The exam period is just around the corner. It is one of the most stressful times for both learners and their parents. Teachers also experience some degree of anxiety. With the 2022 national exams set to begin a few weeks from now, many learners are likely to experience feelings of stress and even panic. Worried parents want to be able to do more than lie awake at night, wondering how to help their children cope with this situation.
Try the eight steps given below to help guide your child to excel in the forthcoming examinations. Granted, this has been a very challenging year for learners, parents and teachers due to the crash programme – short terms and holidays – occasioned by the need to recover the time lost due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
1. Eight hours of sleep
Getting enough sleep is crucial when writing exams. Ideally, eight hours a night should be the minimum. Reports state that losing one hour of sleep every night could lower your intelligence quotient (IQ) by one point. Since our brains process the information we receive during waking hours when we are asleep, a loss of sleep hours can result in challenges ; such as a decrease in reasoning skills and linguistic coherence.
If the learners in your home are struggling to sleep, play some soft background music for them. Most importantly, make sure that they don’t have any drinks that contain caffeine – such as tea, coffee, cola and chocolate – for at least four hours before bedtime.
2. Water, water, water!
Dehydration can lead to tiredness, headaches and poor concentration. With exams taking place in the ongoing heat, ensure that your child is drinking a lot of water. US researchers at Georgia Tech’s School of Biological Sciences have found that dehydration doesn’t just affect your physical ability, but can also lead to cognitive decline, with functions such as complex problem-solving and attention worst impacted. Keep a jug of water and a glass on your child’s desk. You may add flavour to it with slices of apple or oranges. This will help the learners to stay hydrated.
3. Revision is crucial
Good revision techniques are crucial for exam success. If facts are learned quickly, they’re forgotten quickly, because they are in the short-term memory. Regular revision allows you to remember facts for a long time, as they’ll be entrenched as part of your long-term memory. Using past examination papers is a useful tool in revision, as they help your child become familiar with the ways in which questions are set. Additionally, it helps them to identify questions that may be tricky. When your child is practising how to answer questions using past examination papers, use a mock set-up: time and supervision. After marking the papers, identify their weak areas and revise on them.
4. Give them time to study
This is not the time to assign and enforce house chores and tasks. On the contrary, ensure that your child’s energy is spent on studying. Make sure that the environment is ideal for revision. For instance, turn off the radio and television. Exam times may seem to be a disruption to other family members, so have a positive conversation with them on the importance of doing well in examinations.
5. Exercise regularly
Exercise serves as a great stress outlet during exams – even if it’s just a half hour walk around the neighbourhood. It should be a moderate form of exercise, though, not an exhausting one. Exercise gives the brain an oxygen boost. It also releases various brain-boosting hormones like dopamine, which positively influences learning and attention as well as serotonin, which boosts mood and helps regulate sleep cycles. Some young people benefit from early morning exercise, while others prefer to exercise after studying during the day in order to release stress before bedtime.
6. Regular breaks
Spending hours and hours studying without a break can result in a frustrated, exhausted child. Our attention starts to decline after about 40 minutes, so regular breaks should be set within the study timetable. During the break, encourage activities that allow the brain to take a break from thinking and remembering. A movement break – a short walk or stretching – refreshes the mind, and a quick meditation or breathing exercise in a quiet setting will help to improve your child’s productivity when they start reading their books again. After the break has ended, gently but firmly, encourage your child to go back into the next studying stretch. Once back at their desk, your children should take five minutes to sit down with their study material in front of them. This will help them calm their thoughts and stay focused.
7. Healthy snacks and diet
The brain is the greediest organ in the body. Therefore, make sure that the learner’s overall diet contains starchy foods like bread, rice and pasta. You may also add milk, meat and vegetables. Foods like chips, sugary snacks and soft drinks can result in concentration problems and restlessness. During study breaks, learners should have healthy snacks and drinks on hand. Your child’s favourite snack is a great reward for a successful study session.
8. During and after the exams
During the examination period, keep the house calm and positive. Make sure that your child eats a protein-rich breakfast soon after waking up – such as scrambled eggs and toast. Other protein-rich foods include cottage cheese, yoghurt, nuts and whole-grain cereal with milk. If your child is too nervous to stomach a breakfast, try a protein shake instead.
Spend a bit of time after the exam chatting with your child about how the paper went. Calm them down if they found the questions challenging. If they want to talk, just listen and don’t interrogate them. There is no point in scrutinising the exam paper at length since this might demoralise the candidates after they’ve just given it their all. Use this time to encourage them for the next paper. Give them a pat on the back for their efforts thus far. Getting praise from a caregiver serves as a super motivator during exam times. Praise them for successful study sessions, for having finished an exam paper and for actively taking part in determining their future lives.