Exams are an inevitable part of a student’s life whether they like it or not. And in the Singapore education system, that is twice a year: one mid-term (May) and one final (Nov).
Having experienced six years of primary-school exams with two kids, here are my takeaways as a parent:
- Primary school students need guidance to prepare for exams.
- School teachers don’t necessarily teach them how to prepare for tests or exams. That means we parents have to assume that responsibility.
- Tutors are NOT reliable resources to yield positive results for your child. No offense meant for the tutors. Many work really hard, but as parents, you need to check that your child is making progress in his learning, otherwise, it is just a waste of time and money.
- Good grades depend on YOUR child’s learning styles and academic inclinations.
- Being a nonchalant mom (relax and let the kids study on their own) or a tiger mom (assessment pusher) does not bode well for the parent-child relationship or the children’s esteem when it comes to their grades.
- Some kids are naturally motivated to do well. And if your kid is not one of them, you have to find other ways to do so.
I wish I could tell you there is a magic secret that will allow your child to fare well in exams, but the truth is that there is none. Getting good grades depends on a host of reasons like aptitude, ability, and motivation. Most importantly, kids need compassion from parents and a study strategy.
Here are some ideas on how you can help your child prepare for exams.
1) Monitor Your Child’s School Work
Go through your child’s current school work to see if there are areas that your child needs help in. For example, does he have trouble understanding a math concept, or is a subject challenging due to a lack of understanding or lack of knowledge?
How will this help with exam prep? If your child generally performs well in his daily school work, prepping for an exam is a matter of revision. However, if he/she has trouble performing the daily work, there might be other factors at play. Here are some questions to ask:
- Is your child finishing his/her homework on time? If not, what are the reasons?
- Is he/she swamped with schoolwork and tuition work?
- Is your child distracted by his digital gadgets or his playmates? If so, come up with a study plan and playdate schedule so that both parent and child wins.
- Does your child have an ideal workspace at home to do his/her homework without distraction?
- Can your child see or hear properly? Have regular checks on your child’s eyesight and hearing ability.
- Are there other issues preventing him/her from performing well in school? Peers or social bullying? Issues with Teachers?
2) Understand Your Child’s Learning Style
Every kid has a different way of learning. Some are more visual, others more auditory and kinesthetic. While we all learn using the three styles, there is one style that is more dominant for your child.
How will this help with exam prep? Knowing how your child absorbs information allows you to devise a suitable strategy that works for your child. And it will also allow you to teach him/her in a way that is mutually rewarding.
3) Foster A Good Reading Habit
Reading is an essential skill to understand the instructions or questions in the exam paper. The student’s ability to comprehend the question accurately and answer correctly comes next. Unfortunately, reading is a skill that takes time to sharpen. So make sure reading is a priority in your child’s routine. .
How will this help with exam prep? Reading brings more depth to the learning of a subject such as Science, history, geography, even Mandarin. It also develops their vocabulary which will come in handy when they have to write compositions or sit for their oral examinations.
Tip: Read aloud with them or to them. Bring them to the library. Read magazines, newspaper articles, or a genre of books that will be of interest to your child. You can also ask your child to underline or highlight the key points so they can answer TO the question.
4) Familiarize Your Child With Testing Procedures
Have mock tests at home so that your child is comfortable with taking tests.
How will this help with exam prep? Primary One students who are new to the testing game will know what to expect. The results shouldn’t matter, it’s the process of sitting down for an hour or 45 minutes and finishing the paper that you want them to be familiar with. Talk to them about the following:
- Time limitations
- How to do or check their work within that time frame.
- Remind them about the possible points their teachers can deduct – legible writing, not writing their names properly, etc.
5) Come Up With A Study Schedule/Plan/System
Create a study schedule with your child that works for him/her. Allow for buffer zones that give him/her time to catch up with unfinished revisions/work or some breather time to play and relax. Remember that they are still kids and need some downtime.
6) Be Encouraging
It can be frustrating when you see your child losing points over careless mistakes, sloppy writing, or failing to answer a question because he/she “forgot”. I know. I’ve been there. But the important thing to remember is they are learning. And with each mistake, they will get better and be more prepared the next time. So, try to look on the bright side and focus on the things they have done well.
Share your experiences as a former student. Kids love to hear stories of their parents as kids – what kind of students you were and how you coped with the pressure and stress of being a student. A walk down memory lane sometimes reminds parents what it was like being 7 or 8 years old again. It may just prompt us to be more sympathetic and empathize with our kids. This also serves as a common platform for parent and child to bond.
How will this help with exam prep? The knowledge that their parents were also once kids make them instantly relatable and ease the stress a child might otherwise feel.
7) Eat and Rest Well
Ensure your child gets enough sleep at night and eats a wholesome breakfast or lunch before going to school. Take it easy during the exam period; do not plan or schedule any activities, so there are no additional stressors during this period.
8) It’s A Learning Journey
I will like to end this post with a motivational video by Oprah Winfrey that puts failure and success in perspective for us.
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