating a quiet space for them in the house, or signing them up for the local library. 

You may even want to subscribe your child to an online learning platform like Save My Exams. Doing this will give some the peace of mind that they have access to the very best teacher-created revision notes, study guides, Topic Questions and exam Past Papers, whenever and wherever they need them. 


To motivate your child, offer plenty of positive praise and encouragement. For example, you could say “You’ve been so focused this afternoon on your Maths homework, I’m really impressed with your mature attitude to learning – keep it up!”. 

You could also lead by example, using phrases like “I’m feeling confused about one of my work tasks today, so I’m going to use the internet to research the topic in more detail”. 

Organising fun activities for the weekend could also help to motivate your child to focus on their schoolwork during the week. 

Providing a forum

Another way in which parents can show support and encouragement to their teens is to be interested in their learning. This teaches them that it is something which is important, valuable, and that should be prioritised

Ask your teens about what they’re studying and what interests them. This will help them articulate their opinions in an informal environment. It’s helpful in promoting further research and learning, as well as forcing them to organise their thoughts.

You don’t need to be an expert yourself: the key here is to get them to talk to you about what they know, prompting discussion or debate.

Having to explain something is often the best way of understanding it. Make sure they know this isn’t a test!

Build up your own knowledge

If you want to be able to have more rewarding conversations with your teen, consider refreshing or building your own knowledge too. Save My Exams has got plenty of  useful study resources which parents can use to enable more informed discussions, or alternatively you could contact your child’s teachers for advice on further reading. 

Finally, consider getting in touch with your child’s teachers or Head of Year from time to time, so you can find out if there are any particular areas in which they need further support. Check that your teen is happy for you to do this first though – communication is key!

With this guide as your starting point, you should feel well equipped to promote self-directed learning. Remember that patience is important – this isn’t a skill which will appear overnight, it requires time and effort!

If you’re looking for further study advice, check out our blog.

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