Article by Bradley Busch
For many parents up and down the country, the exam season brings with it anxieties, frustration and late night tears. Often that’s the case for the parents themselves, as well as their students. Fortunately, advice is on hand on how to help you survive and your child thrive over the coming weeks.
Father of two and founder of study skills company InnerDrive, Edward Watson, 55, says “exams can be stressful for everyone. We now know more than ever about what parents can do to better equip their children and also reduce their own stress levels”. So, what 3 things do you need to know to survive the exam season?
Make Sure You Know What Revision Techniques Work
Research has consistently demonstrated that ‘little and often’ is far more effective than ‘a lot all at once’. Doing 1 hour of revision a day for 8 days is far more effective than eight hours in one day’. However, given the choice many students will opt to leave everything to the last minute. The best things parent can do is to provide structure and agree mini-deadlines so as to help the students believe the task is manageable and achievable.
Another effective revision strategies is called the ‘Testing Effect’. This describes how having to answer a question improves your memory. This can take the form of quizzes, multiple choice tests, past papers or simply answering a question about what you’ve learnt round the dinner table. This is one of the best ways to learn. In fact, researchers have described this as “more beneficial for learning than restudying and all other comparison tests”. This is because it forces students to think about what they’ve been studying and allows them to check for any gaps in their knowledge.
2. Make Sure You Know What Revision Techniques Don’t Work: Turn Off Mobile Phones
Despite being arguably the most popular revision weapon of choice, there is little evidence that highlighting helps improve memory. This is because it can be done on auto-pilot and doesn’t force students to think deeply about what they are reading. It also doesn’t help students make connections to previously learnt material. The biggest mistake students do with highlighters is to over-use them, with too many different colours and too much content highlighted results in little being remembered.
Another commonly used but sadly ineffective technique is to revise listening to music. Music can help motivate people (this is why people listen to music on the treadmill at the gym) and it can improve your mood (listening to your favourite song usually makes people smile). But does it help revision? The idea that listening to Mozart will make your child smarter is one of the oldest myths in psychology. Studies have shown that people who revise listening to music recall less than those who revised in quiet environments. This is because music can be distracting. If the songs students listen to get ‘stuck in their head’, it is unlikely that their revision will as well.
Make Sure You and Your Child Are Refuelling
There are three things everyone, both parents and children, need to do each day to look after themselves. These are eating breakfast, getting some fresh air and getting a good nights sleep. It is important that during the exam time, you look after yourself as well as them. If you are running on empty, then it is likely that you will be more stressed and irritated. As they say on aeroplanes, it is important to attach your life vest first, as that will help you to look after your child more effectively.
Eating breakfast is so important as the gap between your last meal the night before and the first one of the day is the longest the body goes without refuelling. Eating breakfast has been found to improve concentration, memory, mental health and daily energy. Simply having a bowl of cereal at the start of the day will give students the boost they need.
Likewise, A recent report found that children spend around 50% less time outside than their parents did at the same age. Spending time outside is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress levels. Students who get fresh air report feeling happier and more focused later in the day.
Finally, the importance of sleep should be underestimated. The National Sleep Foundation recommend GCSE and Sixth Form Students need up to 10 hours a night. However, many teenagers are not getting anywhere near this, with many reporting that they sleep for less than 7 hours a night. Sleep can be a powerful weapon during revision time, as a regular night’s sleep will help improve your child’s memory, concentration, ability to handle stress, creativity, decision making and immune system. You can help your child gain these benefits by avoiding common sleep mistakes such as irregular bedtimes, late night use of electronics and staying up all night doing last minute cramming.
Revision and exams are never going to be a break in Center Parcs. There is a good chance your child will be snappier than a Venus Flytrap. By knowing what revision techniques do and don’t work, you that save your child a lot of time, energy and effort. By ensuring that everyone looks after their mental health means that stressful sleepless nights and floods of tears may be a thing of the anxieties, frustration and late night tears may be a thing of the past.
Release Your Inner Drive is available now on Amazon.co.uk. The authors Bradley Busch and Edward Watson are experienced coaches who have worked with premier league footballers and elite athletes who achieved medals at London 2012 and Rio 2016 and over 200 schools. www.innerdrive.co.uk