As we prepare to begin term 3 in Australia, now is a good time to star to prepare for the dreaded tests and exams period. Whether it is your child’s first experience with formal examination periods or they are a seasoned regular, it is easy to feel unprepared and nervous. The following article will discuss strategies to assist with these nerves and help boost your child’s confidence!
Strategy #1 PREPARE FOR YOUR ASSESSMENTS
Sometimes the most obvious strategies are overlooked. Make sure you know when your child’s exam is. Mark it on the calendar. Knowing how long you have to prepare will help you and your child to appropriately schedule study times and reduce the chance of your child feeling overwhelmed.
Similarly, find out what is on the test! Some exam notices will indicate particular chapters and topics of importance. For the Higher School Certificate (HSC), students will be provided learning outcomes that explicitly highlight what knowledge will be examined. The Board of Studies has created helpful pages for each exam that outline what to expect as well as the equipment needed for each tests and exams, which can be found by following the link here.
Strategy #2 TIMETABLE
This is the time to get out the coloured highlighters and get organised! On a weekly planner, mark out all the times where you have commitments already scheduled (e.g. school, dance class, soccer practice, family BBQ, etc.). Then, working with your child, (let them do it on their own if they are capable), schedule in one to three 30 minute blocks of time on weeknights (depending on the number of tests and exams: and child’s capability) to cover a particular subject. Prioritise the subjects they find most difficult.
Breaking up the work into more manageable chunks of time will make the pressure of exams less daunting. Structuring study this way will also help to overcome any avoidance tactics.
For the weekends, you may want to discuss adding a couple more study blocks, where your child can choose the topics. Remember to schedule in fun breaks and small rewards to keep your child motivated. For example, spend 15 minutes playing their favourite game or having a snack after 30-40 minutes of study.
Strategy #3 STUDY ENVIRONMENT
Research has shown that your memory recall is best when it is in a similar environment (Godden & Baddeley, 1975). Although you cannot take your child to school to study in their regular school classroom, you can try to make their study space at home reflect the conditions of tests and exams.
For example, encourage your child to study at a desk, sitting upright in a supportive chair, in a quiet environment. Although it may be more comfortable, studying in bed will be less effective!
Strategy #4 MAKE STUDY ACTIVE
How does your child study? Most commonly, children and adolescents alike will flick through their books and highlight more words than not. Though this can be helpful, it can often lead to an illusion of knowledge – “if it is highlighted, I should know it!”
Instead, encourage active study. This includes rewriting information in their own words, making mind maps, talking about topics, creating quizzes, using past exams questions and testing knowledge. Children can either do this independently or with parents and/or friends. Research shows that this leads to better learning and understanding of the material (Prince, 2004).
Strategy #5 SLEEP
Adequate sleep is so important, especially for the exam preparation! During sleep, our brain consolidates learning, so while your child may think it is better to stay up studying until the early hours of the morning, they will be better off getting in the zzz’s (Stickgold, 2005).
Strategy #6 NUTRITION
There is no one key ‘brain food’ that is guaranteed to lead to success. However, a diet rich in whole grains (oats, brown rice, wheat bread), omega-3 (fatty fish, nuts and seeds, avocado) and vitamins (eggs, leafy greens) has been shown to improve brain function and development and improve concentration (Torrens, 2017).
In particular, for older adolescents, limiting caffeine is recommended. Although energy drinks or coffee may be considered helpful because they increase alertness, their stimulant effects may make it difficult for adolescents to wind down, negatively impact sleep and lead to daytime sleepiness (James, Kristjánsson, & Sigfúsdóttir, 2011).
Strategy #7 EXAM DAY
Important things to remember on the day:
- Make sure your child has a good, wholesome breakfast – think brain food, such as eggs on toast with avocado.
- Engage in positive self-talk: remind your child of the hard work that has gone into preparing for the exam. Remind them they can do this! Manage expectations and focus on the effort your child has put in, not the achievement.
- Arrive early: this is especially important for the HSC, as sometimes exams can be in rooms different from normal exams or classes.
Remind your child to:
- Take three deep breaths to help settle their nerves.
- Read all the instructions carefully.
- Wear a watch to keep track of time.
Have something enjoyable arranged for after the assessment – your child has earned it!
Strategy #8 REDUCING ANXIETY DURING TESTS AND EXAMS
Though the above strategies can help support your child, it is normal for them to experience anxiety. Recognising the physical and mental symptoms of anxiety can help your child break the anxiety cycle.
Racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating, feelings of worry and negative self-talk are common psychological symptoms of anxiety. Physical symptoms may include an accelerated heart rate, sweaty palms, upset stomach and tension throughout the body (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
Some strategies to help reduce anxiety include: deep breathing exercises (long, slow breaths in through the nose, out through the mouth), positive self talk (“I can do it”), grounding exercises (focus on what is in the room, not racing thoughts), and taking a break to go and exercise (Furner, & Berman, 2003; Otto & Smits, 2011).
If you notice your child’s exam anxiety is persistent and detrimentally affecting your child’s ability not only to study but to effectively function in other areas of life, it may be indicative of a more serious issue. Should you have any concerns please don’t hesitate to contact our friendly reception on (02) 9362 9297.
Best of Luck!
Done with your assessments? Or just going back to school? Check out our term programs!
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
Furner, J. M., & Berman, B. T. (2003). Math anxiety: Overcoming a major obstacle to the improvement of student math performance. Childhood Education, 79(3), 170-175. doi: 10.1080/00094056.2003.10522220
Godden, D. R. & Baddeley, A. D. Context‐dependent memory in two natural environments: on land and underwater. British Journal of Psychology, 66(3), 325-331. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-8295.1975.tb01468.x
James, J. E., Kristjánsson, Á. L., & Sigfúsdóttir, I. D. (2011). Adolescent substance use, sleep, and academic achievement: evidence of harm due to caffeine. Journal of adolescence, 34(4), 665-673.
NSW Education Standards Authority (2018). Exam advice and resources for students. Retrieved 17th September, 2018, from http://k6.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/wps/portal/nesa/11-12/hsc/exam-advice-resources
Otto, M, W., & Smits, J. A. J. (2011). Exercise for mood and anxiety: Proven strategies for overcoming depression and enhancing well-being. New York, NY: Oxford University Press Inc.
Prince, M. (2004). Does active learning work? A review of the research. Journal of Engineering Education, 93(3), 223-231.
Stickgold, R. (2005). Sleep-dependent memory consolidation. Nature, 437(7063), 1272-1278. doi:10.1038/nature04286
Torrens, K. (2017). 10 foods to boost your brain power. Retrieved 17th September, 2018, from https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/10-foods-boost-your-brainpower
Greatness comes in many forms and is quite subjective depending on an individual’s age and abilities. For a child overcoming anxiety, greatness may be winning a public speaking competition or finding the courage to confront a new fear. For others, greatness may reveal itself through academic or sporting achievements, kindness, creativity or thoughtful leadership. In any case, discovering one’s unique strengths or passions is easier with the help of a caring coach, an attentive teacher, or a dedicated parent.
According to a recent survey of Australian students in Year 4 to 12, parents and teachers are the greatest influencers of a student’s sense of satisfaction and fulfillment (State of Victoria, Dept of Education and Training, 2017). Therefore, it is essential for parents and teachers to give sound advice on the subject of achieving greatness as defined by the child.
Leadership expert, Robert Kaplan (2013), developed a roadmap for reaching potential. In brief, he suggests greatness is achieved when we know our strengths, take the initiative and connect our daily actions to a clearly defined goal. For most children, defining a goal is easy but taking the initiative to make it happen is usually dependent on the adults around them. That’s where we come in!
Here’s what you can do:
- Foster their self-belief. For example, if you know a child who aspires to be a professional soccer player, help them find a great coach or coaching clinic. For those with more left-of-centre skills outside the areas of sporting or academia, keep an open mind to the activities available that might help push their strengths to new levels. Show them that you believe in them and make it happen!
- Research together. Show young people how to take the initiative by helping them to research and connect with experts in their field of interest. A child with a passion for making robots would be forever empowered if you showed them how to contact the Head Inventor at Battlebots. Imagine if they said yes to a Skype call?
- Use a wide-angle lens. Think broadly when it comes to inspiring young people. Be proactive and organise a range of guests to visit your school to spark an interest in every child. These could include artists, refugees, adventurers or someone with a “diffability” who is pursuing a passion. You never know when inspiration will strike!
- Set an example. Take on a challenge of your own and you will inspire others to do the same. Show some initiative and take steps on a daily basis to reach your goal. Share your journey’s highs and lows with the young people around you and make haste towards your destination.
- Work together. Challenges aren’t meant to be simple, but staying focused on the task at hand is easier when those around you are doing the same. Achieve greatness among your classmates, family or friends and your success will be even sweeter!
Our online Performance Psychology program Power Up! has been specially created for kids who want to push their performance skills to the next level. Power Up! gives them the power to: build self-confidence, cope with the pressures of competition, overcome self-doubt and negative self-talk, set goals and make plans to achieve them and maximise performance in any chosen field.
- Kaplan, R.S. (2013) What You’re Really Meant to Do: A Roadmap for Reaching your Unique Potential.Ebook. HBR.
- Right School-Right Place (2017) State of Victoria. Department of Education and Training (Vic).
We love learning at Quirky Kid. Every day our team review articles, attend workshops and complete hours of clinical supervision. We are really excited to invite you to our HQ’s so we can all learn together. Welcome to our ‘Lunch & Learn ‘ sessions – a fun, practical, informative and yummy learning space at our Sydney and Wollongong clinics regularly.
The ‘Lunch & Learn’ will provide practical and informative 60 – 90-minute sessions to expand our knowledge in emerging topics and current child development and family issues. Topics that we will be addressing are:
- Eating Disorders
- Acceptance Commitment Therapy
- Writing Reports for Family Court
- Cyber Bullying
- Self Care for Psychologists
- Many Others
Each session will be different to the last with highly regarded professionals in the field presenting on a range of different topics.
Who Should Attend
‘Lunch & Learn’ sessions will be beneficial for any psychologists, school counsellors, teachers and health or educational professionals working with young people.
Workshops will be run on a not-for-profit basis and subsided by Quirky Kid.
‘Lunch & Learn’ sessions will cost between $35 and $50 (+GST) only. BYO lunch (so long as they aren’t too messy, and no nuts to be safe). Drinks provided.
What to Bring
A pen, paper, a smile and you laptop for notes.
If you want to get the most of ‘Lunch & Learn’ we recommend that you come prepared with questions for the speaker. The sessions are intimate in size so there will be a great opportunity to interact with the speakers, other professionals and to ask questions.
Upcoming Sessions are:
- Friday, 23rd June 12:00 – 1:30pm (Sydney)
Writing Therapy Reports for Family and Children’s Court – The Do’s and Don’ts by Dianne Starkey.
- Monday, 3rd July, 12:00 – 1:30pm (Sydney)
eSafety. Looking out for Children and Adolescents Online by The Office of Children’s eSafety Commissioner
- Friday, 14th July, 12:00pm – 1:30pm (Austinmer)
Narrative Therapy. What and Why by Rebecca Sng
- Friday, 21st July, 12:00pm – 1:30pm (Austinmer)
Non-drug Approach to treating ADHD by Stuart Johnson
- Friday, July 28, 12:00 pm – 1:30pm (Sydney)
Flexible Parenting. How can Acceptance Commitment Therapy (ACT) Help? by Louise Shepherd
- Friday, 1st September, 12:00pm – 1:30pm (Austinmer)
Can Food Affect a Child’s Behaviour? by Stephanie Meades
- Friday, 22nd September, 12:00pm – 1:30pm (Sydney)
Time-Out in the Age of Attachment and Trauma Informed Treatments
Lunch & Learn Session will take place in
- Sydney – Level 1, Unit 2, 83-85 Queen Street, Woollahra
- Wollongong – Unit 105, 62 Moore Street, Austinmer
Register Your Interest
(Register your interest in order to get updates on times and dates for our upcoming speakers).