image001By Brad Wilmot, devoted dad to a 7 yr old maths whizz, collects vintage cars and can’t sit still. He is also a passionate life coach, an academic coach for young adults, an education specialist, author and guest lecturer. Visit Brad Wilmot Life & Academic Coach

Around the country students are running critically short of time to learn all they need to ahead of the exams. Moms may well be anxious and taking on a helicopter approach to guide their child through the exams, and anxiety is very quickly becoming the order of the day. My advice at this time of the year is: keep it practical and uncomplicated.

Tip 1 Lose the general ‘buzzwords’!

Words or expressions such as ‘studying’, ‘going over’, ‘revision’, ‘mental block’ and even ‘working hard’ are ineffective.  If any student says “I have been studying all afternoon”, they haven’t been! Rather encourage them to be more practical and specific  about what they have done i.e. “I have summarized four chapters”, or “I have been reading the chapter”, or “I am practicing questions” etc. This self-spoken language will change a student’s approach to each learning opportunity, and reduce the mountain of work to a beneficial learning activity.

Tip 2 – Highlighters and reading!

Highlighters commonly dominate reading and learning activities. If you are going to use a highlighter, use it sparingly on key child-studying-hardpoints. Any plan to use many colours – pens or highlighters – can be improved by giving each colour a purpose, i.e. orange is reserved for key points and green is for numbers.  A select method of highlighting gives a student more control over their comprehension and their writing technique. Try not to over-colour and over-highlight – extract the key points from textbooks and exam papers that will allow you to structure your answers.

Tip 3 – Plan backwards!

Oh, the lists, the lists! We are all list and task orientated people by nature, but exam performance requires a different planning technique: planning backwards.  Start planning from the actual day of the exam, and think backwards to the present. Include personal time (sleep, meals, personal hygiene etc.), and also include any social or sport engagements. What is left, are the number of hours to learn for the exam! Students place enormous pressure on themselves when they are chasing topics on a list. Backward planning gives them the opportunity to look at how much time they have before the exam, and most importantly, to then decide which learning techniquesto use.

Tip 4 – Organizational learning!

Organizational learning suggests that at the end of each learning period, a student organizes themselves. Re-filing, re-planning, re-capping and packing away what they have been learning. This is a form of closure and we believe the rudimentary message the brain receives during organizational learning matches the person’s activity, i.e. tidy, sort, file, rank, prioritize and store. Students who go into examinations without any form of closure to their learning opportunities tend to have an overloaded short-term memory.

Tip 5 – b+!

Education can be very negative; the work not learnt, the time wasted, the marks needed and even the very destructive habit over-achieving students have, when they criticize themselves for lack of performance. I encourage all students to keep a record card of sorts with them, and with a line drawn down the middle, to note both positive learning experiences or past papers which went well, and then, using backward planning, to note in the other column the remaining learning challenges at hand.

Importantly, the student holds the pen, therefore the better a student approaches an exam, the better the performance will be.

There are many other life and academic skills which can be learnt and applied, but my experience tells most of these are relevant right now. I encourage all students to see their potential, acknowledge their strengths, trust themselves at the end of a year of learning, disregard the opinions of peers, and to approach each examination knowing it is a stepping stone to their incredible future.

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