Exams are the culmination of the entire curriculum taught throughout the school year. It’s a time when students prepare to test their own skills and knowledge that they’ve acquired from lesson plans imparted by their teachers. It can result in satisfying grades that fill children with satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.
But exams can be equally stressful and nerve wracking for families all over Canada, especially in the days and weeks leading up to the big day. Children can feel overwhelmed as they try to recall all of the potential themes or topics that could be raised within the exam.
Facts about exam preparation
How overwhelming can exam preparation feel for children? According to Conversation Canada, an independent source for academic news and research, as many as 40 percent of Grade 12 students feel such overwhelming anxiety ahead of exams that their symptoms can be classified as chronic concerns for families.
Exam anxiety isn’t an issue restricted to Canadian children, either. South of the border, in the United States, between 25 and 40 percent of high school students suffer from test anxiety every year. Those same issues can follow students into college where finals can trigger those anxious feelings or concerns, especially for students who have chosen to live and study away from their familial homes.
How to calm your child during exam preparation
Now, as a parent, you might ask yourself: what can you do to help alleviate those anxious feelings? Is it even right for your children to feel so overwhelmed?
The answer is yes; children are perfectly entitled to feel overwhelmed by final evaluations. In his New York Times best seller, “Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of The Teenage Brain,” Dr. Daniel Siegel recommends that parents encourage their children to describe their feelings when anxious or overwhelmed. He calls this process “name it to tame it” so that children can openly share what they feel and learn how to control those emotions rather than be controlled by them.
5 step guide to healthy exam preparation
In addition to providing a safe haven for emotional support, there are ways you can help your child lessen the fear and dread that can be triggered by exam preparation. At Sapphire Studies, our mission is to help children build upon their inherent strengths and unlearn perceived learning weaknesses so that they can restructure core learning concepts in their own minds. This helps improve the confidence of the child and also tailors the educational material to a unique learning style that should boost performance.
We have a 5 step process that we share with the families we support in order to help their children remain focused and determined to ace their finals. What are those 5 steps? Here’s a quick overview to help you create your own process.
Step 1: Know the date of the exam and ask for advice
This seems like a fairly straightforward concept, but here’s a different way to look at it. By firmly implanting the date of the exam into your mind and into your calendar, you and your child can create a work-back schedule to fully prepare for the pending date of the final.
A simple starting point is to directly ask the teacher what concepts will be included in the exam. A whole year’s worth of material can’t possibly be covered in a 60 to 90 minute final test. Consult with the teacher ahead of time to get a better understanding of what material to focus on while studying.
This will help remove uncertainty or confusion from your child’s study regimen so that they can laser focus on the concepts that will be included. It’s the best way to prepare for an A+ grade!
Step 2: Create a study guide that focuses on the tested material
Once you and your child know which parts of the curriculum will be tested on the exam, you can develop a study guide program. Make sure this program focuses on the core concepts that the teachers say will be tested as part of the final. This could include key concepts from core subjects, such as algebraic math equations, life science phenomena, and insights from key pieces of English literature referenced throughout the year.
By focusing study time on the concepts directly tied to material in the finals, children can teach their minds to feel fully prepared for the coming final. They can even take their study guide directly to the teacher for feedback on whether the study material is, in fact, aligned to what will appear on the final exam.
Step 3: Memorize essay and long form answer concepts
When reviewing the study guide with the teachers, encourage your children to ask questions about any essays or long form answers that will be included on the exam. There’s a reason why you should do this because it will help with the preparation.
Ask teachers what the expectation is in those long form answers. For example, some teachers have a strict idea of what is the right answer and the wrong answer to those types of questions. On the other hand, other teachers are less motivated to grade on the answer itself; instead, they prefer to evaluate how the answer is argued using the points provided in the question.
If you know what the evaluation will focus on ahead of the final itself, you and your child can adapt your study plan accordingly. Have your child write out possible answers to the questions that require essay responses, and then review and evaluate those answers together. As a parent, you might see areas where your child can make a stronger argument in their response to improve the impact of the argument.
Step 4: Come to the final with a full night of sleep
This can’t be overstated enough; a good night’s sleep should improve your child’s performance on the exam. Why? Studies have shown that students who sleep well improve focus, recall, and cognitive performance. All of this contributes to better results on final evaluations, which ultimately means higher grades and a brighter academic future.
An unrested mind is frazzled, struggling to focus and remember important information. Help your child achieve a sense of inner calm and relaxation the night before the final exam so that they can lull themselves into a good night’s sleep. This will undoubtedly help them get through the test without being triggered by fear or anxiety, which will translate into a better result.
Step 5: Group study session on the morning of the final
College students often congregate in libraries or cafeterias on the morning of exam day in order to have a final cram session with each other. Each participant shares details from their own study plans in order to help each of their peers fill in the gaps from their own preparation, increasing the odds that everyone will perform better as a result.
That approach doesn’t need to remain restricted to college level students. Encourage your child to gather a group of friends on the morning of the exam, and tell them to openly contribute to a group learning exercise as a final step of preparation. You never know what ideas another child had to prepare for the final that your own child could benefit from if they only knew about it.
Study hard and prepare to ace that exam
Hard work and proper preparation are paramount to a great final exam performance. Having the right mindset is key to helping children develop a study guide that will translate into great grades. They just need the right tools to get into that mindset and have confidence that an A+ grade is fully within their reach.
That’s why programs like Sapphire Studies are here to help children prepare for their final exams as well as take steps to improve their future academic performance post-finals. We strive to help all children improve their grades, develop inner confidence, and even prepare for programs in summer school to get off to a great start when the new semester kicks in during the fall season. We’ve helped many families open new academic doors for their children, and we can’t wait to see the same results happen for you.
If you’d like to learn more about our custom learning programs, please book a call with our Founder and Chief Learning Officer to discuss your child’s unique needs.