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How to help a child excel in exams

Sitting for exams can be a nerve-racking experience for a pupil, but it is not something to be worried about, if the child is well prepared.  While you can’t take your children’s examinations for them, you can help them study and provide a supportive environment.

One of the most important steps you can take towards helping your child to excel in examinations is confidence building – reassure your child that they have what it takes to do well in the examination, and by so doing, they will not be so anxious.


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Here are some things you can do to bring out the best in your child during examinations.

  • Don’t wait until the exam

An educationist, Mrs Olatokunbo Edun, the Administrator, Grace School, Gbagada, said parents should not wait until it is time for exams before making an effort to improve their children’s academic performance.

Edun said, “Parents should not wait until children are having examinations to get involved in their school work. There are so many ways parents can help their children to excel academically. You can reduce the amount of time they watch television at home – you can limit it to two hours. You should also make sure that they are not distracted by computer games and other home games that children love to engage in. Parents should also supervise the homework of their children. You can also set tests for them once in a while. Go through their lesson notes and help them revise what they have learnt. Don’t just wait for the exam date to come. If you keep on doing all these, you will notice that as the exams come, the children will be ready. Even for those in secondary schools, you should make sure that it is not just during exams that they study. You should make sure that they read their textbooks and revise what they were taught all the time.”

  • Learn about the exam

Read over the exam procedures. It is good to know what material will be on the exam and how the exam will be structured. Knowing what your child will have to do will help you prepare them. You can consult their class notes, or the school for more information regarding the exam.

  • Contact their teacher

Your child’s teacher will be able to provide the most up-to-date information regarding the exam. They will also be able to help you identify your child’s weak points so that you can help them study more effectively.

  • Find a practice exam

If your child is taking a standardised test, you should be able to easily locate practice exams. These exams are often tests that were given in previous years. They can help your child learn not just what type of questions are likely to be set for the exam but also how the exercise is structured and formatted. You can find these exams online on the examination’s website or through your child’s teacher.

If your child is not taking a standardised test, a practice exam may not be available. Instead, consult their notes and textbooks to see what type of information might be on the exam. You can test them from such materials.

  • Consider hiring a tutor

If you are concerned about your ability to help your child study, you can hire a tutor. There are many tutors who specialise in different types of exam. You may also look for an older student who has already taken these exams.

  • Study with your child

At least two weeks before the exam, you should start scheduling regular periods in the evening to study with your child. You may decide to have your child study for an hour every weekday and give them the weekend off, or they could devote an hour to it every other day.

Organise a timetable for the period running up to the exams. Note what and when your child will study each day. By encouraging a consistent schedule, they will form a healthy studying habit.

If you are having difficulty filling an hour with studying, you might organise your sessions by tasks. For example, you might ask them to finish 20 mathematics problems or write one essay.

  • Find a quiet place for your child to study

Your child will need a quiet place where they can study undisturbed for their examination. There should be no distractions, such as television sets, in the room. You should make it clear to other family members that the child is not to be disturbed while they are studying. This will help your child’s concentration as they prepare.

Good places to study include the child’s bedroom or the kitchen. While the child is studying, minimise noise in your home. Keep the television volume low, and do not hold loud conversations. If you do not have a quiet place for your child to study, you might take them to a public library where they can do their work in peace.

  • Create study aids

It is important for your child to both memorise information and recall it on demand. To improve their memory, you can create study aids. Using these aids on a daily basis will help them learn more efficiently than cramming the information from a book. For example, create a sheet of mathematics formulas that they need to know. Have them memorise the formulas. Encourage them to write these formulas down in the margins of the test as soon as they receive it.

Teach your child to go through reading passages and circle important details, such as the main character, purpose, and tone.

  • Practise answering questions

Ask your child questions that they might come across in the exam. Develop questions based on their notes or textbooks. You can say these out loud or give them a written practice test. Note which problems your child is having the most difficulty with, and focus on those in your next study session.

If you have a practice exam, give it to them a few days before the examination. Time them for the same length of time that they will be given on the test. If they are given breaks between sessions, give them the same type of break.

  • Take time out for regular breaks

Concentration weakens after a certain amount of time. A short break is a good idea every 30 to 60 minutes. During a 10 to 15 minutes rest, your child can stretch, have a snack, or take a walk. These brief breaks can reduce stress, improve memory, and increase concentration.

  • Find out how your child is feeling about the exam

Your child might be nervous, anxious, or scared about the exam. It is important to identify these feelings early so that you can support your child before the exam. Ask them, “How are you feeling about the upcoming examination?”

If your child answers that they are worried about the exam, do not dismiss their feelings. Instead, ask more questions, such as: “What part of the exam are you most worried about?” or “Is there any particular reason why you’re so worried?”

Reassure your child that the result does not matter as long as they tried their hardest. Your child might express some physical feelings of discomfort, such as nausea, butterflies in the stomach, sweating, or insomnia. During these episodes, support the child until they have calmed down.

Remind them that this exam does not define their self-worth. Your child may be worried that if they fail this exam they will have to repeat their grade or that they will be considered stupid. You should let your child know that one exam does not define who they are.

  • Let the child pursue other activities

While you may want to encourage your child to do their best, you should not overwhelm the child. Do not focus exclusively on the exam in the weeks leading up to it. Instead, allow your child plenty of breaks to focus on their friends, hobbies, and other activities. You may only want to focus on the exam during their scheduled study time.

  • Sound positive about your child’s chances of passing the exam

When you do talk about the exam, be positive. Instead of warning your child about failing or what might happen if they don’t pass, assure them that they can pass. For example, instead of saying, “If you don’t study hard, you will fail this test and repeat the grade,” you can say, “It’s good to study so that you can do your best in the exam. You will feel so much better about taking the exam if you are prepared.”

  • Teach your child relaxation techniques

Some children develop test anxiety. It is good to show your child how they can handle these periods of panic, especially if they happen in the middle of exams. For instance, you can teach them to take deep breaths when they become anxious. They may even want to count five deep inhalations and exhalations. Also, you should tell them to smile whenever they feel anxious – smiling can help relax the body even when you are not feeling happy. Teach your kids to think positive thoughts. Teach them to say things like, “Yes, I can do this,” or “I am awesome. I will pass this test.”

  • Supporting your child on the day of the exam

Go to bed early the night before: Your child needs plenty of sleep before they take their exam. Make sure they get to bed on time the night before. They should have at least eight hours of sleep so that they are alert when taking their exam.

Give them a good breakfast: A breakfast with complex carbs and proteins will give your child the energy they need to concentrate on their exam. Make sure that they eat their breakfast the morning of the exam. Avoid sugary foods as these can cause the child to crash. Instead, you can feed them such foods like eggs, whole grain cereals or oatmeal.

Double-check their supplies: Before they go out the door, look through their backpack. Make sure they have all of the necessary supplies for the examination. You may want to look for pencils, erasers, calculator, ruler, and a comfortable sweater.

Ensure they arrive on time: Exams usually start promptly at the scheduled time. Some examination officials will not admit late arrivals while others will not let the child make up the missed time. Make sure your child arrives on time to school or the examination centre. It is advisable that you aim to arrive about 15 minutes early.

Culled From Punch Newspaper

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