Study Skills to help you Succeed
By Bella Audsley
Click here to download a timetable of GCSE, IB and A level exams for 2017.
Although pupils rarely look forward to taking exams, careful preparation can ensure that your child will achieve to the best of their ability. Of course, there is no quick fix to exam preparation. However, there are a few small things that you can do ahead of the exam and on the day that can ensure your child performs at their best. Read our top tips to help minimise stress and panic so that exams can be approached with a positive attitude.
Ahead of the exam
1. Visualisation. Visualisation is a powerful psychological technique that can be used to enhance positive feelings and diminish the negative ones. This strategy is employed for many purposes, particularly with sports players and performers who are working towards a specific goal. It is based on the powerful connection between mind and body; our thoughts can have an impact on our heart rate, skin temperature, and brainwave patterns. In the context of exams, you can imagine a positive outcome where you see yourself achieving success and remaining calm during the exam. On the day of the test, this will help you to feel confident and in control, allowing your mind to adapt and take on the challenge of an unseen exam paper.
2. Practice, practice, practice. Getting used to exam technique is an invaluable way to prepare for exams. Managing your time effectively and writing for long periods under timed conditions are skills that requires training. Handwriting requires you to use muscles and, if not properly exercised, can tire easily. You want to be able to focus on answering the questions, not your hand cramping! One of the most important areas to focus on is making sure you practise your timings and when to move on to new sections of an exam.
3. Facing fears. It can be helpful to confront some of your concerns about the exam by making a spider diagram that identifies a solution for each fear or worry. We often create issues internally, creating worries that can be bigger than the problem itself.
4. The power of sleep. A good night’s sleep before the exam is essential, however it is also important to establish a sensible pattern and routine in the lead up to the exam. Avoid long distance travel too close to an exam as jet-lag and travel exhaustion can hinder concentration. On average, children and teenagers aged between 7 and 18 years-old require 9-10 hours’ sleep a night. Due to the impact of light exposure, The National Sleep Foundation has found that restricting technology use before bedtime can improve sleep quality, daytime alertness and learning.
5. Bring the necessary materials. It is a good idea to check if any extra materials are needed for an exam the night before (calculator, ruler, etc.). Having your pencil case and bag packed before going to bed avoids panic the next day and allows you more time for a calm breakfast.
On the day of the exam
6. Sunny side up. A healthy breakfast helps to set students up for success. Last year, an Australian survey of teachers revealed that skipping breakfast can cause students to lose 2 hours of learning a day due to the lack of concentration. Porridge is a hearty and nutritious option in winter; its slow-releasing energy makes it an ideal option before taking an exam. Try to include some protein in there as well, eggs are a fantastic way to start the day.
7. Manage your time. Keeping a watchful eye on the clock will allow you to be organised and ensure that you have enough time to answer all questions. Planning your timings, as you have done in Practice Exams, will help you to allocate sufficient time for questions that require longer answers.
8. Read each question as carefully as possible. Students can often miss out on marks because they have overlooked key details or misread instructions. It is a good idea to highlight or underline key words in the question so that you are reminded of what you are being asked and it provides a second check that you have understood the question fully. This is a useful way to scan questions when double checking your work.
9. …and breathe. Mindfulness can provide students with the tools to reduce anxiety and improve concentration through simple breathing and meditation exercises. Taking long deep breaths will calm any nerves and increase oxygen flow to your brain.