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Effective Exam Preparation Strategies for Parents: Tips to Help Your Child Succeed

Friends used to tell me that when the children start going to school, I will have fewer headaches and more free time.

OMG! This is such a huge lie!

The moment they started schooling, my timetable and my mind have been packed like sardines!

People talk about the rat race in adulthood but I feel the rat race already started the moment the child enters primary school. 

Don’t you agree?

The moment you enter primary school, the competition starts, and the pressure starts. No matter how chill and/or non-result-driven you are as a parent, you will still feel the pressure from the school system. 

Why? 

That’s because

  • Your child still needs to sit through a standardized test, which can create pressure for both students and parents to perform well on these exams.
  • Admissions to secondary, college or even universities have become more competitive, and parents feel the pressure to support their children to excel academically.
  • You are worried about your child’s mental well-being and self-esteem when your child is falling behind
  • If your child is in a strong academic reputation school, you can’t help but feel pressure to ensure that your child is keeping up with their peers and meeting the high standards set by the school.
  • When you noticed other parents who are more competitive and place a high value on academic achievement, you can’t help but feel the pressure to do so too because if you don’t there is fear of negative consequences which leads to the next point
  • You will worry that your child will be held back a grade or not being accepted into a desired program or school if they do not perform well academically.

 

As much as we try to be chill, the pressure starts coming unknowingly as the school system can create pressure and expectations for parents, even if they are not inherently result-driven or competitive. 

Therefore, we need to strike a balance between academic achievement and our children’s well-being. 

I always remind myself that exam success does not define my children’s worth or future potential. At the same time, reminding my children that acing exams is not just about getting good grades; it’s about equipping them with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in life. 

I always encourage my children to approach exams with a growth mindset, focusing on the process of learning rather than just the result and developing a positive attitude towards learning. 

It took me many trials and errors to figure out how to support my children to ace their exams healthily and positively without sacrificing their well-being. 

In this article, I’ll share with you the practical tips and strategies that I tried, so your children can feel confident and perform at their best with less pressure. 

Understanding why there are exams

I always tell my children that exam is not to test how clever they are but how much they understand about the subject and topics that they are learning. It is more of an assessment to assess their knowledge, and how they progress and to identify areas in which they need additional support. 

Although the word “exam” has created a lot of anxiety and pressure for both parents and children. It’s important to keep in mind that while academic achievement is important, it should never come at the expense of our children’s well-being and happiness.

 

Understanding Exam Formats

Once they see the exam from a different perspective. It is easier to motivate them to study. A key first step is to help them grasp the various exam formats commonly used in schools which typically include multiple choices and open-ended questions. 

Multiple choice exams are a popular choice because they are easy to deliver and grade a student. What the student needs to do is choose the correct answer from the list. Multiple choice exams can assess a wide range of knowledge, including recall of facts, understanding of concepts, and the ability to apply knowledge.

The disadvantage is that the student may be able to guess the correct answer without truly understanding the material. 

Tip: To score well in multiple choice questions, the student has 

  • to read the question carefully 
  • to eliminate incorrect answers
  • to choose the one that makes sense in the context of the question if 2 options are looking very similar. 

Open-ended questions are like comprehension questions. It does not have a predetermined list of answers and requires the student to provide their answer, in their own words. Open-ended questions are used to assess a student’s ability to analyze information, think critically, and express themselves clearly. 

The disadvantage is that student who struggles with critical thinking and expressing themselves clearly in writing will find open-ended questions difficult. Students who have trouble analyzing and interpreting information, as well as organizing their thoughts and ideas coherently and effectively will also find this exam format challenging. 

Tip: To score well in open-ended questions, students are required 

  • to have a strong understanding of the material and effective communication skills. 
  • to read and understand what the question is asking
  • to organise their thoughts and answer in a clear and well-structured format with evidence to support their answers
  • to review their answers and check for any spelling mistakes

Managing Time Effectively

Time is the essence and we have all heard about time management but how exactly can we make use of the time effectively and productively? When it comes to managing time, we are talking before and during the exams. 

Children tend to procrastinate when it comes to studying because play is more attractive. Also, with so much to learn, how do they get started? 

We list out all the topics that need to be covered and we worked backwards by planning each day covering which topic(s) so that we have it all covered by the exam date.  

Tip

  • Break down the study schedule into smaller, manageable tasks to avoid overwhelmed. 
  • Create a study schedule for them to follow if they are young. For older children, allow them to plan their revision timetables, which not only allowed them to take ownership of their studies but also promoted a sense of responsibility.
  • Here’s how my revision schedule looked like (Image of my time table)
    • 3.30pm – 4.30pm: School homework 
    • 5pm – 6pm: Math Fraction Revision
    • 8pm – 9pm: English Revision 

As for me, I will monitor their progress and nudge them if they are not keeping up with their work. 

Don’t forget to take breaks too!

 

Developing Effective Study Skills

I find that this is one important element that is paired with time management in academic success. How often have you heard parents saying that no matter how hard the child studied and how many tutors they have hired to support their child, the child still can’t get the results they want?  

That is because they did not apply their study skills effectively to maximise their potential. 

Many times when I tell my children to revise their work, they just took out their notes and read them. Reading is one of the effective study skills but is not sufficient on its own. 

Tip: I always remind my children to be engaged with their learning materials and that is to take notes or summarise what they have learned and test their knowledge by working through assessments or quizzes. This way, it helps to enforce the learning and allows them to identify their areas of strengths and weaknesses. 

As a parent, we play a critical role in supporting our children to develop good study habits. We need to understand their routine, set clear expectations and provide a supportive environment. 

Tip: No matter how busy my schedule will be, I make sure to check in on their well-being and to provide as much support as I can when they need it such as sharing or providing tools to help them in studying, making sure they take breaks to promote productivity and acknowledging their effort to motivate them to continue. 

Reducing Exam Stress

As exams approached, both the children and the parents often feel stressed and anxious. Indirectly, it impacted our mental health and the children’s academic performance. 

Once I have a student, who always did well during the normal assessments but when it came to exams, he got a fail. 

I asked what happened. 

His reply? 

He was very nervous and his fear of not scoring well and upsetting his parents. Due to that, everything just went blank in his brain and he started to have headaches during the exam. 

That’s when I noticed how impactful stress is to a child. Stress can take many forms, such as nervousness or fear. These emotions lead to physical symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches, which affect their academic performance, as they may have difficulty concentrating or retaining information.

How can we help our children manage exam stress?

Tip #1
Have a study schedule so that our children know when to study and when to rest

Tip #2
Have a healthy diet, get enough sleep and exercise regularly which will help reduce stress levels. 

Tip #3
Teach them relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation. 

Tip #4
Let our children know that we are always there to support and offer reassurance. Don’t forget to remind them that their worth isn’t tied to their academic performance. 

Tip #5
Lastly, always encourage a healthy mindset for exam success by identifying and recognising their strengths and weaknesses. Encourage them to ask for help when needed, whether it’s from a teacher or tutor.

 

Help your child stay motivated and focused

This is the toughest of all. It is highly challenging to keep a child motivated and focused especially the younger ones. A lot of patience and trial and error is involved to find what can trigger them to move forward.

Try out these tips and see which one works best for you and your child. 

Tip #1
Set achievable goals for the child and celebrate when the child reaches the goals. This helps to motivate them to continue to work hard.

Tip #2
Is easy to tell them what to do but the best way for them to learn is to see what we learn and that is their role model. Is difficult to understand what hard work means until we show them how we work and what we get as a result. 

Tip #3
This is more for us. We have to remind ourselves to be patient and understanding. There are bad days and challenges to overcome. We all need support in different ways, and so do our children. Understanding what kind of support our children need and how they want to be supported makes a lot of difference. 

In conclusion, even if parents and children are not inherently result-driven or competitive, the pressure to perform well academically can create anxiety for both parties. We have to remind ourselves to strike a balance between academic achievement and our children’s well-being. 

As always, I remind my children that exam success does not define their worth or future potential. 

My focus is guiding them on how to 

  • apply practical tips and strategies, such as understanding exam formats so that they become independent and self-sufficient learners
  • manage time effectively so that it promotes a positive attitude towards learning
  • manage stress effectively and maintain overall well-being so that they are better equipped to deal with stress and challenges as they arise throughout their lives

 

Remember, academic achievement is important, but it should never come at the expense of our children’s well-being and happiness.

PS: Get this checklist that helps you and your child to keep track of their progress and ensure you are implementing the tips and strategies effectively.

 

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