How to Support Students During Exam Revision – A Parental Guide

Exam season can be a stressful time.

Students are stressed. Teachers are stressed. Parents are stressed.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Often it’s the parents of young learners who have to pick up the pieces left over from all this havoc. Yet often the parents are overlooked, and are in need of help themselves. So this brief guide is an attempt to put things right.

I’m not claiming to be the font of all parental knowledge, but as a parent myself, I understand the desire for our children to perform well in exams. As a teacher, I also have some insight into some of the ways to support students as they go through this time in their lives. The good news is that there are things parents can do to help. Aside from the obvious solutions like paying for private tuition, I want to give you some practical tips that every parent can put into action without cost.

No two families are alike so I am not suggesting that I am in any position to be saying how a household should be managed. Rather I am merely offering some options that might be tried. With that in mind, and in no particular order, I offer the following guidance:

  • Help your child get enough sleep.
    • The average 16 year old needs about 9 hours of good quality sleep per night in order to keep them fresh, alert and clear-headed. Without sleep we can’t form or maintain the neural connections in the brain that let us learn and create new memories, and it’s harder to concentrate and respond quickly. Staying up all night cramming for an exam is usually a bad idea. Getting a good night’s sleep will be far more beneficial.
      • Parents can help by ensuring a calm environment, encouraging a reasonable bed time, and removing possible distractions.
  • Ensure your child is well fed.
    • A good, balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables can help everyone feel well and stay as healthy as possible. There is a lot of evidence linking diet to health. A healthy diet doesn’t necessarily mean no treats and just “rabbit food”. A healthy diet is a varied diet with adequate vitamins & minerals which help to prevent coughs/colds and other infections.
      • Parents can help by providing regular nutritious and healthy meals. Treats can be used to reward effort, but try to avoid sugary or caffeinated drinks a few hours before bed. For additional information the NHS offers some guidance in their “Healthy Eating for Teens”.
  • Help them to revise.
    • Not every parent will be an expert in every subject their child is revising. Some parents claim to know nothing about anything. Whatever your personal situation there are things you can do to help your child revise effectively.
      • Parents can help by providing a comfortable and quiet place to study. Somewhere light & airy with space to read and write is ideal.
      • It can also help to talk to your child about their revision. By taking an interest and listening while they think about what they’ve learned will help them to organise their ideas and prepare them for writing good answers in the exam. You don’t have to be an expert in the subject yourself, just allow yourself to be taught.
      • Maintaining motivation to study is another key area in which parents can offer valuable help. Whether this be short term with the promise of bribes, or longer term by discussing how these exams will help your child progress to the next stage in their life: your input here will be crucial.
  • Encourage some exercise and down time.
    • It can’t all be books and study. Physical exercise has many benefits from maintaining fitness and energy to reducing stress and anxiety. It doesn’t matter too much what kind of exercise it is (walking, running, team sports, etc).
      • Parents can help by providing reminders or helping to prepare a revision schedule which includes breaks and exercise.
  • Look out for the warning signs.
    • Stress can manifest itself in a variety of different ways from one person to another. You know your child better than anybody else so you will almost certainly be able to notice changes in their behaviour which may indicate that they are suffering. Look out for:
      • Low moods
      • Lack of sleep
      • Unusual pains
      • Loss of appetite
      • Excessive appetite
      • Irritability/impatience
      • Lack of interest in hobbies/previous interests
  • Pick your battles carefully.
    • Living with a teenager can be difficult at the best of times as they struggle to understand their changing bodies and raging hormones. Pile on the additional pressure from exams and you have a potentially explosive mix.
      • Parents can help by being as flexible as possible. For example, does their room need tidying right now or is there room for negotiation? Could you trade giving a lift into town for an hour revision later?
      • Try to remain calm even if your 16 year old is yelling that you couldn’t possibly understand.
      • Maybe even encourage them to talk about how they feel about the exams, even if they do just grunt and huff or shout that “I’VE TOLD YOU A MILLIONS TIMES I’M FINE”. Is there a trusted adult they could talk to? Maybe a teacher at school?
      • Try to involve your child as much as possible. Listen to them and allow them to talk without interruption. Try not to criticise but focus on the positives about what they’re saying.

As I’ve said, please don’t think I’m trying to tell you how to be a parent. These are just suggestions I’ve gathered over the years. Try them if you wish, ignore them if you want.

Just remember, the exam season will be over soon then you can get back to normal.

Well, at least until results day, but that’s for another post.

The Doc.

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