Exams can send the stress-o-meter sky high for families.  Here are some ways to help children when it comes to studying for an exam, quiz or completing assignments.  Let’s also look at how to simplify homework and address the signs of stress in students who experience exam-related anxiety.

1)  Relax……it’s only an exam

This may sound counter-productive and strange.  Ease exam pressure by helping them to understand that, while exams are important, it is only one event.

2)  Preparation is the key

a)  You can’t adequately prepare the night before so encourage your child to revise in advance.  See if you can access past exam papers, complete end of chapter reviews and refer to their notes (hopefully they are well organised!).

b)  Understand the type of exam.  Be familiar with the type of questions that will be on the assessment: is it an essay? short answer?  response to an image? multiple choice?  This will really help in reducing test anxiety.

3)  Take short breaks

Short, half-hour breaks are great to decompress and reset the mind.  Examples include helping prepare dinner, kick a ball, go outside, draw a picture.  A short activity will act as a circuit breaker for the brain so that your child can return to study refreshed.

4)  Remove distractions

Tv, social media, Youtube, mobile phones, music – these are all distractions that interrupt the flow of study.  Encourage self-discipline whereby they prioritise study revision.  Most teenagers will argue that listening to music helps them when revising (my own son does this!) but several studies show that students who listen to music while completing tasks such as reading and writing tend to be less efficient and, don’t absorb as much information compared to those who don’t listen to music.

5)  It’s not the amount of study time, it’s the quality

This is tied to the above ~ distractions.  The temptation to check messages from peers and social media is often too hard to resist.  We suggest that your child only checks messages after an hour of solid study.  A quick, 5 minute check of messages should be seen as a reward system for study effort.

6)  Understanding (& encouraging) the trade-off for studying

Children who sacrifice watching tv/gaming/social media for 2 – 3 hours each night and opt to study can be rewarded for their choice.  Help your child to see the purpose of study and the benefits of forgoing of tv/media etc.  Find their reward ‘currency’ – is it going out with friends on the weekend? extra gaming time over the weekend?

7)  Meeting the demands of homework

The debate over the need for homework will continue but how can we ease some of that stress for our children?   Students will engage if they can see the relevance of the task (although not all homework will fall into this category).  If your child can see a purpose for the activity, they will buy into the task.  

Ensure there is support for homework, where possible.  For e.g, if a teacher sets an English assignment, make sure that your child seeks feedback on their draft. This will help them to take positive, constructive steps in improving their final copy.  Also, refer to the grading/marking criteria for every assignment as this will clarify what they must include.  Does your child’s school offer free tutoring or study groups?  

It’s natural that your child may become anxious leading up to important exams, but the key is not to let that stress overwhelm them.  As a parent aim to be calm, positive and put the whole thing into perspective.

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