carol cuthbertBy Carol Cuthbert, mother of 2 teenage boys, avid reader, Co-Director of Kip McGrath Education Centre Kloof, KZN and a teacher with lots of heart.

Studying and writing exams or tests is common to all children these days in South Africa. As parents we want our children to do well but often don’t know where to start. Here are some practical tips to help your child to study more successfully.

1. Set realistic, achievable goals 
Guide your child to set goals that he feels he can achieve. If he is currently getting 50% for Maths, a goal of 60% is realistic. Once achieved and maintained steadily it can be adjusted. Goals that are too high breed discouragement and frustration.

2. Organise a study spot 
Set up a dedicated study spot together. Equip it with good lighting, a comfortable chair and enough stationery.  Avoid studying on the bed or in front of the TV!

3. Music?
Many people learn better with background music. Experiment to see if this benefits your child or not. Loud, strident music is not recommended, but rather melodic music-such as Mozart and the Beatles. Allow your child to have some say in this.

4. Study timetable 
Break the material up into “”bite-sized “chunks. Do this together and ensure it is manageable.

Don’t overload the child. Monitor their progress regularly and make adjustments as you go along.

Credit: metrokids.com

Credit: metrokids.com

5. Tackle the material!
Make the study material more manageable. Reading it through a few times is not going to make it stick.

i. Ensure that the work is understood. Then help your child to pick out the key points and to define concepts.

ii. Help him to find more facts about each key point. Turn these into mind maps, flow diagrams, comparison charts, visual diagrams or any suitable format, depending on the nature of the material. Use colour and different fonts…have fun!

Let him learn from these. They should be simpler and more interactive  than the text book or school notes.

iii. After the work has been studied, ask lots of questions to test if the material has been understood and if the child can now use the concepts to explain and elaborate and problem solve. Use of old exam papers can be useful at this stage.

iv. Draw attention to words such as: explain, discuss, why, contrast etc.

6. Praise and encourage!
Keep praising for any positive efforts. Avoid extravagant or monetary rewards but rather think of simple rewards that will please your child and assure him that you are with him in the situation.

7. Exam anxiety
Remind them that they have prepared well. Make them realise that they are loved no matter what the exam result is.

8. Last words
Keep up the encouragement for EFFORT throughout. Find something positive from the experience no matter what the final marks are.

Remember that learning to study is a difficult process and takes time to develop so use each exam session as a new step in the process.

Wishing you a successful exam period!

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