That time of year is fast approaching when it will be time for exams. Some students will be more prepared than others for what they are about to face. It is however worth knowing what the 15 key areas are that can assist students at this time of year. I have split the helpful tips to support your child in preparing for exams into those key steps students need to make in the planning and preparation stage as well as those they need to take during exams.
At times, as parents we are not really sure how to assist our children and being aware of some of these key steps might assist. The main message I usually give parents when it comes to exams is to let your child know you are there and willing to help and assist if they would like you to.
In the planning and preparation stage
1. start as early as possible – many students think they have lots of time to prepare and study for exams. Unfortunately, this can be a trap and students convince themselves that it will be okay to not start today only to find that they end up running out of time and have to cram. Studying for exams often takes more time than students anticipate, so you can assist them to make sure they get started as early as possible and put in their best effort! Ask them if there is anything you can do to assist them with this stage?
2. spend time and effort on reviewing information that they don’t know – students often spend time on studying or reviewing information that they already know. However, they already know it so the best use of their time when preparing is to identify what they don’t know and work on strategies to ensure they learn this information is ready for use in exams. Encourage them to shift their focus if you feel this is what they are spending their time on. Please don’t assume this is what they are doing and it’s best to ask them this question first.
3. study actively not passively – you might ask what does this actually mean? Studying passively is usually when students spend time just reading over their notes and textbooks until it is familiar. Where actively studying is when they actually incorporate the passive study as well as spend time testing and quizzing themselves to see what they actually do or don’t know. Unfortunately, most students actually spend more time studying passively than actively which really is not the best strategy. One way as parents that you might be able to assist is to get them to teach you about a topic or subject as this is getting them thinking and as they are teaching you then they might well become aware of gaps in their knowledge. As a parent, we might not know anything about the subject so you can ask questions which will can also facilitate their studying and learning of a topic.
4. ensuring you child is studying or preparing in the way they will be tested – click here to learn more about this in a recent blog that I wrote just on this point alone.
5. ensure they write their name on the exam or test paper – I have seen this time and time again when working with students and it can be left blank. A student’s focus naturally is on getting started and answering questions however writing their name should be the first thing they do when they can actually start writing! You can assist to remind them even though it sounds so simple.
6. ensure they spend time reading and understanding the question – this is vital and students need to ensure they use their reading time wisely to ensure they understand what the questions is actually asking them to do. When doing this, students really need to take notice in particular of the key/command/prompt words in the question ie analyse, compare, describe…. Basically, these are the words that tell them how they need to respond. You could assist them by going through and discussing some of the potential key/command words that might come up for them.
7. ask them if they have a plan when it comes to answering questions – it is important, particularly for any writing tasks, that they plan the structure of their response/essay first. This will then assist them to know what they are going to say and in the right order and keeps them on track. Sometimes talking this through can be really useful to fine tune their approach.
8. ensure they have enough time – some students can find themselves running out of time and in many situations, this can link back to lack of preparation and planning when they should have spent time practising this with past exam papers. Ideally, they want to have a plan of attack and strategy as to how they are going to break up and use their time before they enter an exam. Spending time on this prior to exams is a really useful strategy and links in with the previous point of having a plan.
9. ensuring they use the clock – it is important for students to make sure they have a watch with them just in case they can’t actually see the clock in the room. As a parent perhaps remind or ask them the night before to check they have it in their bag or remind them in the morning they have their watch on. It is important when in an exam that students keep an eye on the clock or follow a plan so they don’t run out of time in general.
10. encourage them to answer all questions – where possible students should avoid leaving any responses blank and even if they don’t know the full answer to always try to gain some marks rather than just giving up and leaving a response blank.
11. ensure they match up questions and answers with multiple choice – this again sounds so simple to do but in exams it can be a common mistake and really one that students should try to avoid. Students need to take care when responding to multiple choice questions. A simple reminder might be useful.
12. ensure they only answer a question once – this too sounds simple but worth a reminder that they only select one answer per questions particular when answering multiple choice.
13. ensure they give every question a go – sometimes students come across questions that they might not like and it is important that they still answer it. Unfortunately, when this happens and it does, students can ignore the real question and write or respond with something else that often is unrelated to what is actually being asked of them. Remind them to give everything a shot and to just do their best!
14. making sure they have enough supplies with them – this is actually probably the easiest one for parents to assist with and you can ask your child if they need you to purchase anything in particular. Students need to make sure they have additional pens or pencils with them as the last thing they want to happen is for the ink to run out and not have anything to write with. This seems so logical but again is not always on a student’s mind when going to an exam.
15. encourage them to stay in the exam room for the full amount of time available – even if they think they are finished encourage them to use the extra time to read through their answers and make sure that they’ve answered them to the best of their abilities. They should use this time and add or include additional information or points. They might also use it to check over their spelling and grammar as well.
As a parent, I know exams can be a difficult time and the best thing you can do to assist is by being there, giving your child space and ensuring they are getting enough rest, sleep and down time too. Be encouraging and supportive and at the end of the day it is up to your child to do the best they possibly can. One final point is that if they come home a bit negative after an exam try to encourage them to put those thoughts aside and assist them to focus on preparing and getting ready for the next exam. Good luck!
For any further support or assistance for you or your child, or to find out more about my role as an academic life coach and the work I do 1:1 with students please email me or give me a call 0409 967 166.