I have two very different kids. One self-starter and one that regularly needs a push. No matter how bright your child is, if they are preparing for exams, they must be prepared to study. This is the way it worked for us.
How can I teach my child to study. They must be prepared. In order to be prepared a few certain rules must be followed.
- Enough time to prepare
- Good notes
- Study Plan
- Actually studying
- Helping from a Distance
By following these simple but very effective techniques exams will run smoothly. Kids need to be prepared for exams, let me share how it works in our home.
Enough Time to Prepare
No matter what age your child is, if they are in school, then they are being tested. I have two teenage children and this year they are both sitting state exams. I didn’t plan that very well! Our oldest child is sitting her final high school exams and our boy is moving from Elementary to high school. It’s a stressful time for everyone.
We have always been a house of being on top of your schoolwork. Even from a very early age, homework was completed as soon as they got home from school.
Understandably this is not always possible or even practical for some households. Kids are involved in all sorts of activities after school, parents work full-time, and some kids are just not into school work.
But if you can get them into the habit of completing work that has been set then hopefully by the time they get to my daughter’s age (high school grad) then they will be fully prepared, and willing.
The key to exam success is being prepared. But how do we get to that point. I look at my daughter, and she is surrounded by folders, notes, flashcards, exam papers… but not everyone is that organised.
We need to gently guide them to that point. My boy is that bit younger and not as motivated to study as my daughter. Not that he doesn’t want to but there’s still a lot of intervention on my part.
We try and do about 1 hour of study per night. He does his homework and then we pick two subjects, one he likes and one he finds difficult or doesn’t like so much. By only doing half-hour blocks, we find this takes the edge off it and it works very well.
In order for exams or even weekly tests to go well, the preparation needs to start early. There is no point in cramming the night before. Yes, it might get them through a class test but realistically they won’t remember it when they need to recall the information at the end of the year.
School life is all about cycles. Always working towards a goal, be it end-of-year exams, mid-school exams, or the end game. No matter what your child is working towards it all follows the same pattern.
They are going to be taking a number of classes, some they will like, others not so much. By the time they are nearing the end of High School, it is hoped that they have narrowed their likes and dislikes down somewhat, Science, Maths, Languages, Art, whatever it is to try and encourage that.
No matter what age your child they all love to be praised!
It’s always good to have some kind of overview of what needs to be achieved and by when. Within each subject there are blocks of course work or syllabus that need to be achieved. If they can keep on top of this well it’s half the battle.
Good notes are key! Notes need to be all together, per subject. This seems obvious, right? Well, I spoke with a mom recently whose son has no notes.
How, you ask? Well, he goes to class and forgets his hardback, so he borrows some paper, and instead of this paper going into a binder, it goes to the bottom of a satchel, to be lost in the abyss! The organization needs to be promoted from the offset! If they have no notes, how can they study?
They need to be able to go back over previous topics and they can only do this if all their notes per subject are together.
So, we have got them into the habit of keeping everything together, but how do we know if their notes are good enough. More often than not, note-taking is not a skill that is taught in school.
I for one, think that it is possibly the most important skill they should initially learn. How do they know what is important? Do they need to write down everything? Well, it really depends on the teacher.
Some teachers are really good at handouts and presentations but for others the students need to work just that bit harder in their class. They may just talk throughout the class and unless your child knows what they should be writing, they very quickly will get lost and left behind.
To overcome that in this house, we came to the conclusion that they should adopt a system that they could borrow from a class where good notes were being given out and use this system in classes where the notes were not so good.
Try and listen for the main point of the class, and either use bullet point system or leaf diagrams, try and get as much information down on paper but also to try and engage in the class also.
The best way to learn is to ask as many questions as possible. Kids generally don’t like to ask questions as they feel peers may laugh, or the teacher will judge them, but more often than not, everyone else wanted to ask the same thing! So encourage them to be outspoken and questioning.
The more they ask, the more likely they will understand and also will retain the information. For classes where the notes are not as good, we have found that when they get home, if they go over them and write their notes up into a hardback then they will be able to refer back to them when needed.
Both my daughter and son got into this habit and by the time exams rolled around, it was so much easier for them to study. All this because they got organized early on.
The idea of a study plan can be quite daunting for kids. (and parents!) Where to start? How much time needs to be allocated each week? The answers to these questions all depend on your child.
Is your child doing end of year exams? Is your child doing end-of-school exams? The amount of study is all relevant. Obviously, the bigger the exams the more work and effort have to go in. If a Study Plan is put in place early on, then it becomes normal and less daunting.
At the start of the year, we organized plans that focused around completing homework and assignments and small blocks of study on the weekend. As the year progressed, the study plan became more centered on every second or third night, doing an extra hour.
And then approximately 3 months to exams, the study plan was in use every evening except one. It’s best to have an actual physical study plan printed out.
This will change every week. Some subjects will have weekly tests, like math or english. But other subjects might be once a month or not at all, but these are still s important, and sometimes the ones that need to be studied more.
If your child is not being tested all the time, how do they know how they are doing? If you find this to be the case, go and visit the teacher, and ask them why they are not doing class tests? Or reports and assignments… sometimes teachers can get a little complacent, and need a gentle shove…
And so, if the study plan is in place and your child is 90% sticking to it, then they should be good for their exams.
In order to prepare for exams, your child needs to be in the right head space. They may be fully prepared but don’t believe they can do it.
They are under so much pressure to perform that the biggest obstacle is their own self belief. Competition is very high amongst teens these days.
They are under the microscope for everything. The way they look, what they say or believe and of course the marks they get on tests. It’s difficult for me as a parent not to compare my child to others in their class, but it’s not what children want to hear and I’ve learned to try and have an overall view of things.
If the grades are good, well that’s fantastic, but it can also have a negative effect as sometimes they can take the foot off the gas and think they have done enough.
This is never the case! On the other hand if things are not quite going to plan then we need to help them in any way we can. We need to ask, how can we make life easier for them, as parents?
Believe me, I know that it’s not just your child living the exams, it’s a whole household!
We can supply the flashcards, revision books, one-to-one with a tutor if necessary, and websites, whatever it takes to get them over that line will be worth it in the end.
Sometimes, it doesn’t even take anything monetary, but just some time. Your child may just want you to do some quizzes with them for half an hour, to reinforce that they know their stuff.
You certainly don’t want to look back and wish you had done more.
Helping From a Distance
But there also comes a time when they have to want to study for themselves, not just to please us. My daughter and son both get disappointed if they don’t succeed. This is a good thing. They want to achieve and now see the correlation between hard work and high grades.
We can’t make them study. When they come home from school and go to their room, you can only hope that they are working. All the websites about best study practice that I poured over said: no phones in the bedroom, no distractions, but that’s easier said than done.
No one wants to start the evening with an argument. Most of the time we’re walking on eggshells anyway, but we must remember that we are the parents. Try and find a happy medium.
Make sure they are organized, taking regular breaks, snacking on brain food, practice, practice, practicing exam questions, and most importantly that they are calm.
We all want the best for our children, from day one we want them to succeed. But the pressure on teens is immense, from all sides, so if they know that by putting their best foot forward, working the hardest they can work, then that is always good enough for us.