Parents: arm yourself with this handy advice about school tests, exam tips and more from the teachers and students in the know.
Ever have that recurring nightmare where you walk into an examination hall for a test you haven’t studied for? It’s been quite a while since we last sat a test but, decades later, those nervous feelings are all too familiar. So take a moment to think about many of our teens and tweens, for who exams are on the horizon. Eeek! It can be an anxious occasion for sure, so how can us parents support and guide them through these testing times? These expert study tips on how to score well in exams are a good place to start…
How to score well in exams
#1 / / It’s all about time management
Who better to ask for exam tips than a student! Here, Grade 12 student Sarah Chee from St. Joseph’s Institution International shares her tips for how to score well in exams. Talk these through with your own child to help them gear up for upcoming examinations.
Look at mark allocation
Exams are as much of a test of time management as they are a test of knowledge and understanding. There have been a few times where I’ve lost marks not because I didn’t know the answer to a question, but because I ran out of time. Here are some exam tips I’ve learned along the way!
For many tests, mark allocations are a good indication of how much time you should spend on each question. For example, if a question is three marks, spend no more than three to four minutes on it. The trickier questions often come at the end, so it’s important to have enough time for those! Personally, I do the long questions first before the short ones – they’re worth the most marks and I don’t want to risk not having enough time.
Come back to tough questions
If you end up getting stuck on tough questions, don’t panic. Just circle the question and move on. Tackle what you’re able to answer first and come back to the harder ones later. This way, you won’t lose unnecessary marks from questions that you could have answered. For essay-based exams such as English or humanities, don’t discount planning time! Make sure you’re clear in your organisation of ideas before you start writing. You could even allocate your time based on paragraphs – such as 10 minutes each – to ensure you cover all your points.
Practise past papers
Overall, the best way to improve time management during an exam is to practise, practise and practise! Practise completing a full past paper or writing a complete essay in the allocated time. It’ll give you a sense of where you might need to speed up or where you can afford to spend more time. Then, once you’re in the exam, you’ll be comfortable with how you want to split your time accordingly.
#2 / / Exam tips: effective revising is vital
At Canadian International School (CIS), the teachers pride themselves on encouraging revision as a regular habit for learning, and not just before an exam. But how can your kids revise effectively and hopefully score well in exams as a result? John Kernis, CIS secondary school vice principal, shares his study tips.
Create a revision schedule
We recommend students use techniques like the Pomodoro method, which is where you use timers to study for a specified and uninterrupted period of time. This is then followed by a specified period of break time so, for example, 25 for study, 5 minutes for break, then repeat. Studies show it is difficult for students to focus effectively for much longer than this amount of time without a short break.
Plan to review material (not for the first time!) the night before an exam and right before going to bed. It’s one of the best ways to remember what you have studied or read. And avoid cramming – distributing learning over time instead of in one go is much more effective. It’s also a good idea to find ways to step away from work (like a walk or a run), and let the thinking unravel itself in the background.
Revision is a unique journey
At CIS, teachers and advisors work closely with students to help them develop personalised revision techniques that work best for the student as and when needed. In addition, we encourage students to always connect with their teachers – to ask questions they can’t resolve themselves and to close any learning gaps they have through additional, personalised guidance.
#3 / / How to prepare for exams: the lead-up
It’s not just about how well you perform on the day of the test itself. Here, Jason Shulman, head of teaching and learning at SMMIS, shares advice on the preparation stages.
Study tips: nail those notes
Effective and purposeful preparation for the assessment are paramount. Simply put, students should:
- Prepare good study notes from the course materials
- Organise the notes based on the course themes, units of work etc
- Start to independently identify the type of material you might need to spend more time on, focusing on the concepts or theories, processes, equations, data etc.
- And finally, summarise content using visual organisers, including study charts, tree diagrams, concept maps, reference or equation sheets.
Consider study groups
Through a collaborative approach at SMMIS, students can work together to prepare for their exams/summative assessment tasks. Rather than preparing independently from one another, study groups are an excellent way for students to compare class notes, discuss important areas and teach each other different ways of consolidating important knowledge.
In a group situation, there are lots of opportunities for peers to motivate and emotionally support one another. These study groups also help promote critical- and creative-thinking opportunities, as new questions develop through all the discussions.
Focus on your wellbeing
On the days leading up to the exam, it’s important to focus on emotional wellbeing. For some students, exams can be an anxiety-provoking experience. At SMMIS, we give students a heartfelt and purposeful preparatory regime that focuses on positivity, mindfulness and staying healthy. Students are strongly encouraged to have sufficient sleep, to eat well, stay hydrated, exercise, seek some solace away from their studies, and meditate or relax.
Importantly, don’t stress. The exam doesn’t define their final grade, nor does it necessarily reflect the hard work they’ve consistently put into their studies throughout the semester. It’s vitally important students undertake the exam with a healthy state of mind so that they can do their very best.
A big thank to all of our contributors who assisted with this article on how to score well in exams. For more information on the schools, click on their profiles below.