Jeepers does it suck.
I seriously struggled at school when it came to studying for exams. I found it super hard to concentrate and every single study session felt like torture.
Years later (I say years later, but it’s really only been a few years, I’m currently 23) I came to realize that a big part of why I found studying so difficult was due to a number of simple yet highly impactful mistakes that I was making (and which your child could be making too).
Here are 6 common exam studying mistakes and how you can fix them:
1. The full page highlighter
It turns out that sitting and passively reading with a highlighter in your hand doesn’t actually help with learning. Don’t get me wrong, it looks good, and afterwards you’re left with a beautiful multi-coloured masterpiece. But for your child to learn effectively they need to really engage with the work that they are learning.
Actively reading and taking notes while they read is a great way for your child to soak in the information. Taking notes forces your child to pick out the pieces of information that they feel is important, which in turn increases memory retention.
Once your child has made notes, you can then use these notes to create some practice questions to test their knowledge (or you can just sign up to WorksheetCloud because we do that for you).
The more of the 5 senses that your child uses while they study, the better!
2. Death by studying
Does your child study for hours and hours on end without taking any breaks?
If so, they should definitely stop.
I get it. Your child is writing a big exam tomorrow and there is just too much left to study. The human brain however, as marvelous as it is, gets tired. The longer your child studies without taking any breaks, the less and less information their brain can absorb.
They key to solving this one comes down to proper planning. Often what leads to these cramming study sessions is poor planning and not enough time allocated for studying. You and your child should start planning a study schedule in the first week or two of each term. I know it sounds early, but when exam time comes around and your child is well prepared and stress-free, it’ll be so worth it.
We have a fantastic article on creating the ultimate studying plan. Check it out here.
However, if you are currently in a pinch for time because your child has left their studying too late, don’t stress!
Try breaking up their study sessions into small chunks with little breaks in-between. Your child can study for 20 to 25 minutes, then take a 5 to 10 minute break, then study for another 20 to 25 minutes, then take another 5 to 10 minute break, and so on, and so on.
Never underestimate the power of rest and small breaks in-between study sessions.
3. The flip-flop
Does your child flip and flop between subjects while they are studying, because this week they are writing Maths, and Afrikaans, and English. It’s 25 minutes here, 15 minutes there, 10 minutes over there. It’s just a mess.
As humans, we like to think that we are good at multi-tasking, but it turns out that we really aren’t.
Your child may think that they’re multi-tasking, but what they are actually doing is switching between subjects so quickly that their brain isn’t able to keep up. Memory retention therefore takes a plummet.
The fix: proper planning (notice how this is the second time that I’ve brought this up).
A good study plan at the beginning of the term will save your child when it comes to exam time.
4. The social dilemma
Trying to study with 10 social media tabs open and your child’s favourite Netflix show on in the background is not going to help anybody. Every single time there’s a “beep beep” or a “ting ting” or “bleep bloop”, there’s a distraction.
The solution: SHUT. IT. DOWN.
Turn off the phones, turn off the TV, turn off the laptop (unless your child is using one of those to revise with WorksheetCloud). Trying to focus while studying is hard enough as it is. With the addition of these devices it just makes it impossible.
However, playing some soft instrumental music in the background while your child is studying is a great idea. In fact, it can often help them to relax and get into a better mental space for learning. We have some awesome free studying audio tracks which you are welcome to check out over here. You shouldn’t put on any music that your child would want to sing along to, as this will once again just distract them.
5. The one man show
Studying alone is great, in fact most children prefer it. But studying with a buddy isn’t a bad idea either.
Some children really benefit from being able to bounce their ideas off someone else, or to have someone that can ask them questions about what they are learning.
One exercise that really helps is the act of teaching the work that they are learning to someone else. This act of reciting the information is a great way for your child to spot any gaps in their knowledge.
6. Frenzy mode
Panic can start to set in as the exam day draws closer and the time left to study gets less and less. Your child may want to cry or throw their books across the room.
It’s okay to feel overwhelmed. It happens to the best of us.
Tell your child to take a break, give them a snack and take them for a walk around the block (walks are a great way to release frustration).
The key factor here is reassurance. Let your child know that you are there for them, that you love them, and that all they need to do is their best. Often just that small act of compassion is everything that your child needs to push through their last bit of studying.
I hope that these tips have helped and that you feel more equipped to assist your child with their studying.
Exam time is a tough time for parents. It’s rarely an easy period.
Take a breath and do your best, because at the end of the day, that’s all that any of us can do.