When Should You Start Preparing for Exams?
Although a small percentage of students thrive on last minute ‘cramming’, your child is definitely better off being well-prepared in advance for the exams.
Is there a correct time to start studying? “Practice makes perfect” is a saying we all know well, and I think for most of us, those are words that ring true. Some students can survive off last minute studying, but most of us aren’t able to do so. We need to give ourselves enough time to study, and you need to plan this in advance for your child.
As to how much time, that will depend on the age or grade of your child. I have found that a month prior to exams works well for grade 4’s. But, how to get started?
How to get started?
The best place to start is to determine what type of learner your child is. Often, parents don’t understand how their child learns or know how best to help them. You can’t assume that your child learns the same way you do. You need to determine whether your child is a visual learner (learn through seeing), an auditory learner (learn through listening) or a kinaesthetic learner (learn through moving, doing, touching – experiencing). Or perhaps your child is a combination of two. There are very effective tests online to determine this.
Once you’ve determined what type of learner your child is, dig further to find out what study techniques best suit their learning style. Here are a few suggestions …
- Make mind maps
- Use cue cards
- Take notes and summarise material
- Use highlighters and coloured pens to summarise
- Repeat facts with eyes closed
- Record notes after writing them
- Repeat things orally
- Tell someone what has been learnt
- Study in short blocks
- Pace while learning
- Write lists repeatedly
- Use flashcards to memorise
Also remember to try different study techniques (from the examples – a combination may be needed) to see what works for your child during exam preparation.
Schedule time to cover each subject
Next, take the exam timetable and write down how many exams there are (the subjects) and the content of these exams.
Let’s use the subject History as an example:
- What is History?
- What makes a good leader?
- Nelson Mandela: A good leader and timeline
- Nelson Mandela – research page
- Mohandas Gandhi – research page
- Mahatma Gandhi – information and timeline
- What can we learn from Mandela and Gandhi?
Once this is completed, spread the breakdown over the month period (or period of your choice) before the exams actually commence. This can be done effectively by using a grid or calendar of the time frame required. Always remember you may want to give some subjects more study time than others. You’ll have to find a balance that your child feels comfortable with and that suits them best.
Exam preparation – how to test your child’s knowledge?
It is also important to remember that, even if you feel your child is independent enough to study alone, you must still step in and revise with them often. This will help break up their study time and help you to monitor how they are coping and what they are accomplishing.
- Practice old exam papers (try WorksheetCloud!) – this helps to get your child’s eye focused on the format of questions.
- Make up tests based on content in their textbooks and workbooks (again, try WorksheetCloud!) – this can also help relieve anxiety and boost your child’s confidence.
- Ask questions verbally – your child must explain their answers
- Get different people to ask – people think differently, so good exposure to different questioning techniques
You might want to try WorksheetCloud as it will save you time with making up tests and finding old exam papers. Everything is created for you and your child can start practising for class tests and exams immediately, all based on the CAPS curriculum.
Study skills tips
Here are the 11 Important Study Tips you should know …
- Determine what type of learner your child is.
- Find a study method that suits your child.
- Provide a space to study.
- Organise work before starting to study.
- Set a study time span.
- Create a timetable.
- Teach how to make sacrifices.
- Be prepared to make your own sacrifices.
- Empower your child.
- Remember that each child is different.
- Your child needs YOU.
Other ways to enhance effective studying
- Snack on ‘brain food’ – fish, nuts, seeds, yoghurt and blueberries. This impacts positively on energy levels, aids concentration and memory.
- Drink water
- Get sufficient sleep (read our post on healthy eating and sleeping during exam time)
Your child’s desire to do well is strongly determined by your attitude towards exams and studying. By actively being involved in your child’s schooling from an early age you can demonstrate the importance of studying. As your child learns to work independently you can gradually remove yourself, but continue to provide support by revising with them and supplying wholesome snacks.
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