Ahhhhh the Jacaranda trees are once more in bloom – those bittersweet little purple buds that signal oncoming warmer weather AND exam time for senior students. Even though I now don’t face exam pressure myself, seeing Jacaranda-lined streets brings back ALL. THE. FEELS. Last minute cramming, stress, pressure and then another dash of stress on top.
As much as kids hate doing exams and tests (and as much as teachers hate marking them) it’s currently our education system’s primary means of measuring student performance. As an educator, I understand why they’re necessary but I would like to announce right here that I live in hope of this changing…. one day….
It’s true that some kids thrive under exam pressure and perform at their best with last minute preparation and night-before revision of their work. Lucky buggers they are, because they are in the minority.
Most kids find exam time stressful. Especially senior students who’s future pathways can be impacted by the result of a single assessment piece. There are kids who know their subject matter inside and out, yet find communicating knowledge in short answers a struggle. A big shout out too goes to those kids who’d feel comfortable preparing a project rather than delivering a seminar to their peers, risking tongue-tie and stage fright when up in front of the class. Uggggggh it’s hard and yep, assessment and exams can really suck.
BUT, while they’re a necessary evil…. what tips can you give your teen to cope better?
Start by letting them know that they are not alone… everybody hates tests and exams! Like seriously, no one likes this stuff however there are ways of making the the whole process less taxing.
No skipping meals – good energy is key!
Growing teenagers always need to eat regular meals and it’s not ever a good idea to skip a meal just to concentrate on studying or reviewing. When kids are hungry, they are more likely to be distracted and it’ll be harder for them to focus on the task at hand. Bye-bye easy junk foods because around exam time they should be eating to fuel their body well so their brain functions best and retains what they’re studying.
Getting enough sleep counts.
Science shows teen brains need sufficient sleep (something they struggle with at the best of times) and getting sufficient sleep before an exam helps boost memory, learning and the processing skills that are needed to do well on tests. Some teens deprive themselves of sleep around assessment time, believing they need study around the clock. Unfortunately what can then happen is they tend to be drowsy during the exam session and unable to concentrate on answering effectively.
Start studying early and avoid leaving it all to the last minute (I know…. I know…)
Even before exam schedules are announced, you can encourage your teen to begin reviewing and revising in preparation. It may seem a bit (ok, a lot) nerdy but keeping on top of learning throughout the term really helps to ease the pressure. Avoiding last minute cramming, and the temptation for an all-nighter study session is a really smart move and gives heaps of flexibility to focus on subjects that need a little more attention.
Become a time management ninja!
And I’m not just talking about the early preparation idea as mentioned above. When it’s around exam time, have your teen schedule their commitments in advance so they know they can comfortably fit it all in. Remember that in addition to exam preparation, they’ll need to account time for part time job/s, leisure time, regular homework time, family time and any other commitments. A visual planner on the wall can be an easy reminder of how everything can squeeze into the available time.
Take a break from the gadgets.
Teens and their smart phones – it’s an issue for most parents and we all know that a phone is much more than a just a phone. Without doubt it’s loaded to the hilt with all sorts of apps providing entertainment, escapism and guaranteed distraction! Stress the importance of putting phones and/or gadgets away for a while but especially whilst trying to actively study or revise for an exam. Concentration for a teen is difficult enough (that brain science stuff) without the added distraction of message notifications and the like.
Exam day nerves are still a possibility no matter how well your teen gets ready for upcoming tests, but thorough preparation does go a long way to reducing some of the potential stress brought on at this time of the academic year. Encourage them not to rush and to read all questions and instructions carefully so they give themselves the best opportunity to perform well. It’s a stressful time for you also as you support them through this but remember you’re living proof for them that exam stress does come to an end.