‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’ – Benjamin Franklin
Children are put under a lot of pressure these days to do well in exams at school whether it is for GCSE’s or A-levels. Teachers are also under enormous pressure to hit targets for league tables and OFSTED reports and this can be fed down to the children. Exams are often made out to be so ‘BIG’ and children are warned that they affect the rest of their lives. A great deal of pressure can also come from parents, who naturally want the best for their children. Children can feel additional pressure if their siblings have performed particularly well.
All this pressure can lead to anxiety and stress, which can be debilitating. Even the most intelligent children can freeze in exams. Children should be reassured to stay positive and told that it’s not ‘The End of the World’, if they don’t go as well, they can take them again. Luckily with good preparation and these useful tips, passing school exams can be made easier.
Good preparation and plenty of practice are key factors to success in passing school exams, which only helps to reduce stress, anxiety and build confidence.
Here are 5 useful tips to help prepare for school exams.
1) Visualize exam success
Children can experience exam stress and anxiety by playing out scenarios in their minds of taking the exam and imagining them selves performing badly in catastrophe scenarios.
With simple visualization techniques it is possible to reverse this unhelpful habit. It is useful to do this at the beginning of each revision session, by visualizing doing the test with ease and confidence.
Follow this process:
Close your eyes and imagine that you are watching a large movie screen in front of you and you are the star. Imagine yourself taking the exam, calm and relaxed. See yourself calm and relaxed reading the questions, thinking for some moments before confidently answering the questions. See yourself completing the exam and feeling happy with your performance. Now see yourself getting your results and passing. Notice the feelings you get of success and allow that feeling to pass through your body.
2) Exam state control
Imagine a circle on the floor in front of you. Fill it up with the feelings that will help you perform at your best during the exam e.g. relaxed, confident, focused, motivated.
For each of the desired feelings go back to a time in your life when you really felt that feeling in your life e.g. when you were relaxing on the beach. The moment you start to feel that feeling inside of you, step into this circle.
Step into this circle and let the feelings spread through your body. As you feel them, visualize yourself taking the exams, doing well, and handling unexpected challenges with ease.
After you have repeated this process several times, you will start building up positive associations with exam taking.
3) Bite size chunks (create a revision time table)
‘How do you eat a whale? One bite at a time’ – old proverb
Some children can be a bit overwhelmed by the enormity of the material that needs to be covered in the syllabus. It’s very easy to procrastinate and leave preparations to the last minute. This leaves them to cram last minute revision in, which is never a good idea and it only add to feelings of anxiety. It can be very tempting to stay up late the night before an exam. The best advice is to aim for 8 – 10 hours sleep before an exam.
The earlier you can start planning the better. Get organized and soon as you can get an understanding of all the material that is likely to come up in the exams and create a revision timetable by dividing the material into bite size chunks.
Some children find 30 minutes a good amount of time to be revising for, after that your brain starts wandering and you’re not focused properly. The strategy should be to revise for 30 minutes and take a short break. Do something enjoyable like a chat with a good friend or a little walk in the sunshine and then revise a different subject for a further 30 minutes.
4) Smarter Revision techniques
Some people find a study group made up from a group of friends useful. If you don’t understand something, sometimes a friend can teach it to you and vice versa.
It can also be fun to studying with friends. There’s something about fun and laughter that aids memory. When learning quotes from English literature, try reading them out in funny accents. You’ll usually find that laughter ensues.
The more positive associations you can build with studying and exams the better it will be.
5) Practice and improve technique
‘Practice makes perfect’
There are various different types of exams. They can involve memory, problem solving creative writing and more practical demonstration of skill.
The good news is that with experience you will start to notice patterns and will improve your technique. It’s useful to find past papers and practice the papers under exam conditions.
Some teachers often advise to read all the instructions on the exam paper before you begin and that will help avoid silly mistakes. Some children find that by answering some of the easier questions first, this helps to build confidence to tackle some of the more challenging later.
But, what is important is that you remain flexible and do what works for you.
In addition to these 5 powerful tips, whist studying it is important to eat healthily, take regular exercise and to ensure you keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Deep breathing can also help you to remain calm and focused.
By Nigel Pinto