Stress is an inevitable part of preparing for exams – indeed an optimum amount of stress will propel your child to study harder and be enabled to write and think faster in the actual exam. The key, as a parent, is for you to remain calm and to support your child through this period by encouragement – and definitely not to add unnecessary stress (even if you are stressed by their exams).
Some basic ways to support your child include allocating a specific quiet and light space for them to work in. Keep other siblings away from them and don’t burden them with household chores (the state of their bedroom is not a relevant topic of conversation during exam season). Make sure you provide healthy meals for them. Every couple of hours you could bring a drink and snack to your child.
Remember these are your child’s exams – not yours. You do not have to micromanage them and such an approach will not help develop your child’s revision abilities. Of course, do take an interest in their exams, for example , make sure you know what exam is on which day, and offer your child a lift if possible.
Stress is generated from a feeling of a lack of control and a lack of confidence in one’s own abilities. Confidence grows by being able to see that one is succeeding. A successful day of revision will breed another successful day of revision, so put in place these strategies early – six months before the exam season. You can help your child feel in control of their revision by suggesting that they construct a revision timetable – mapping out the number of days until the exam season which can be realistically used for revision, and dividing each two hour block into a segment of revision of a specific topic e.g. French irregular verbs, rather than a generic “French”. Ensure all topics are covered – use the syllabus which can be found on line and tick off the topics as they are allocated. You can keep a copy of your child’s revision timetable and ask how the revision of a specific topic is going every so often (no more than three times a week!). Furthermore, in advance of revision time, make sure your child is well-stocked with stationery such as highlighters, paper and files. Ask your child if they would like you to buy revision guides for them (a summary book of the main topics, often written by examiners for the specific exam board). Offer to print off past papers and mark schemes which can all be found on-line – working through these is an invaluable source of revision. It is not cheating to look at mark schemes – indeed it is important to know how the examiners “want” the question to be answered. It is important that your child is aware of the structure of each exam – how many questions need to be answered, how many minutes they should allocate to each question, whether there is a choice of questions and so on. You can help your child to work out these logistics.
The time to be firm is when it comes to using the computer or mobile phones. I suggest removing these from your child while they are revising. Your child should focus on revision for 40 minutes at a time and then have a 15 minute break. Encourage them to get some fresh air during their break and give their phone back for them to catch up on Instagram or Facebook, but then take it away again during the next 40 minutes. Allow your child to go out once a week for a couple of hours, eg to the cinema, but this is not the time for partying and sleepovers. By discussing these ground rules in advance, you can establish what will work for your child together and help them feel in control and understand that you are supporting them.
Above all, remind your child (and yourself) that exams are not the be all and end all. Tell your child that you will love them no matter what the result, and that all you ask is that they do the best they can. In return, you will do the best you can to support them. It is beneficial to sit down with your child to explain why doing the best they can in these exams is important – such as increased career prospects in later years. Your child has nothing to lose by revising, and everything to gain. The revision and exam period is finite, and remind your child it will soon be over, and all the things they were not able to do – such as see friends as much – they can do in abundance in the summer holidays.
Natalie Lancer is an education expert and founder of NatalieLancer.com and MyUniApplication. She can give you expert guidance on revision strategies and study skills, A-level choice, university applications and the Personal Statement. She also offers personal development sessions for adults. For more information, contact Natalie Lancer on 07747 612 513 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. www.natalielancer.com
Natalie’s top tips on managing exam stress
- Help your child construct a revision timetable so they are in control of their revision
- Buy study guides and print out past papers and mark schemes for your child
- Don’t keep asking them how revision is going – limit this to three times a week
- Make healthy meals and snacks for your child, exempt them from any chores and keep other children away
- Speak to a revision specialist for practical advice on study skills and supporting your child