Preparing your child for their mock exams
Preparing your child for their mock exams
When thinking back to my school days, they seem like a blur. I don't remember much about my exams except my grades and the feeling of dread when my friends were saying what they got for Question 4 and I knew my answer was nothing like that. But that was then, and then was a long time ago. It's now 2017 and things are very different—or so I have been told by my 15-year-old daughter.
I've tried to look at what has really changed with regards to kids and preparing for their mock exams and I can't see much difference.
Class sizes are much bigger, which can't be a good thing. The kids seem to get more homework, which seems like a good thing to me—not that my daughter agrees. There also seems to be a lot more before-school classes, which her school calls “enrichment.”
Anyway, back to the subject at hand. With my daughter’s GCSE options picked (options are the subjects you are going to pick to study for your exams, excluding core subjects), it was now time to prepare for her mock exams. GCSE options were chosen at the end of Year 10. The start of Year 11 is the beginning of every child's future. They can generally change their options if they have discovered over the summer holiday that they picked the wrong subjects.
Step 1 - What do you know:
The first thing to make sure of is that your child understands the subjects they have picked. Some of these subjects may be totally new to them, like business studies. Hopefully you would have already advised them on these new subjects.
As a parent you need to know your strengths and weaknesses in their chosen subjects. Understand how capable your child is in each subject so you know where your help will be needed.
Some kids fail because they don't work hard enough or they have picked subjects that were outside of their scope or ability. But some kids also fail because their parents fail to plan for this time in their child's life. If you know that your child is not good at maths and you are not good at maths, find a tutor. If you can't afford a tutor, that is fine as these are not cheap; instead, go online to one of the many maths sites.
If you are not sure which sites to go to, speak to your child’s school tutor or teacher. Teachers hold a wealth of information and they have sites that they think will do the job for their kids. Get ahead of the game. Keep the dialogue open with their teachers as teachers love parents that show interest in their child's education.
Step 2 - Plan their summer holidays.
Another thing you should consider doing is using the summer before Year 11 to go over their core subjects that they may be struggling with. This is something I would recommend you get them into the habit of doing from Year 7. It will save you the stress (moaning) of starting to try to do this in Year 11.
Their end-of-year school report will give you an indication of what subjects they are struggling with. There are many books online or in the stores that cover Year 10 classes. If you can't afford these, speak to their teachers and see if there are any summer classes or free activities that your child can attend. Don't be shy—if you have a friend or a work colleague that is better than you at any of their core subjects, ask for their assistance. Just be honest, tell them that you are not great at these subjects, and that they are struggling. Hopefully they will do it out of kindness. Tell them you have looked at tutors but you just can't afford them. But also tell them you understand if they can't help as you will figure something out … and you will.
If your house is full of younger and older kids, take everyone (including the older ones) out to the park or somewhere close that does not cost money to allow your child some quiet time to do their work. If this is not possible, then send your child to the library. Remember, you can go as well and just sit with them. Even if you don't understand what they are studying, show you have an interest in what they are doing. These are the things you need to do in the summer.
I know what you are thinking—they will hate you for making them spend their summer studying. I am not suggesting that at all. Pick three days a week for an hour or two of studying. This is just to keep their brain active and help where they are struggling. When they protest, remind them that the other option is to stay indoors and study all day, every day of their holiday. What you are doing is allowing them some free time. The earlier they get up and do their work, the sooner they can have their summer time back.
Step 3 - Prepare them mentally and emotionally.
When school is back in session, your child will be prepared for the new academic year. Their brain did not switch off for 100% of the school holidays. You started them on the right road to success, but this is just the beginning. Now school has started, their teachers will constantly remind them how important this year is. This will probably stress some kids out as the constant reminder of their impending exams can become very frightening. Talk to them. Alleviate their concerns with words of encouragement. Tell them, “Don't worry about what the teachers are saying; you know exactly when your exams are.” Tell them to focus on what they need to do to achieve the grades they are trying to achieve.
Remind them that the real exams are a long way away. The mocks are what you need to focus on. It doesn't matter how good or bad you do in your mocks. These are designed to help and show you what areas you still need to work on. This should hopefully help them relax about the real thing.
Being prepared is not just about how much work they do or you can get them to do. It’s also about their state of mind. How stressed they feel, how alone they feel or how pressured they feel. Kids don't express things the same way we do as parents. Look for the signs. Not eating, Not sleeping. Not talking. You know your child better than anyone. Keep an eye on them. They need you more than ever now.
Step 4 - Plan their school schedule for homework and revision.
Help them plan a schedule of studies now that the new term has started. They should be in the habit of doing their homework as soon as they get it. By this I mean, as soon as they get home, they start their homework. It does not matter that the work is not due for a week - get it done now. If they are not in the habit of doing their homework as they get it, then it is important to get them into this habit as soon as the new term starts. They will have lots of homework and revision to do, so help them to be more organised. Don't let the homework pile up; reduce the number of their extra-curricular activities. DO NOT remove all extra-curricular activities because they need the break from their studies. If they have no activities, then insist on breaks. Take them for a walk or go to a coffee shop and talk about non-school stuff. Have a laugh—they will need it.
This new schedule that you are helping them plan should include homework and revision. It should include breaks, but remember, this schedule will change as time gets closer to their mock exams.
Step 5 - Be prepared for your final teacher - parent meeting.
There will be a parent evening to allow you to ask questions. Make sure you ask questions, such as the following:
. Is there anything else they can be doing to help them prepare for their mock exams?
. Are there any websites they should be using?
. Are they currently sitting where you expect them to be sitting?
. Is there anything I should be doing?
As the date of the mock exams approaches, they will begin to feel stressed even more than normal. There are some kids (if you are lucky) who don't mind studying and revising, but even these kids experience stress. Force them to take a break. Go out and buy or order online their favourite food. Then sit down and chat with them while they eat. Laugh and joke with them. When you can see that they are getting uncomfortable (probably about 30–45 minutes in) because you are taking up their precious time that they could be using to study, hug them and tell them you love them. Give them a tight squeeze and then let them go. It’s the little things that matter.
Step 6 - Praise before, during and after.
Whatever you do in your life, always remember to tell them you will be proud no matter what.
I have always told my daughter, “As long as you try your best, I will always be proud of you.” Every time she comes home with grades, my first question is always the same: “Did you try your best?” When she says yes, as this is what I was expecting, I tell her to show me her grades. Then we discuss her grades.
You want your child to enter the exams as stress-free as possible, so don't heap your worries about their exams on their shoulders. Remember, it’s their mock. They have time to improve. Simply encourage, encourage and encourage. We all want our kids to do well, but making them feel stress will not help. Knowing that you will still love them regardless of their grades will help. I am by no means saying you should accept failure or unwillingness to try.
Simple words like, “You will do well,” “Don't worry,” “It will be OK,” “Come here and let me give you a hug,” and finally, “I love you” go a long way. A “Go and kick that paper’s butt” won't go amiss.
Remember, your child's success is your success, so do what you can to help them deal with their mock exam preparation.
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