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Is your child worried about exams? Here's how to make exam preparations easier

Team ParentCircle Team ParentCircle 8 Mins Read

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Exams are around the corner. A little bit of planning and a few simple tricks is all that is needed to make exam preparation more effective and less stressful

Pre-teen to 18+
Is your child worried about exams? Here's how to make exam preparations easier

Madhu’s hands start to tremble as her 12th standard teacher hands her the final examination schedule. She has been dreading this moment ever since her teacher told them a few weeks ago that their exam dates will soon be announced. She feels unprepared, anxious and stressed. She takes a deep breath and vows to immediately start preparing for her exams. However, over the next few days, her parents notice that Madhu is irritable, stressed and moody.

Does Madhu’s situation sound familiar to you? The pressure of preparing for exams is nerve-racking. While schedules are often given out ahead of time, many students still wait till the last moment and start studying only when the exams draw closer. Hence they are unable to manage their time and study-load. Panic sets in, which makes it very difficult for the child to concentrate and study.

The right time to start studying for exams

It is best to encourage your child to study the portions as and when the lessons are taught in class. This way, your child will have a good knowledge of his subjects and will find it easier to study for the exams. However, the seriousness of examinations often hits children only a couple of weeks before the exams. So, many of them begin exam preparations at the last minute. This last-minute cramming only leads to stress. So, it's best to have your child set up a plan that includes set times for studying each subject, along with tasks to be accomplished in that time frame.

Making a plan that works

The first step is to help your child make a study plan that works for him. Next, you need to make sure he is able to adhere to the plan. Today, it is easy for your child to get distracted by smartphones, gadgets, television, the Internet and social media. That said, here are some tips that can help your child stick to her plan of study. Encourage your child to:

1. Assess gaps in learning

For each subject, help your child list out which topics he doesn’t understand or finds challenging. Help him think about and plan how he is going to study these topics.

What you can do: Ask your child a few thought-provoking questions - Which topics are difficult for you in this particular subject? How are you going to study these topics? Do you need extra tutoring or help from your teacher? How much extra time are you going to devote to these topics?

2. Make a plan of study

Get your child to make a study plan for each subject and set up a study timetable. Some subjects will need more study time than the others, so get your child to plan accordingly. It is important that your child makes a practical timetable that takes into account breaks, extra-curricular activities and even time for the TV or mobile! The plan should include the chapters that need to be covered and the tasks that need to be completed within the specified time.

What you can do: Ask your child to use a diary, a planning calendar, or one of the many planning apps freely available on their mobiles to set up his study schedule.

3. Take short breaks

While it may seem that the child can study many topics in one sitting, recollecting all this information can become challenging. The brain needs rest to be able to retain more information.

What you can do:  Encourage your child to take a 5-7 minute break after studying for 45 minutes. This will go a long way in helping her retain what she has studied.

3. Keep away the gadgets

Research shows that the brain is most effective when it is focused on one thing and not multi-tasking. Smartphones and Social media can be a huge distraction during study time if your child keeps checking his phone for messages. Even if your child has to use the Internet to study, make sure he stays away from the distractions of Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Whatsapp or YouTube.

What you can do: Ask your child to hand over her smartphone or even her computer (if it is not required) while studying. Let her use her phone when she takes her breaks.

4. Switch between subjects

Instead of studying the same subject the whole day, it is best to switch between subjects in different categories - analytical, theoretical and creative. By alternating studying of subjects from these categories the brain is less stressed and retention power increases.

What you can do: If your child has been studying math for 2 hours, encourage him to take a break and switch to studying social studies after the break.

5. Get moving

Studying in a room all day can get quite boring. Besides, several research studies show that just 20 minutes of exercise a day can boost concentration and improve focus. So get your child out of his room and exercise to relieve his boredom and re-energize his body and mind.

What you can do:  Make sure your child sets aside at least 20 minutes a day for physical exercise. Get her to run, or go for a walk or play a sport, or even just dance to music.

5. Eat the right food

In a research study conducted at the University of Oxford, college students were tested for attention and thinking speed. They were then fed a low-carb, high-fat diet of meats, eggs, cream and cheese. When tested again, their performance actually declined. But, when students who ate a balanced diet that included fruits and vegetables were tested, their performance held steady. It is therefore important to ensure your child eats a healthy and balanced diet during his exam preparation time.

What you can do: Let your child start the day with a high-carb, high fiber breakfast. Keep plenty of healthy snacks like nuts and dry fruits available during study time.

6. Get enough sleep

Getting enough sleep is very critical. Good sleep is essential for enhancing thinking skills, boosting memory and improving concentration. Many students pull an all-nighter studying and wake up tired and unable to focus the next day. It is important to give the mind and body enough rest to recuperate and start afresh the next day.

What you can do: Give your child this magic tip - Ask him to learn the toughest portion right before he heads to bed. The REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep is proven to boost memory and so he is likely to retain this information better!

During the time of exams, children are often stressed because they are worried about their inability to meet the expectations of their family, school or peers, and are afraid of failure. As a parent, it is important to help your child overcome this fear. Encourage your child to put in the necessary effort and do her best. Let your child know you are with her every step of the way. Assure her that whatever the results maybe, you are still there for her and it’s her effort that matters.

Just 15 minutes of your time can help boost your child's grades


A recent study by Stanford University, titled, 'Strategic Resource Use for Learning: A Self-Administered Intervention That Guides Self-Reflection on Effective Resource Use Enhances Academic Performance', 2017, shows that when children think about how they want to perform and what they should do to improve, their performance improved. So spending just 15 minutes of your time with your child helping him reflect on his preparation can magically translate into good scores.

10 questions to get your child thinking and planning

  1. What’s the grade you want to get in this subject?
  2. How important is it for you to get this grade?
  3. What do you need to do to get this grade?
  4. What makes you most anxious about taking the exam in this subject?
  5. What topics or types of questions do your find difficult?
  6. What is working well for you?
  7. What is not working well? What can you do differently so you can do better?
  8. How are others doing this? Will that help you?
  9. How much extra time do you think you will need to study this?
  10. What resources are you going to use to help you study better? Are you going to:
    • Get help from the class teacher?
    • Work with your tuition teacher?
    • Learn from Apps or resources online?
    • Which books will you use?
    • Any learning tools?

Simple hack to reduce exam anxiety

Even if your child is well prepared, does she get very anxious and stressed before the exams? Is this affecting her exam performance and grades? Then, here’s a simple hack that can help your child feel less anxious and more confident:

A day before the exam, or even just an hour before, have your child list out and write down all the things that make him anxious about the exam. He may write down –

I did not learn this lesson; What if I fail?; I don't like multiple choice questions; What if I don't understand the questions or don't know the answers?; And so on…

This simple act of just listing out the reasons for his anxiety will reduce his anxiety level. Have your child try this simple hack and watch him breathe a sigh of relief before his exam.


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