Know the exam schedule. Pin the exam timetable up prominently at home, with each exam to be taken highlighted. Add calendar reminders of each paper your child has to take on your phone. Cross exams off as they are completed to give students a psychological boost.
Draw up a check list of daily requirements. Make a final check each morning before you leave home, so your son or daughter is fully prepared for the day’s exams. Writing instruments along with the other requirements such as rulers, erasers, calculators, should be checked, along with glasses, water, and a healthy snack to keep them alert.
Listen to the story of the day and move on. After each day’s exams allow your son or daughter to tell you their daily story. Do not be tempted to review in detail with them any errors they think they have made; such a process achieves absolutely nothing, other than to increase the student’s stress levels for the next exams. Simply allow them the time and space to tell their story and move on to the next subject.
Help them to focus on the next challenge. It can be helpful to your son or daughter to review the papers that are coming next. Simple questions such as, what is up next? What will the papers look like? Are there any predictable questions? These questions can be useful in helping your child devise a plan for the time available before the next exam.
A good night’s sleep improves exam performance. All study should end at least an hour before bedtime to allow our children to unwind before sleep. To help switch off simple routines such as a hot shower, or some light exercise may help to relax the body and mind and can lead to a better night’s sleep. Going straight from study to bed leaves no time for the brain to power down.
You are what you eat. What you eat and drink affects your performance in any activity, especially one involving mental sharpness. As a parent you should try to ensure your son or daughter has nutritious food during the exam session, starting with a decent breakfast each morning. Grazing on junk food is very tempting at times of increased stress but avoid this at all costs.
And finally do not over hype the importance of any examination. It is very easy in the middle of a stress-inducing experience, such as the end of year exams, to get the whole event totally out of perspective. Parents need to be aware that students taking examinations can sometimes mistakenly believe their standing in their parents’ eyes is dependent on their success.
If we are too invested in our children’s success we can make them anxious about disappointing us. They interpret our worry as evidence that we don’t trust them, and that it must be because they are not good enough. Yet if we are too detached they think that we do not care enough.
Most of all they want validation; they want us to acknowledge that the stress is real for them and not to trivialise it by saying, ‘You’ll be fine’. Other statements to avoid are ‘It wasn’t like this when I was at school’ (they do not care and it is not about you), ‘These exams are really important’ (too much pressure) and ‘Trying your best will make me happy’ (well-intended, but still has emotional pressure).
Mr. Nikki Upsall
Assistant Headteacher – Curriculum and Operations
Credits: Information sourced from articles by Brian Moody in the Irish Times and Lorraine Candy writing for The Sunday Times.