It’s that time of year again, exam time, eeeeeek!

If you’re a high school teacher, your undeniably excited for all the marking, report card comments and short deadlines headed your way. On the other hand, if you’re a parent to a high school student, you’re probably dreading this time of year. I mean, the sleepless nights, anxiety and stress, headed you’re child’s way, what is there to love? Either way, no matter which of the two you identify with, or both, this doesn’t quite scream “happy home” if you know what I mean.

Let’s talk about some ways to help our overly anxious teens during this time of year. For some of you, this is not your first rodeo. You have already been there, done that, and your teen has given you fair warning to “stay away” during exam time. Well, don’t run away just yet, this post might still be for you. As a well-educated teacher and mom, I’m here with both some hands-on and hands-off support techniques just for you.

Lets begin with the ..

Hands – On Exam Preparation Techniques for Parents

Being hands on during exam time can have its pros and cons. Pros are well, all the awesome things it will do for your teen mentally as they prepare for their upcoming exam. Cons are, quite frankly the time requirement of us parents after a long day of work. I mean, we already did all that work from 9 – 5, what do you mean I have to come home to do more work? I’ll be honest for the next week my best advice to you is suck it up, butter cup!

  1. Get them to teach you

    • The scientific evidence behind “learning through teaching” is literally overwhelming check it out for yourself. When we teach others, we access the information through a different part of the brain. This essentially helps us to not only better understand the material, but also retain the information! Try it, believe me it works!
  2. Prepare a 5 question exam

    • A lot of the time, students have all this information just sitting in their head. The biggest road block while studying is often “what kind of questions will my teacher ask of me?”. Well, one of the best ways to get your teen thinking about the answer to this question, is by you role playing “the teacher”. This sounds difficult, but it’s fairly easy. All you will need to do is take a 5 minute look at your child’s note book and start thinking of questions. Doing this verbally is easy but, feel free to write them down. Afterwards, get them to answer in the space below, similar to what they will need to do on an exam. A rule of thumb is, easy questions typically start with, what, where and who. Where as, more challenging questions start with how and why. If you are really comfortable with the material, throw in a what if, to shake things up!
  3. Read to them

    • This can prove to be life changing if your child happens to fall within the 30% of youth in Ontario who identify as auditory learners. Auditory learners often benefit from oral discussion, presentations and in some cases, have trouble with written instruction. If your child has no idea what type of learner they are, I have the answer. Have them complete a quick online test, and viola! There are tons of learning style tests out there. Here are some of the ones that came up on my initial search, Education Planner, Chegg Play , and Quizony . Knowing what type of learner your child is, can make a huge difference when studying for exams. It will help them identify the best studying techniques, specifically for them.
  4. Watch videos with them on YouTube

    • YouTube has become the holy grail for students who are visual learners. Now that you have probably got your child to complete one of the quizzes I mentioned in number 3, if they are visual, YouTube can be a powerful tool. The only flaw is in some cases, students can misinterpret videos or get even more confused than they were originally. In some cases, not all, it’s a good idea to actually watch a video or two with your child. Then, compare what you both understood from the video in the end. This trick will help students take their time when watching videos and even encourage them to take notes to avoid getting the wrong message. Personally speaking, in the past, I have asked my son’s teacher to recommend good videos. Believe me when I say, there are some bad ones out there so, beware!
  5. Mark a Practice Exam

    • Alright, its time for honesty 101, we teachers have a lot on our plates and sometimes, online resources can become our best friend. This ultimately means it can be for you too. If you are looking for practice tests for math or science there are some great ones online for example, through A lot of their quizzes are based on the Ontario curriculum but most of their questions are fairly easy. If you are looking for a real challenge for your teen, actually search for the grade, subject “exam with answers”. You are guaranteed to find a bunch of exams posted by real teachers. That way you can print our the exam, have your child complete it, then mark it using the answer key.
  6. Hands – Off Exam Preparation Techniques for Parents

    • Or as I like to call it, “the indirect approach” to helping your teen through exam time. Alright so, if you’re like me you have a teen at home who comes home, shuts their bedroom door and only comes out of hibernation to eat, pee and poop haha! I know this sounds bizarre, but I say this first one with all seriousness
  7. Remind them to bathe

    • Some of you know exactly where I’m coming from. Your child is hungry for that mark and they are on a serious grind. So much so they forget all things hygiene. Sometimes you can hint at this by shooting their room with the good ole can of Febreze every so often or just straight up yelling “Damien, go bathe!” For me, it just depends on how I’m feeling. On the odd occasion I might hit them with a subliminal “what is that smell?” when they enter the room. Which ever one you decide to go with, take it from me, they work!
  8. Keep them hydrated

    • This one is not as obvious because you really have to pay close attention to your teen and their behaviour around liquids. This one was an easy one for me because my teen loves his smoothies every morning. Not only that but he will easily go through 2 -3 bottles of water each day. When exams creeped up. I noticed a significant drop in the empty bottles of water I saw in the recycling bin. I’d use this as an excuse to pop my head in and offer a bottle or two throughout the day. I also went even further and started making his smoothies for him in the morning, just so he wouldn’t have to. Speaking of liquids, lets not forget solids.

    • Again, it seems like an obvious one but you would be surprized how many teens eat less when studying for a major assessment. The science behind this suggests that when we are anxious or put in a situations that trigger anxiety, we release a hormone which evokes the “fight or flight response”. This hormone has been shown to reduce appetite. Odly enough, research has also shown the opposite where, stress related hormones can actually increase food cravings. This can lead to, what is often referred to as, stress eating. You can read all about it here.
  9. Encourage productive breaks

    •   Study breaks have been proven time and time again, to be a critical component to effective studying habits. The news I have for you is that research shows that “productive breaks” are more favorable than those that are not. Ok, what does a productive break look like? Well, instead of let’s say, playing video games or watching tv for an hour or two in between studying, suggest they clean their room, organize a book shelf or play a more thought provoking game. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself.
  10. Remind them it will be ok!

    • In this day and age, a lot of teens, especially those in, or entering grade 11 and 12, have one thing on their mind, UNIVERSITY ACCEPTANCES. It’s sad reality that our teens are up against the unbearable pressure of maintaining 90+ averages while being involved in 100 different clubs and clubs. Ok, I might be exaggerating but gone are the days where teens could focus on getting good marks and being, well, a teen. Outside of all of this, its important we remind them that it’s ok they don’t get the 90 and you will still be proud of them no matter what.

Preparing for exams are not always fun but they are a must to the average high school goer. No matter which approach you decide to take, in the end its important that you play some type of role in your child’s exam preparation as they will be reassured not only that you care, but that they can blame it all on you when they fail!

Until next time,

Ms. P