As the time for formal assessments approaches, here are some top tips for parents.
Exam practise is essential for all exams, irrelevant of year group. Many students receive their reports back with top scores for effort and behaviour and every parents evening teachers echo in a chorus that they do just fine. But then the end of term/year evaluations tells a different story. Or like in our case, our son was perceived as struggling because of his lack of focus and not finishing his work. It was only when he was formally assessed that the teacher realised how well he was doing.
It is therefore important that our children do the best they can on the day of the exam/assessment. There might be a combination of variables influencing tests results but a lack of exam skills is one of the most important.
These skills include:
- Time management.
- Knowing what to expect.
- Reading carefully through questions.
- Writing in full sentences.
- Showing your workings.
- Checking your answers.
Most of these will be practised either in school or with a tutor. The key is to establish the basic principles, good practise and long term habits at an early age and not ONLY before their final exams.
Parents can also help their children face the pressure of tests and exams.
Many children will cope well with the challenge of tests, but parents should be aware of how they can relieve, the pressure experienced by their children.
These changes in behaviour might be a sign of stress:
- Being withdrawn and not engaging in conversation.
- Being irritable.
- Easily upset and teary.
- Moodiness and even uncharacteristically rudeness.
Tips for parents:
1. Emotional Support:
If your child shows signs of stress, they usually need extra nurturing and understanding from their parents. That might require a little extra patience for difficult behaviour or “tender loving care” if they get teary. Irritable 16 year olds might need that little “break” from a caring but “nagging” parent by creating some space for them but still be there for support. It is about being sensitive to how they are feeling and the way they deal with the stress and to provide the support and attention when needed. Each one of them may deal with it completely different.
2. Exam Tricks:
It is the small things that sometimes cause the biggest impact. Teaching kids some essential exam skills not only invest some confidence but also impact their exam results. Simple examples are: Completing the questions they can do first, don’t get stuck on the tricky questions – draw a circle around the question number and come back to it. Establishing good habits are crucial. The way they practise these skills at home is the way will do it in the exam. Knowing it and do it is two different things.
3. Discuss feelings:
Discussing feelings with a teenage boy might be like pulling teeth. That’s why it’s important to encourage children to talk about their feelings from a young age. Help them to understand their feelings and provide support on how to manage it.
4. Relaxing exercises:
Breathing patterns can play a big part in anxiety and stress. Teach them to breathe slowly in and out and to calm down. Focusing their minds on positive thoughts, envisioning them doing well and being positive about the outcome put them in the right frame of mind and manage their anxiety. Talk it through with them and practise it at home. Music can play a big part in calming one down or fire another up when necessary. Creating the right mood with music at home or in their rooms can be a hidden gem.
5. Build their confidence:
Help build their confidence in themselves by showing that you believe they CAN do it. The first step is to have a go even if they feel nervous. Some would rather leave a question blank than filling in the wrong answer. Encourage them to try each question even if they are unsure. Success come in trying and confidence are build on that. Provide them with positive feedback for every attempt and encourage them to keep trying.
6. Positive thinking:
Battles are won and lost in the head. Instead of saying to themselves that they can’t do it, encourage them to have a positive approach to every exam and every questions by saying ” I will try my best!”
7. Set the example :
Modelling it and being the example is setting the scene for a child to learn these essential life skills. Verbalising how you feel, acknowledge that you feel nervous about a situation but you are positive and will give it your best.” Remaining calm and positive when your child is feeling anxious can help them to feel more confident. Sometimes parents can be more stressed about their exams than the children.
8. Create clear expectations:
Explain to them what to expect. The fear of the unknown can be hindering but by preparing them psychological as well as academically is very important. Allowing them to participate in mock exams for big exams are breaking the ice and set the scene for the real exam. Entrance exams and GCSE exams are held in bigger venues like school halls or sport halls where the environment can be very intimidating. A tour through the school or mock exams in similar environments allows them to get use to the open space and new set-up. Attending open days of potential primary and secondary schools is very beneficial. By explaining clearly what to expect on the day and the format of the exam allows them to feel more in control and less uncertain about the exam.
9. Trouble shooting:
Identifying potential pit-falls and preparing for them before hand is a good strategy to combat nerves. By discussing what could possible go wrong on the day and how to solve the problem is not only building confidence but also avoid potential disasters. A good example is the need to go to the toilet. Being stressed and under pressure will naturally increase urine production and the need to go to the toilet. Unless your child expect that and go to the toilet before the exam, they might find themselves very uncomfortable during the exam. Having a drink at hand if they are allowed. Taking a few spare pencils or pens in case one stop working. Remember their glasses and calculator where needed. Leave early and turn up on time or early.
10. Balanced lifestyle:
A healthy body supports a healthy mind. Make sure that your child retains a healthy and balanced lifestyle in the lead up to the exam. There is nothing worse to have your child overworked and stressed out because of a lack of rest and relaxation or to burn out mentally before the exam. Allow them to work hard but also to “play hard.” Down time and free time revitalise their mind and allows them to refocus and to be less stressed.