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Below is an article on exam time do’s and don’t’s

Exam time has arrived and your once calm and loving child has become something resembling a monster. The mood swings and tantrums are unprecedented and you have started to wonder whether it is too late to consider boarding school.

Your child is experiencing untold stress and probably feels more pressurized because the impending exams have become a favourite topic of conversation amongst peers and parents alike. The best way to handle this tricky time in your little treasure’s life is to equip them with the time, space and skills to study properly, with your help obviously. We have put together 6 top tips to help your stressed out exam writer overcome the anxiety that is part and parcel of exam time.

1. Pick the Perfect Spot
Your child must have a designated area in your home that facilitates effective studying. This spot must be chosen by you and your child and should be in his bedroom or a designated study, if at all possible. Make sure that all noise and activity stop once your child has started studying. This means that TV, radio, yelling and playing should be kept well away from your child’s chosen study area. The area must have access to light and fresh air, and a heater or fan in extreme weather conditions as it is very difficult to study in particularly hot or cold conditions. This area should become a permanent homework spot, kids need structure and routine and a designated homework/study area is essential. Paper, pens, glue, erasers, rulers, coloured pens, pencil crayons and all necessary school supplies should be readily available to your child. A book shelf is also necessary with a designated section for each subject so that you and your child are able to keep track of what has been done or studied for and what still needs to be done. It might also be helpful to let your child decorate their study area in a non-distracting way, a plant, pencil holders, favourite photos and such will help to brighten up the area and will encourage pride in your little ones work.

2. Mange Time Properly
Set homework times every day, they should not vary much in terms of time and length. Each grade has an estimated length of time that should be spent on homework and studying daily. This allows for extreme amounts of work to be handled without your little one becoming overwhelmed. Set your child a homework timetable for the entire week ahead so that he knows what he needs to study and fit in each day. The following are a good indication of how long your child should be spending on homework and studying every day;

  • Grade 1: 20-30 minutes
  • Grade 2: 30-40 minutes
  • Grade 3: 35-45 minutes
  • Grade 4: 45-55 minutes
  • Grade 5: 55-65 minutes
  • Grade 6: 60-80 minutes
  • Grade 7: 70-90 minutes

The above are merely guidelines, but fairly accurate ones as your child must be able to balance homework and studying with the rest of their lives. It is unfair to expect your child to put in excessive study time because they also need to spend some time being kids and doing activities that they actually enjoy.

3. Make Studying and Homework Fun!
Making your child’s study time fun is the key to encouraging him to excel at homework and studying. There are lots of great ways to make primary school work fun and exciting! Make school work interactive, for example use real plants to explain concepts in biology and science or get your child to dress up as their favourite character in history and act out mini-plays. The most important thing here is to ensure that your fun techniques are relevant to the subject matter and that your child is actually learning something from them without even realising it.

4. Have a Well Thought Out Study Strategy
Every child will have a study technique that will work for them. A child who is more creative may like to make poems and pictures to help them to remember what they are studying while a more logical, linear thinker might like to formulate long lists of key words or sentences. The first thing that any of these techniques involve is reading through the work and summarising important points by underlining or highlighting them. Here are a few great study techniques that seem to work well for many kids;

  1. Spider Diagrams – This involves writing a central key word written in the middle of a page or piece of cardboard, other concepts and key words are then written all over the page with lines leading from the central key word. This will result in a “spider”-like diagram in the middle of the page. These are most helpful when lots of colours are used.
  2. Key Concept Lists – These are lists of concepts and explanations. This is a summarised, easily understood version of the original text.
  3. Acronyms – This is when the first letter of a group of sentences makes a fun “word” that will spark your child’s memory.
  4. Picture Stories – This is a great technique for artistic kids who learn best through visuals. Your child will need to draw picture stories that will remind them of the work that they are dealing with at the time.

Once any of these techniques have been used get your child to explain the concept or work back to you as this will show you that he actually understands it and repetition helps with memory retention.

5. Reduce Pre-Test Anxiety
Test anxiety can hinder your child’s ability to do well in a test and can become a major problem when it comes to performance and memory loss. Here are some tips to reduce your child’s exam stress:

  • Do not cram! Study over a few weeks rather than just before the exam. Learning fact in bite size pieces over several weeks’ increases memory retention.
  • Teach your child relaxation and breathing techniques. If they find themselves becoming panicked and stressed out before or during the exam they should close their eyes, take a deep breath and focus their mind completely on the question being asked.
  • Encourage your child to go to bed early on the night before the exam. A good night’s sleep is essential for your child’s physical and emotional performance during a test.
  • For a few days before the test take your child for a short walk or encourage him to go for a bike ride around the block, if he is old enough. Exercise before a stressful event helps to reduce exam anxiety.
  • Teach your child to think positive. Tell him that negative thoughts indicate that he has already given up which won’t help him to pass.
  • Make sure that your child gets to the exam venue on time. In fact, getting there with half an hour to spare will help him to feel less rushed and more relaxed going into the exam.
  • Make sure that your child eats properly for the time leading up to and during his exams. Eating nutritiously is a great way to ensure that his brain is working at its optimum level before he even starts studying.

6. Have an Exam Strategy
It is not only important for your child to be well prepared for his exam, he should also have a strategy for the actual exam day.

  • Make sure that your child has all of the equipment he needs to write the exam properly. It is very difficult for your child to write the exam properly if he does not have all of the correct equipment.
  • Give your child an “exam” watch which he can use to time his exam and plan when to write what.
  • Tell your child to read through the exam properly before he starts writing it so that he knows what to expect. He must also pace himself so that he does not face a rush at the end of the test. Check with your child’s teacher, but at primary school level it is usually one mark per minute, so if a question is worth 10 marks your child should spend no more than 10 minutes on the question.
  • Teach your child to start with the questions he knows and to move on to the more difficult ones once he has secured the easier marks. If there is a question that he does not know he should move onto the next one and not panic. He can try to answer the more difficult questions when he has time at the end of the test.
  • The key to answering a question properly is for your child to read it thoroughly! A fatal mistake, that many children make, is to jump the gun and assume that they know the answer before they have read the question through properly.
  • Your child must take no notice of those around him. The fact that every other pupil is finished the exam within 20 minutes does not mean that he is doing anything wrong, and visa versa. The only person who he should be worried about is himself.
  • Highlight how important it is for your child to put his name somewhere on the top of every single page of the exam; this will help teachers to find any pieces that come loose from the bunch. Your child must double check that he has put his name on the front page of the exam before he leaves the venue, most teachers will not even mark an exam without a name on it.
  • Multiple choices and one word questions are not to be rushed through; they are an easy source of marks and should not be taken lightly just because they are not as valuable as other questions. 10 one word answers will probably equal 10 easy marks; your child must be made aware of this fact.
  • If your child finishes early and has time to spare he should read through all of his answers and see if there is anything he has left out. Some of the most valuable facts may only come to him once he has relaxed at the end of the paper.

In Conclusion
One of the most important things for you and your children to remember is that exams are temporary and for all of the stress and drama that they bring the sense of accomplishment that they bring about, once completed, can not be argued. Do not put too much pressure on yourself or your children to over achieve. Taking on the attitude “your best is enough!” will take an untold amount of pressure off you, not to mention the positive affect it will have on your relationship with your little one.

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