I remember how examinations used to weigh down on me – would I be able to answer the questions, can I sleep well the night before, what if I forgot everything I had been studying the past weeks?! Stressful as it may be, tests and exams are an unavoidable part of school life, especially when children get older and take part in standardised tests that decide where they will go for university and which courses they can take.
So we tell our children they have to study and revise, and fret with them over the looming exams. But we don’t always tell them how to study – and that’s just as important! Here are five ways to help your child prepare for an exam so half the battle’s won.
Tip 1: Plan ahead
As Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Students tend to do last minute studying one day or two before the exam but last minute cramming does not for sufficient time to check their understanding of the concepts and to practice.
In order to prepare sufficiently for an exam, your teenager needs to have a plan. The plan should map out all the concepts that would be covered in the exam against a schedule or timetable for studying them. In drawing out the exam timetable plan, they need to be realistic as to what he/she can revise in a day. For example, studying a chapter a day for science is more realistic than studying five chapters of science in a day.
Tip 2: Get sufficient rest
Our brain needs sufficient rest in order to function optimally. Having sufficient rest allows the student to be able to absorb key concepts easily. It also prevents a scenario where the student gets a mental block during the exam.
A sign that your teenager is sleep deprived is when he/she is constantly yawning or constantly listless. In order to have sufficient rest, your child needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep daily. That means if they wake up for school at 630am, they should be in bed by 1030pm!
Tip 3: Study in groups
There will be moments when your teenager loses motivation or momentum while preparing for an exam. Study groups can be a useful way for them to gather with their friends and help one another. Study groups can also be a source of motivation for your child as they witness their friends studying hard.
However, they have to be mindful that the study group is meant for them to study and cross-check their understanding of the subjects against their peers. It is normal for teenagers to be distracted at times, however they would need to ensure that they spend at least 70% of their time together studying and not discussing the latest movie, football match or fashion trend.
Tip 4: Understand the concepts
Sometimes when teenagers do not understand a concept, they tend to memorise instead. While memorising allows your child to answer questions of a certain format, your child would be stumped when the question format changes. It is important that your child spends time understanding instead of memorising his/her way through exams.
When they find that they have difficulty understanding, they should seek help from their teacher or their own peers. Understanding concepts allows your child to gain mastery of the subject.
A good way to test your child’s understanding is getting them to teach what they have learned to others. Your child should also be able draw links and patterns from the concepts they studied.
Tip 5: Take regular breaks
When preparing for an exam, your teenager should take regular breaks instead. A group rule of thumb is to take a 5-minute break after every 40 minutes of studying. The break could be anything that they find relaxing. It could be to call a friend, take a short walk or even taking a short shut-eye.