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Sunday, 18 September 2016

Preparation Panic - no, not Exams Panic!

It's that time of year again, when your kids are sitting for their annual major exams. For obvious reasons, parents always tend to worry more about exams than the exam-takers themselves. It doesn't matter whether you, as a parent, have been scheduling tuition lessons for your children way before the exams, or leaving your careers to guide them through their studies, or you are one of the play-it-cool types who claim you "don't want to stress the kids out" - deep in your hearts you are all hoping for a miracle that your children excel in their exams and pass with flying colours.

It is about a month away from the year-end examinations. It may be just an exam to bridge the students into the next grade, or the exam in which they are aiming to get into their dream high schools / colleges. Either way, I am sure that preparations are under way and parents are every bit as involved as their children in the preparations during this crucial period.

You are not alone. While all parents are gearing up for the exam battlefield out there, here are some (hopefully) helpful and practical pre-exam tips for you:

1. Stop Other Activities
The kids' extra-curricular activities should've stopped by now, as well as all outside-of-school sports lessons, music lessons, drama classes etc. This is vital so that the kids understand the importance of the year-end exams, and should focus all their time and energy on revision for the same without spreading themselves thin.

2. Conducive Environment
If you want your kids to be able to concentrate on their studies and not worry about anything else - please provide a conducive environment at home for them to study. A quiet study room would be ideal, but if not, at least a quiet corner where they are not distracted by the family's conversations or sounds from the TV.

If there are constant disputes around the house, this is an essential time to lend your support by minimalizing quarrels or fights at home - so that the kids can concentrate on their studies without worry.

3. Practice makes Perfect
Studying means lots of practice, including doing assessment books, poring over relevant books from outside-of-school sources, as well as attempting mock exam papers. Revising on a constant basis improves their familarity with the topics and makes it part of their memory consequently.

4. Work Closely with their Teachers and Tutors
No, this doesn't mean to pressurize or antagonize them. Work closely with them to schedule more remedial / revision lessons for your children, especially with tutors who have to schedule their slots in advance. While you may call or email them on questions, please do not be demanding on response time or overdo it - they are here to offer help, but making them feel pressurized won't help your kids score too well if they become too reliant on being spoon-fed.

5. Study Smart
Unless your kids have photographic memory, poring over the same textbooks again and again is not going to be too effective. Have them try various methods such as mind-mapping, summarizing study materials into note sheets by writing them down themselves, highlighting huge chunks of texts in different swatches of colors, Mnemonics, or playing braincells-stimulating music softly in the background.

6. Make Revision Enjoyable
Yes, make revision enjoyable and even memorable. A method could be rewards system - a major reward after the exams if they do well, as well as small, periodical treats. A method that worked very well for me was to cram intensely for 2 chapters of the textbooks, followed by a 15 minutes reward - this could come in the form of a chocolate bar, half a chapter of their favorite novel, or a quick walk around the estate. This would make studying more exciting because they have something to look forward to, and are recharged at good intervals.

Other methods could be to organize chaperoned study groups or quizzes with prizes. Keep the group size small, about 3 to 5 of their classmates. They could either discuss their assessment questions together, or you could throw quizzes with little prizes. This would help the kids take note of certain questions and inject a little social pressure if their friends know the answers to questions they don't, hence pushing them to study harder.

7. Healthy Lifestyle
Ensure that the kids eat and sleep well during this period, and are on their regular exercise. No, not Extra Curricular Activities, but maybe more like a weekly family swimming or cycling session to let them recharge and improve on health (can't afford to have them falling sick around exam time).  Plenty of vitamins and fruits would be important too.

8.  Be Encouraging , not Extreme
Children react better to encouragement and compliments, just like we do. While we may think that the dated method of pressurizing or scolding them work well, it may bounce back badly instead.

Try to encourage them by praising the good work they have done, or efforts put into something. Point out their strengths so they can apply these to their studies. Point out weaknesses tactfully - you don't want hurtful words reverberating around the kids' minds to distract them from their studies.

Do not compare them against their siblings or classmates ever. This may result in an adverse effect on their mental and emotional well- being, even causing resentment in time to come. They try to give you their best, therefore it won't be nice to hear that someone else will always be better that them.

9. Get Them Involved in your Planning
People usually work harder when they like the results reaped through their hard work. So consider very carefully why you need them to excel. Is it so that they are better than their peers or your friends' children, so you can have more "face"? Is it so that you can send them to your alma-mater or become the lawyer they were never interested to become?

If your replies are "yes" to any of the questions above, then please ease back.  Understand what they want and like, discuss the schools they are keen in attending. Work with them on practical goals, setting milestones on how to attain the goals. After all, if they have made the selection together wih you, they have a sense of ownership and will be more inclined to take charge of the outcome.

10.  Something New
If you have never let your kids take supplements such as chicken essence and gingko, or energy boosters such as Milo or hot chocolate, then please do not attempt to feed them chicken essence or Milo etc, on the eve or morning of their exams. This is to avoid your kids falling sick before or during the major examination, such as tummy upsets. If you wish to try these energy boosters or supplements on them, do it at least a month before the exams so you can monitor any adverse reactions.

Well, here's 10 tips for exams preparation. Hope they come in handy in helping your kids cope with their impending exams - all the best!

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