Surviving Exams

Exam time is upon some of us … Irritability, crankiness and sarcasm become the order of the day. The kids also get tetchy. Exam stress takes its toll on the whole family, especially the dog who doesn’t understand why everyone is so jumpy. Take practical steps to minimize the trauma:

Having a systematic study schedule and sticking to a routine go a long way to minimizing exam stress. Ask to see your child’s study schedule and check that it is realistic and achievable. If not, suggest modifications. Encourage your child to explore a few different Study Fit techniques. Even if it doesn’t become their preferred method of study, they’re still learning! They should keep their Study Fit manual on hand and page through it periodically. A light bulb may go on, seeing a new technique that could be applied, particularly if they are struggling with a particular section. Check that schedule is being adhered to. Routines help de-stress.

Physical Health
Eating healthy meals during exams is of paramount importance. Their bodies need the nutrients. Try not to shock them with sunflower seeds and broccoli when you are used to peanuts and pumpkin, but a good meal including a variety of colours and textures will meet their nutritional and sensory demands.
When your child has a snack, they should stop studying, stand up and stretch, then eat. When they are done eating, they can go back to studying. Help improve their focus with:

  • water with loads of ice,
  • a small, super-thick smoothie with a straw
  • snacks with crunchy and smooth textures: carrots and cheese; celery filled with peanut-butter
  • a good night’s sleep helps settle nerves, process learning and regenerate the brain. Help them to wind-down after studying with gentle music, a warm bath or a relaxation ritual.

Emotional Well-Being
Recent research shows that a student’s belief about their academic ability can enhance exam stress. If a child believes that they cannot change their ability, they may feel a lack of control over their exams and struggle to cope.

  • unproductive studying
  • lack of determination
  • studying less when the subjects become harder and bigger
  • avoiding studying altogether
  • The opposite is also true. If a child believes their results improve with effort and planning, they often feel more in control because they can develop their study skills to match the demands of the exams. They put more effort into studying, prepare and plan better, and are more determined when study demands increase.

External rewards have less effect on a child’s motivation than internal. When they enjoy a subject, students naturally put more effort in. Try to think of creative ways of stimulating their enjoyment rather than resorting to bribery. It’s tempting, I know. And easier. However, the long-term payoff is far greater when they learn to find something enjoyable about watching grass grow.