Heading into exam time? Here is how to best help your kids these next few weeks
A testing time for kids – and parents.
Like most things with our children, parents know that every child is different, and every child has their own style and approach. With that in mind, most of our children will, however, suffer exam stress at some stage, and will deal with it, and the whole process of exam preparation, in their own unique way.
And look – a gentle reminder: You should continue to offer advice and help and encouragement, even if your child doesn’t appear to be that interested. Not incessantly; and you cannot, and should not, force the child into any particular routine, - but simply knowing that you are behind them, will help. It is also very important that your child knows you're interested in their work, and that you'll be proud just so long as they do their best.
How to help them? Look, you are the parents, you know your own children best, but these general tips from the experts are iRevise, who have had years of practical experience with students doing exams might just be the little extra help you need right now.
Doing well in exams comes down to planning and revision. Encourage your child to create a clear revision plan, and keep to it, to help them feel in control of their work.
Ask their year head about average time allocated to a normal study or revision schedule at their level, if you are unsure.
- Make a revision timetable covering each subject
- Hour-long revision sessions, with short breaks at the end of each, work well
- The timetable needs to be in place from day one of the exam school year; not a month before exam day, to spread the revision workload
- Leave one day a week ‘revision-free’, and schedule in recreation every day too, whether that is an hour on Facebook, or in front of the TV, on top of normal sporting recreation
- Condense notes onto postcards, or into a subject journal, as revision prompts
- If it helps, offer to ‘hear’ your child repeat their notes, or question them on a topic
- ‘Mind Maps’, charts or illustrations of key facts, will help students organise, visualise, and summarise the points they need to remember
- Complete exam practice papers and record the time taken; IRevise.com has this facility online, with independent marking and feedback
Bribery is in general not a good idea, and can backfire, as it implies that the only worthwhile reward for hard work is money, and that you don’t trust your child to work hard.
Instead, encourage your child to do well for his or her own sake, rather than for money, or to please you. Explain that exams aren't an end in themselves, but a gateway to the next stage of life, and that exam success, while important, is not the only gateway open to them.
Remind your child that once they do their best, you will be proud of them, and that you love them unconditionally.
The best way to support your child during the stress of revision and exams is to make home life as calm and pleasant and normal as possible. Remind other members of the household that the exam student may be under pressure, and that allowances should be made for this.
If your child has study leave in the run-up to exams, it helps if someone is at home, to share a break and a chat together.
Keep plenty of healthy snacks they like in the fridge and try to provide good, nutritious food at regular intervals. Encourage your child to join family meals, even if they’re busy revising - it's important to have a change of scene, and get away from the books or computer for a while.
Regular exercise is also good; a run or walk around the block will help clear the mind before the next revision session.
Last, but not least
Try not to nag or make too many demands on your child during exam time. Arguments are counter-productive, and only add unnecessary stress and distract from revision.
It is also very important to get a good night's sleep before an exam, so discourage your child from staying up late to cram. And don't skip breakfast.
Teachers and career guidance counsellors will advise on the subjects needed for various college courses and career choices but arriving at a career choice is a big ask for a 16 or 17-year-old.
iRevise.com specialises in providing study tools and premium study content for the Junior and Leaving Certificate students in Ireland. Our standard features are FREE, while our Premium users also have access to premium study notes, exam papers, aurals, MCQs, Exam Creator, video tutorials and sample exam papers.
Subject teachers can best advise on the ‘honours’ or ‘pass’ exam choice, in light of the student’s ability, and the work effort that is required. The significance of the subject grade in achieving the preferred college or career choice will also help decide which exam level to opt for.
The ultimate advice for parents in exam year; try not to worry. We’ve all been there; we all survived – your son or daughter will too – so just be there for them.