Expert tips to prep your kids for school exams
Published on 30th October, 2020 at 12:40 pm
School exams are likely to put an entire household under pressure. For parents or guardians seeking advice on how to navigate this testing time, here are tips from the experts to help set your children up for success.
#1: Set up a schedule
“Planning is essential,” says education expert and Implementation Quality Assurance (National Manager) at Media Works, Louis Nel. He advises students draw up a schedule that allocates time for all activities, including studying, eating, relaxing and exercising. “Study routines should also be tailored to grade, learning style, and peak learning time,” says Louise Schoonwinkel, managing director of Impaq. Schoonwinkel admits that planning to study is easy but actually getting started is hard. She encourages challenging students to set a goal of studying for a solid 15 to 20 minutes without a break. “Chances are, they’ll be on a roll and eager to continue,” says Schoonwinkel.
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#2: Find what works for you
“Routine is important, but there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach,” says Anne Eadie, founder of The Answer Series, an educational publishing company that specialises in producing study guides for high school learners. “Figure out whether they’re more productive in the mornings or afternoons; then try to allocate the tasks that need the most brain power to those slots,” adds Eadie.
#3: Don’t study all day
“Make sure your schedule has time allocated to exercise, chatting with friends and even watching an episode of your favourite series. Getting the balance right and enjoying your time off will help you be productive when you do sit down to study – with no distractions,” says Eadie. She also encourages children try to uncover the best way to boost their energy levels – whether it’s a healthy snack, a jog around the block, or even a 20-minute power nap to slot in-between studying. A 2019 study by the Boston University School of Medicine (B.U.S.M.) found that just 20 minutes a day of low- to medium-intensity exercise can measurably improve cognitive function. “It may sound counterintuitive, but all work and no play is a recipe for disaster,” says Schoonwinkel. “Learners must be allowed to relax and rejuvenate.”
Exams can be a very stressful time – read this to find out how to help your child beat exam stress.
#4: Find your ideal study spot
“It does not always have to be in the same place,” says Nel. “But when you do choose your study spots, make sure they are in a place where you can concentrate,” says Nel. Nel suggests finding a public library near you or asking to study in one of your school classrooms after school. Most importantly, avoid studying in bed. “While almost any environment can be comfortable and suitable for studying, the ideal place to study is where there are minimal distractions,” says Schoonwinkel. Nel encourages students to keep their cellphones away from their desk, to turn off any music and to avoid being near people who make a lot of noise. “This will help you to focus and be more efficient,” says Nel.
#5: Keep hydrated and eat healthily
Our brains are strongly influenced by hydration. According to a study published by Mindy Millard-Stafford, director of the Exercise Physiology Laboratory at Georgia Institute of Technology, people who suffer even mild dehydration can experience impaired cognitive performance and therefore don’t perform as well on tasks that require a lot of their attention. “Drink lots of water while studying, as well as before you write your exams, to ensure that you are functioning at your optimum,” says Nel. Schoonwinkel adds: “Learners must maintain proper nutrition by eating healthy, nutritious meals and snacks. The brain needs food to function.”
#6: Get enough sleep
“You cannot concentrate and absorb your work if you are tired,” says Schoonwinkel. Research suggests that sleep plays a critical role in memory, both before and after learning. “Make sure you are getting adequate sleep during your exam preparation and before your exams and do not stay up all night before an exam: last-minute cramming is generally not the best way to approach an exam.”
#7: Practice makes perfect
“A secret weapon when preparing for examinations is working through past papers,” says Schoonwinkel. “Practising sample questions from past questions can help train the brain to retrieve information. It also helps pinpoint weak areas. In addition, it shows what to expect in terms of the format or wording of questions, so learners won’t get confused or tripped up during the actual examination,” explains Schoonwinkel. “The best way to learn is from your own mistakes – you need to be able to pinpoint them first, and then understand what to do next time,” adds Eadie.
Tips for parents during the time of COVID-19
As if final examinations aren’t stressful enough, this year’s learners are trying to navigate the additional challenges and fears associated with COVID-19. “It is important to recognise that these are challenging times that nobody could have prepared for,” says Schoonwinkel. “As such, the focus as learners prepare for the final exams should be on what is within their control: how well they prepare. Learners must give studying their all so that they can write their examinations with confidence, regardless of what is happening around them.” Schoonwinkel advises that if children seem overly anxious or overwhelmed, help them try to shift the focus from studying to something fun. She also encourages parents to set up realistic goals and to offer the necessary support and encouragement to help them achieve those goals.
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