How to support your child with exam preparation

August 15, 2016

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Back to school can bring with it revision and exam prep, which some children can find stressful. Our education expert, Charlotte Gator, answers some common questions that parents ask on how to support their children.

What revision methods can I use?

The key to revision is finding what works for your child. Revision timetables, flash cards etc. will work really well for some people, but others will learn by reading over notes or practising questions. Timetables are great for those who want to make sure they have everything planned out, however other people may like to be more flexible and have more of a choice about what they are going to study each day. Finding what works for your child is key to helping them succeed.

How can I help my child to concentrate?

Often, we lose concentration when we find something difficult, frustrating or boring. Encourage your child to mix up what style they are revising in, for example, reading over notes or texts with watching explanation videos and trying example questions.  If they are getting bored or frustrated with one subject, get them to switch topics and go back to the previous work once they have had a break.

Is exercise an important part of the revision process?

Exercise can be a great way of breaking up revision sessions and channelling stress. If your child arranges to do sport with their friends it is a way of keeping them in contact with each other during the exam period and they can let off steam together.  It’s a great way to take their mind of the exams for a while, reenergise them and help them to sleep.

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Could a ‘reward/treat’ system help with the revision process?

This is a brilliant idea if you know your child is motivated by rewards and treats. Think about what would work for them. Regular small treats such as 15 minutes TV or internet time for each 60 minute revision session can be a great instant reward for their efforts. Alternatively, some may be motivated by something bigger to work towards, so for each 60min revision session they earn a point and 10 points could be a trip to the cinema or a couple of hours with their friends.

I recommend reward schemes that focus on time and effort put into revision rather than grades they get at the end. At Explore Learning we work on building positive learning habits like determination and concentration that will ultimately lead to better results. By supporting your child with how they are going to achieve goals rather than just what the goal is they will be more confident and feel less pressurised.

What time of day is best for revising?

Just like adults, each child is different and will learn better at different times of day. If your child is not a morning person, don’t force them out of bed to revise too early; as long as they get the work done allow them some freedom of when this is. Allow them to choose the times they will revise, but make them aware that they chose the times and should then commit to them. At Explore Learning we work on a flexible drop in system so that families can find the times that suit their child to learn.

How can I encourage my child without putting pressure on them?

I recommend reward schemes that focus on time and effort put into revision rather than grades they get at the end. That way you are encouraging your child to revise but not overwhelming them with talk of good results.

At Explore Learning we work on building positive learning habits like determination, concentration and a have a go attitude, which will ultimately lead to better results. You need support your child with how they are going to achieve goals rather than just what the goal is.

Remind your child that you’re very proud of them and that the exams are just a chance for them to show off what they know. That as long as they put the effort in you know they are doing the best that they can.

How can I avoid any arguments about revising?

Discuss with your child when the exams are and what they need to cover for each subject.  Then let them decide when, where and what they are going to revise in order to cover everything. That way they’ve made the decision and you can use this to get them to commit to doing it.

If you feel they’re not doing enough then talk to them about it, but think about what you are saying.

Instead of saying “you’re going to fail if you don’t do enough work,” ask them some questions like “are you finding anything challenging?”, “can I help you with your revision?” or “if you don’t do the work what do you think will be the consequences?”.  Getting your child to think about what will happen if they don’t do any work rather than just telling them could avoid an argument.

Try to relate to what your child is going through, tell them about your experiences with exams to show them you know how they are feeling.

Sometimes it’s better to have a break. If you’re getting into an argument about revising take a time out. Do something together, even if it’s just going for a walk or to a café for a drink. Agree to forget about revising for half an hour and talk about something else, then try to make a plan about what they are going to do for the rest of the day to help with their exams.

What’s the best way to stay positive for my child and comfort them if the exams go wrong?

As parents of course you want your child to do well, but it’s really important to support them if they don’t get the results they were wanting. Look at the options with them, this may be a different, school, university or course. They may need some time to think about what they want to do; they may want to look at retaking an exam so help them to research if this is possible. It’s important to remind them that there are always options and that you will help them to find the right one.

Any other exam preparation tips?

Don’t be afraid to seek additional help. Extra tuition to support school work is a fantastic option and there is a variety to choose from e.g. group, online and one-to-one tuition. Even friends working together to teach each other about the subjects they are most confident in can be a big help.

At Explore Learning we run sessions specifically in exam preparation which is principally about improving a child’s confidence and skills relevant for the test they’re preparing for.  Students love coming as they create great bonds with the tutors and results have proved a significant impact on their maths and English skills.

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