These pages provide information and timetables about internal and external (NZQA/NCEA) examinations for both junior and senior students.
Helping Your Child with Exam Revision
The best help you can give your child is by being encouraging, providing healthy refreshments and keeping the house quiet and peaceful. Well before exams, it is useful to sit down and agree on some ground-rules and strategies.
- Be organised. Have a revision timetable. Write down the dates and times of the exams. With your child, work out what needs to be done and by when, and draw up a timetable. Don’t let them leave the difficult subjects until the last minute.
- Target specific topics in the revision timetable, not whole subjects.
- There is no correct revision method. Find the way to revise that works best.
- Make sure your child has a quiet space for revision. If there isn’t one at home, ask at your school or try the local library.
- Help your children work out when they are at their brightest and most alert – morning or evening – and adapt the revision timetable to suit them by placing their most challenging topics at their optimum times for study.
- Most people have an energy low after lunch, so suggest that they go for a walk then or relax away from their books. The optimum time to revise is after a break.
- Forty minutes is about as long as a child can concentrate in one stretch. The brain’s ability to concentrate drops after 35 to 40 minutes so it’s best to take a break at that point for five or ten minutes. The brain maximises beginnings and endings but not the middle, so this method effectively minimises that period. They can take a break for a drink and a snack like fruit or nuts. Be warned that if the break involves television or computer games, it can be hard to get started again.
- Remind them that just staring at notes doesn’t mean anything is going in. They need to use strategies to ensure the material is being absorbed – writing it down, repeating it aloud, testing themselves.
- Revise exam technique, using past papers. Every question should be attempted and the answer planned out before starting to write. Keep jotted notes to hand as a crib sheet.
- Don’t interrupt revision if it is going well, even for a family outing. If there is an important event coming up, factor it into the revision timetable but even teenagers have to accept that sometimes they must miss out.
- Accept that children who are worried about exams will tend to be grumpy. Remind them about stress-reduction techniques like exercise and calm breathing and make sure they are eating nutritious meals and drinking enough water. Reassure them that you value their efforts more than perfect results.
- On the morning of an exam, avoid wishing them, “good luck”. Talk of luck can raise anxiety levels. School exams are not a lottery, they are an appraisal of information already learned. Instead, say: “I hope everything goes well.”
Acknowledgement: The Student’s Guide to Exam Success by Eileen Tracy, Open University Press (2006).