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Tensions already run high in a house with teenagers but, come exam or SAC time (that’s VCE school-assessed coursework), you might have a cold war on your hands. Some teens develop good study habits early and breeze through exams but most find the lead-up stressful. Our oldest is in year 11 and tackling two year 12 subjects. She is a good student and tries hard but negotiating study time can require the skills of a UN diplomat.
We’re going through the “you know nothing about anything” stage, so whatever tips or help I offer are considered world’s worst practice and duly ignored. It’s a shame because I was actually good at exam preparation and had a few handy tricks. My favourite was devising an acronym with each letter standing for something, such as LANG for political parties (Liberal Party, ALP, Nationals and Greens). Re-reading important texts to refresh the memory also helped.
This is one area where parents can really help because exams have not been revolutionised by technology. Most are hand-written and you can’t Google or use spell check, so traditional methods still work. But we must walk that tightrope between encouraging and interfering, while helping children avoid the inevitable techno-distractions.
My daughter listens to music but turns off social media during exam study. She tries to spread out the work but inevitably finishes late the night before. I don’t pressure her too much but getting that balance right is hard, especially if you want your kids to do well.
Education consultant Georgina Pazzi makes a great point when she says exams are not just about last-minute revision. She says students must be prepared long before the exam by developing organisational skills and looking after themselves physically and emotionally. Parents can help by modelling good habits, supporting them and staying calm. We also need to remember that our children are individuals responsible for their own actions.
“They are a person in their own right,” Georgina says. “Parents can only do so much. The rest is up to them.”
— The Weekly Review (@theweeklyreview) June 1, 2015
- Have an exam and study timetable on the fridge
- Discuss with other family members the importance of respecting your teenager’s study time and avoiding distracting behaviour
- Avoid booking any large family or social celebrations during exam study time
- Have healthy snacks and drinks on hand to keep their brain functioning at optimal level
- Avoid continually asking your teen if they are studying. But let them know you are around if needed
- Have stationery supplies on hand
– Source Sharon Witt
What the experts say
THE EDUCATOR & AUTHOR
It is important for teenagers to develop sound study habits from an early age. During designated study time, distractions should be minimised and internet/social media access avoided. It is far too tempting to check for updates or receive distracting messages.
Teenagers often need differing study environments. Some study best with music in their ears, while others need quiet. Find what works best and encourage your child in that routine.
It is important for parents to show support and understanding during exam time. Parents can do this in several ways. Have an exam and study timetable on the fridge, ask other family members to respect your teenager’s study time and avoid booking large family or social celebrations during exam time.
Have healthy snacks on hand, such as nibble platters of fruit, nuts, chocolate, jugs of water, as well as extra pens, highlighters, sticky notes and printer ink.
Avoid continually asking your teen if they are studying. They should know what is expected of them, especially in later years of schooling. However, let them know you are around if needed.
– Sharon Witt, A secondary teacher and author of 12 books, including Surviving High School
THE EDUCATION CONSULTANT
Exams are not just about study habits. They’re also about effective preparation. You need to be physically fit to play sport; it’s the same with exams. Students must prepare physically and have the right attitude to succeed.
Parents can support this by building their confidence, modelling good habits such as eating well and exercising, having a positive attitude, prioritising tasks and showing resilience.
Guide without telling them “this is how you do it”. Ask questions, so they can think for themselves, own the solution and develop good study habits that suit them. Ask about priorities and time management. The rest is up to them.
Children are separate from us. They are individuals. Some freeze in exams, but parents can help by being positive, asking about those feelings and why they happen. If you can help them unpack the reasons, you can enable them to deal with it and find better alternatives next time.
As a parent you have great intentions but might not realise that revealing your exam anxiety might affect your child. If needed, try a new strategy. Consider what they might ask and new ways to plan.
Georgina Pazzi, Teacher and founder of Edumazing education services