Exams themselves, and the preparation period that precedes them, inherently bring a lot of stress and doubts to students. Exam periods can be difficult for both students and the people supporting them.
The final hurdle – Victorian Certificate of Education Exams – is fast approaching for our Year 12 cohort, and for many Victorian students, sitting these exams signifies the last push in their high school journeys. For our younger cohorts, end-of-year exams are also on the horizon, meaning their turn to study isn’t far away either.
To help alleviate that stress, we have put together five exam preparation tips for students to use during exam preparations and five tips for parents/guardians to help them support their students.
Turn off distractions
When it’s time to study, it’s amazing how many things can distract the mind from the task at hand. Phones, friends and family, Netflix, social media, websites, YouTube, video games and noises are some common distractions.
Here are some ways to combat some of these:
- Turn off notifications or put your phone on airplane mode.
- Remove all distractions from your study space such as TVs or any unwanted noise, phones, unnecessary internet tabs or computer programs.
- Let those close to you know you are studying. Tell them how long you will be focusing and keep them informed whenever you start again.
- Install/download or enable study apps that prevent you from accessing distractions such as social media apps or distracting websites.
Organise your mind, space and time
Being organised can be your superpower when preparing for final exams. Organise your time by planning study and social times, when you eat, exercise and relax.
Next, organise a dedicated space you study at every day, preferably away from your bedroom, as your mind can still not be in study mode if you’re in this space.
For your mind, start by staying calm and keeping things in perspective. Exams are not the be-all or end-all. If you’re consistently trying your best, that’s all you can do. Then get your mind in the right space for studying by doing things, like putting on a playlist or taking some deep breaths that get you in the right headspace.
Often a feeling of guilt emerges when taking time for self-care, but this is not wasted time, it can be helpful for refocusing, keeping your stress down and doubts in check. Research has shown studying in short bursts instead of long periods helps you retain information better.
Use the Pomodoro technique. The technique, named after a kitchen timer, involves you setting a timer for a specific time and studying until the timer goes off. Once it goes off, take a five-minute break, and every fourth break take a longer, 20-minute one. This could be going for a walk, reading a book, patting a pet or anything that helps clear your mind.
Grab a mate
Your peers are a great source of support during exam preparations as they are very likely going through the exact same challenges as you.
So, grab a friend (or a few friends) or classmate(s) and sit down to do some revision, work through course materials, check each other’s notes, ask questions and discuss ideas. Parents/guardians can also be great help.
Find what works for you
No one knows how you study better than yourself so find what works best for you and stick with it! That could be specific study tools or methods, working solo or in a group, when your best study time is, with or without music, etc.
Everyone studies differently so test out things and find what works with you.
Bring the Calm
As your child’s exams creep closer, parental worry and anxiety over ATAR scores may increase too. This is where parents and carers need to bring a calm, consistent and supportive environment, listen and validate your child’s experience.
Statements or questions like “I’m here for you” or “Is there anything I can do to help?” are more helpful than trying to smooth over their concerns.
Acknowledge your student
Acknowledge how far your children have come and be proud of everything they have achieved to this point of their schooling journey.
Every day of study and completed piece of school assessed coursework (SAC) has brought them closer to the finishing line, which is now in sight.
Notice and respect your child’s cues
The saying “VCE is a rollercoaster” is an accurate summary of the highs and lows that accompany this important stage in your child’s life and schooling. By now, you would have seen your child go through a range of emotions during this year and have built an understanding of your child’s cues.
These cues subtly inform you of their headspace and mindset. Notice these cues and provide the relevant solutions and/or support to your child when you spot them.
Work as a team
Studying for an exam is a team effort. Yes, your child’s work and dedication throughout the year has been the driving force but you have also been there through all the ups and downs as a crucial part of their support network.
It is important to maintain this heading into exams and acknowledge you are on the same team and working towards a shared objective. Ask if you can assist them with their studies in any way.
Remember the basics
Ensure your student has enough sleep, eats healthily, exercises and has social time. It will help them both physically and mentally when they are studying.
Know their routines for study and help them when it comes to their breaks and ensuring all their basic needs are catered for.