Exam Prep for Success

With the end of the school year fast approaching, students all over the country are starting to dream of summer vacation and the extended reprieve from school. Unfortunately for them, the looming threat of final exams currently stand in their way. While it may be easy to pass these off as rites of passage that we all go through, there are things parents and families can do to support students during this time in order to build confidence, promote success, and reduce anxiety. Effective exam preparation doesn’t just have to be up to the student, we can all have a hand in the process.

Create an Exam Preparation Plan

This may go without saying, but the most important thing that you can do to help your student prepare for their exams is simply knowing when they are. Most schools release their exam schedules at least a month in advance, and so with a little bit of organization it should be fairly easy to make a plan to help with preparation. 

Knowing the type of exams they are writing can also help with the planning process because not all final exams are created equal. For instance, they may have a math exam that requires them to study in a traditional sense, but their history exam may require them to write a research essay that they are able to prepare in advance. Knowing the difference in expectations for each exam can help you and your student create a realistic plan for success. 

Help Keep Things in Perspective

It is sometimes hard for students to remember that exams aren’t that important. As a teacher, it is hard for me to admit that, but the truth is that final tests shouldn’t be looked at as the most important assessment tool. If students have been engaged with the course material and have participated in the learning process, then the exam should simply serve as a culminating activity. I think the problem for students arises when they hear that an exam can be worth up to 25% of a course. Knowing that something is weighted that heavily automatically makes it something worth stressing about. That stress can then manifest itself into anxiety that may have a negative impact on their preparation. 

As parents, we can help them keep things in perspective by allowing them to see the big picture. In order to do this, they need to see that even a weight of 25% doesn’t have as much of an impact as it may seem. To do this, contact their teacher to get the most recent and accurate data. Once you have their current marks, simply crunch the numbers to show them how a 25% test could potentially affect their grade. 

For instance, if they go into the final with a mark of 85% and the exam is worth 25% of the course, show them this equation to see how different results will impact their final mark. Show them that even if they drop by 15%, their grade won’t change that much.

85 x 0.75 = 64

70 x 0.25 = 18

68 + 14 = 82%

Seeing that a 15% drop on the exam only results in a 3% change in the course goes a long way in helping convince students that exam results don’t carry as much weight as they may think.

Lighten the Mood

With a lot of students, especially those looking to achieve scholarships or maintain their grade average, over preparation for final exams is something that can occur. Often times, students will feel that as long as they are studying, they will at least be retaining some of the information. However, there are a few problems with this way of thinking. One is that by studying too much, you are putting unnecessary stress on yourself by constantly being in an anxious state. If a student is worried or nervous about the outcome of a test/exam, then the studying process with often reflect those emotions. 

Another problem with over studying is that there is no data to suggest that more studying equals better studying. In fact, research shows that too much studying can result in lower concentration levels, tiredness, and a propensity to commit minor errors and mistakes. 

In order to combat this, it is important for parents to be the voices of reason in these situations. A lot of students that I talk to indicate that one of their main stressors comes from the expectations from their parents. While I fully endorse the notion of having high expectations for our kids, I also believe that we need to act in support of those expectations and not in spite of them. 

Instead of contributing to the stress they are already feeling during final exams, we can actually be the ones to help reduce it. We can do this by instituting mandatory study breaks, taking them out for something they enjoy, or simply playing a game or watching a movie. If our students see us working with them in support of their goals instead of against them, the exam preparation process can be more effective and, dare I say it, almost enjoyable. 

For more tips on exam prep, check out this site. It has a lot of good ideas that can be implemented right away.

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Alan North

Alan has found that blending a teaching career with parenthood to be quite different than he imagined due to the fact that teaching other people's kids is a lot easier than teaching your own. His passion in the areas of literacy, music, communication and student leadership have helped him to survive/enjoy 15 years of teaching.

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