Exam season is stressful—not just for our kids, but for parents too. With exam stress affecting so many students, how can parents help? Here’s eight practical tips to support your support your teens through this academic rite of passage. From effective study techniques to mental well-being, these tips are designed to help your child not only manage the pressures of exams but also excel in them.
“Mum… I really studied hard, but it didn’t work out.”
It’s not easy for kids to be the bearer of bad news, especially about exams. According to a 2021 report by ReachOut, about 50% of children feel extremely or very stressed about study and exams.
That kind of stress takes a toll on your child’s mental health and well-being. It’s also painful for any parent to see their child crumble because of pressure. As mums, you only want to ease their stress so they can ace their upcoming exams and let go of the fear that comes with it.
Based on over a decade of working as an education strategist, here are eight ways to support your child during exam season:
1. Develop an exam strategy
If your child gets easily overwhelmed by the amount of course materials to review, an exam strategy can simplify things so they wouldn’t have to push studying to the last minute.
Exam strategies help students achieve the following:
- Higher scores with less effort.
- More consistent, organised, and proactive study throughout the term.
- Improvement across all subjects – not just one!
- Higher marks and ATAR for better university opportunities.
- Less stress and more confidence in exams
- A well-defined, tailored exam strategy should cover your child’s strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations. It’s essential to tune into their specific learning challenges for better information recall and a more manageable workload.
2. Make sure your child gets enough sleep
Does your child have a hard time detaching themselves from their devices? Children tend to stay up too late when they’re too attached to their phones or other devices. However, they need plenty of rest and sleep to improve their study.
What happens when they practice healthy sleeping habits?
- Their brain is energised and gets the necessary nutrients for brain health.
- Better focus and emotional regulation for your child.
- Improvement in memory formation, retention, and recall.
Having enough sleep can help your child build resilience from stress. With rest, they can concentrate better, and studying and performing during exams would be easier.
3. Stay on top of things with an assessment tracker
What if your child isn’t fond of answering many school-related questions at home? Or what if they struggle to balance multiple subject deadlines and leave assessments until the last possible second? You can think of an assessment tracker as a “non-nagging” way to stay on top of school with your child.
Here’s what can happen when your child utilises an assessment tracker:
- All deadlines are accounted for, ensuring nothing is missed.
- No more late nights or cramming. Things will never get left to the last minute again!
- Better parent-child relationships and conversations.
- Higher marks – Students can respond precisely the way markers want it.
With an assessment tracker, you can help your child break down intimidating tasks to reduce being overwhelmed. Study effectiveness is also easily measured for improvement.
4. Use practice papers and focus on quality over quantity
If your child is prone to careless mistakes, doesn’t get above 78% in scores, or quickly runs out of time during exams, you can address their challenge with practice papers.
Focusing on quality – not quantity – can also help them cover content-specific needs in detail.
How can using practice papers strategically maximise their exam effectiveness?
- Familiarity with different exam formats and types of questions.
- Consistent knowledge testing before the actual exam.
- Develops foresight and advanced readiness while reducing exam stress.
- Higher marks, ATAR, and better university opportunities.
Practice papers are good simulators for your child. You can mix multiple choice questions and other exam formats to test your kid. You can also be more involved in rooting out content blind spots and preparing with your child during exams.
5. Prioritise health and well-being
Whether your child undergoes particular medication or not, their health and well-being should be a priority when studying for exams.
With health as a priority, your child can:
- Have better clarity and more confidence in taking exams.
- Optimise their stress management when studying.
- Build optimal exam performance.
- Better resilience in facing and sharing exam results with you.
You can support their holistic health by catering to their physical and mental needs. Prepare balanced meals and snacks as they study. Sharing relaxation, meditation, and visualisation practices can also be helpful to regulate their stress and prepare them for exam days.
6. Practice active recall and spaced repetition
If your child is prone to mind blanks or struggles with memory under stressful situations, practice and repetition at home can help them overcome this challenge. It also helps children who are aiming for an IELTS Band 6.
You can be more involved by asking them to teach siblings topics, have visible post-its or flashcards to help them recall information, or challenge them to mind-mapping activities to supplement their study.
What happens when your child engages in active recall and spaced repetition?
- Enhanced flexibility and speed in answering exams.
- Higher marks for less stress and effort.
- Better recall and higher response times.
- Reduce active stress levels and minimise the chances of a panic attack or mind blank.
Active recall strategies are more effective than re-reading notes over and over again. Spaced repetition can also help embed content into their long-term memory. Information becomes easier to access, which can help them manage the anxiety that comes with answering exams
7. Stay hydrated
Sometimes, children can hyperfocus and tend to forget their basic needs – to eat and drink. As mums, we should be able to watch out for them and keep them hydrated in busy times. It may sound bizarre, but keeping your child hydrated can:
- Improve their focus and concentration.
- Boost their energy levels and sleep quality.
- Reduce piling on stress because they’re reminded to take care of themselves.
A simple ask of going into the kitchen and drinking a glass of water can force hyper-focused kids into taking breaks. They need to get up and move a little so they can return to studying with a refreshed mind.
8. Don’t let the nerves take over the day before exams
What if your child gets easily affected by nerves and what their peers would say when they see their results?
In some cases, it’s more than the lack of preparation that breaks your kid’s exam performance. Sometimes, it’s because the 24 hours before their exams are filled with pressures that undermine their readiness.
What happens when your child can deal with their nerves before exams?
- They feel more prepared and retain the information.
- They’re able to regulate their emotions better.
- It builds their self-confidence to take exams.
- Better exam performance and results.
Teaching your kids to think beyond the uncertainty and nervousness can help them sleep better for improved focus on exams. It can also help them deal with and reduce the adverse effects of bias and unexpected exam results, which could lower their overall study stress.
These best practices are based on Kalibrate-Ed‘s experience working with thousands of high school students to optimise their academic performance in the IB and the HSC. The key to providing support during exam periods is to precisely understand your child’s needs and know how to address the challenges together so they can perform at their best on exam day.