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The Three Things You Should Be Doing to Help Your Child Prep for Exams

Abbey Smithee By Abbey Smithee Published on September 5, 2016

Exams are stressful time both for children and for those supporting them through their studies. And yet the right help and preparation can make a world of difference to a child. Here we will look at three aspects of exam preparation: Organization, Revision, and Wellness. Each of these are crucial for a child, to not only achieve good results, but also to have a healthy approach to study and positive exam experience.


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Organize

A huge amount of planning and putting-in-order, goes into helping a child be ready to sit an exam. From before they open their textbook to start revising, right up to the hours before an exam, there are plenty of things you can do to help a child be ready, and to reduce their stress.


Study the Exam:

The first thing to do is to make sure that you know the all essential details of the exam. This includes information such as: when exactly the test is and will it be in a place other than the child’s normal classroom? If there will be more than one exam, make sure you know not only when and where each exam is, but be clear about which exam subject is when. It’s also important to take note of anything that needs to be brought to the exam, such as calculators or graph paper, so that your child will have them ready on the day. This kind of preparation might seem obvious, but taking the time to ensure you and your child have this information correct will save on any nasty surprises from avoidable mistakes.


Know Your Subject:

Once you know the basics about an exam, you can help make sure your child knows exactly what the test is about, and what they need to study. While most tests will have an element of surprise to them, it’s worth making sure your child knows what area of the subject is being examined. That way you can be sure they won’t study in a blind panic, and instead can focus on what’s actually relevant for the exam. One of the best ways to do this is to check whether there are past or sample papers available. From these, your child can get an idea of what the test will be like and the kinds of questions they can expect to be asked.

After this, one of the most important ways you can help a child before an exam is sit down with them and look at the logistics and timings of the paper. How long is the exam, and how many questions are on it? Is there a marking system where some questions are worth more than others. This kind of information is crucial, as it allows your child to revise and prepare in a way that will be useful and appropriate to the exam.


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Make a Study Timetable:

When you have all of this information you can help your child work up a study timetable. It can be just a simple matter of marking out when and what to study, or for larger exams you can work with your child to figure out a schedule that will allow them to cover all of the necessary subjects and topics. You can use the information you’ve collected to make this schedule valuable, by giving more time to areas with more content or more marks. A good timetable should help ease stress in the run up to exams as it helps avoid last minute cramming.


Revise

This is the area of preparing you are most limited in what you can do to help. Only your child can revise and only they can take the exam, however there are some general tips you can use to help a child to make their study more efficient and their exam answers more effective.


Study Techniques:

Encourage and help your child to try out a range of studying techniques, such as flashcards, brainstorming, lists and bullet points, post-it notes etc. Try to tailor the techniques being used to the type of information being revised. For example if your child is trying to memorize specific items of information like a mathematical formula or pieces of vocabulary for a language test, flashcards and post-it notes are perfect for this, while brainstorming is great for remembering details of a historical event or scene from a novel.


Practice Answers:

Once the revision has begun, it’s important to encourage your child practice answering questions that might come up. This will combine both organisation and revision, as it is where knowledge of the paper meets knowledge of the exam subject. Practicing answers will not only help your child feel confident that they have really absorbed the information they’ve been revising but will also check that they are not being too ambitious about what they can write in the given time.

Following on from this, a great way to help a child make the most of the revision that they’ve done, is to make sure they know how to accurately and effectively structure their answers. Writing everything you know, stream of consciousness-style is rarely the best way to gain marks. Instead help your child pick out the keywords in questions. It can be as simple as making sure they’ve understood what’s being asked, whether the tense to be conjugated or the correct angle in a triangle to be calculated. But it can also be a little more meticulous, for example if the question says to ‘compare’ two texts then your child should be sure their answer will hold up points of comparison.


Establish a Method:

One of the ways to avoid rambling or missing the point of a question is to develop rules to follow when writing questions. A great one for exams is PQE: Point, Quote, Explain. This suggests that answers should make a point, have a quote or reference to back up this point, and then some further explanation of the point in context of the quote. For long essay answers this can be done in each paragraph. While not applicable to every subject, this is a good way to make sure answers stay on topic and relevant. Helping your child to learn these strategies will help them properly demonstrate their knowledge.


Encourage a Healthy Enviornment

This can often be the area that children require the most help with. With their focus on the coming exam, it can be easy for children to let healthy habits slide, but this can be detrimental to a child’s overall health as well as having an impact on their abilities in an exam. Luckily this is perhaps the most straightforward area to give help and support.


Rest Well:

Getting enough sleep is crucial for children's ability to learn and absorb information. As tempting as it is to wring as much study time as possible out of a day, being well-rested makes for more effective studying. This is particularly important if your child is undergoing a series of exams over a period of time. If they’ve been missing out on sleep in the run up, this can leave them too exhausted for their exams. Help your child use the study schedule mentioned above to limit the amount of late-night study.


Schedule Breaks:

Your timetable should also incorporate breaks throughout the day. Ideally, these should be opportunities to take a brisk walk and get outside. The break from the books, the fresh air, and the exercise will all help to restore and increase concentration as well as lower stress. By knowing your child's timetable, you can help them keep to the schedule, breaks included.


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Diet:

Diet can really impact on how a child fares while studying. Whether it’s cooking with oily fish to help with concentration, or having snacks available such fruits rich in vitamin C like strawberries and melon to stave off illnesses and colds, these foods can make a big difference to your child’s ability to study in a healthy and positive way.


Offer Support:

Finally, it’s important just to be there for your child, to give emotional support if they’re stressed or even just smile of encouragement before the test. Exams can be an overwhelming time for children and can certainly have an impact on their emotional welfare. Whether they’re intimidated by the amount of work to do, or fearful of bad results, there are hundreds of things which can leave a child feeling isolated and anxious. Often the best help to offer, is just to be there for them, listen to them, and reassure them in their efforts. 

Abbey Smithee works as an English teacher and in her spare time, volunteers with children with learning disabilities as a tutor and reading assistant.

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