How to Help Children Study for Exams

Three Methods:Preparing for a Specific Exam (or Set of Exams)Forming Good Study HabitsCreating a Stress-free Environment

Success in school is fortified at home. You can encourage a child to succeed in their scholastic duties by helping them study for exams. Whether you a preparing for a specific exam, or creating good study habits overall, your support can make a huge difference in a child’s ability to do well. Additionally, helping to create a stress-free environment at home will do wonders for a child’s capacity to study and thrive in school.

Method 1
Preparing for a Specific Exam (or Set of Exams)

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    Plan ahead. Look over your child’s schedule or syllabus at the beginning of the term, and make a note of important exam dates. At least 2-3 weeks prior to any major exam, talk to your child and make sure that they know what the test is going to be on. Have them communicate with their teacher and bring home any study guides or other study materials. Once you know what the test (or tests) will cover, you can formulate a plan together.[1]
    • Write important exam dates on your family calendar at home.
    • Teach your child to use a planner, and to keep track of important assignments, exams, and other dates.
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    Work out a timetable for each subject. Break down everything you need to know for the test (or tests) and create a timetable for your review. This is particularly crucial if you will be preparing for multiple exams at the same time (such as finals). For example, if you plan to dedicate one hour per school day to study over the course of two weeks (or ten days total), you can choose to cover one main idea each study day. In the event of multiple exams, you may choose to spend 2 days each on five subjects (e.g., Mondays = Math, Tuesdays = History, and so on).[2]
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    Ensure that your child has all the necessary books, notes, and other materials. For each day that you plan to study, be sure you’re your child brings home anything necessary for the study session to be successful. Examples may include review sheets, textbooks, class notes, or workbooks.[3]
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    Administer practice tests. Work with your child to formulate a practice test for each subject (or use one the teacher has provided). Once you feel that your child is ready, administer the test and grade it. This way, you will know which elements of the material your child has a firm grasp on, and which parts need work.[4]
    • If you have the test prepared early on (or the teacher has provided one), you may consider administering the test near the beginning of the study process, and then again near the end, to see how much your child has improved.
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    Use study tools. Depending on the age of your child, you may want to explore different types of "study tools." This can include things like flashcards, games (like word-find or bingo), or even electronic resources (like computer programs or online games.) Try using a variety of methods until you find something that works for you and your child.
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    Watch for signs of frustration. Studying can be hard work for kids, and that’s OK, however you do not want to push them past their limits. If you child become visible agitated, very frustrated, or seems overwhelmed, it may be time to take a break. You child will learn better if they keep stress levels low.[5]
    • The better you are able to keep calm and communicate with your frustrated child, the better you can help them move through it.
    • Try asking them what they find so difficult about this task. If they are able to isolate a problem, you may be able to help them more effectively.

Method 2
Forming Good Study Habits

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    Set a regular time to study each day. Good habits form when you stick to a routine. Rather than waiting until an important exam is approaching, form good study habits early on. Begin by setting a regular time to study with your child each day. Even if you only work for twenty minutes at a time, this will be quality time spent with your kid, this will aid to their success in school, and this will set up a positive pattern so that when exam time rolls around, you are ready.[6]
    • You will need to discuss this with your child and explain to them what the plan will be.
    • You might say, "We need to select a regular time to study each day. Would you like to get it out of the way as soon as you get home from school, or wait and accomplish this right after dinner?"
    • Remind them that whatever they choose, you will stick to, and that the two of you will study at the same time each day.
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    Determine how long you will study for. While high school students should be able to study for an hour or more, first-graders can only focus for 15-20 minutes at a time. Consider your child’s level of development and attention span, and set a goal for how long you will study during each session.[7]
    • Once again, you will need to explain this to your child.
    • You might say, "“Sally, it’s 5:00 p.m. right now. We’re going to study for 20 minutes. How does that sound?"
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    Study in the same place. Another element of solidifying good study habits involves studying in the same place each day. This should be location that is (relatively) free from distraction, and that is a comfortable place to stay for a while. Once you are used to this habit, simply moving into your "study space," will get you in the mood to study and learn![8]
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    Encourage independent study. Studying with your child is an excellent way for you to understand what they are learning, spend quality time with your child, and help ensure their success in school. However, it is also important for you to encourage some independent study time. Encouraging your child to spend some time studying on their own (in addition to your study time together, not instead) will enable them to determine what study methods work best for them.
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    Take regular breaks. Another important habit to get into is to study when it is time to study, and rest when it is time to rest. This can be easily achieved if you schedule regular breaks into your study session. For example (for an older child), you may consider working for 45 minutes and then taking a 15 minute break.[9]
    • During your break you can use the restroom, grab a snack, check your phone, or go for a walk around the block!
    • The idea is to do whatever you need to do to be happy and comfortable, so that you can return to work for another session.

Method 3
Creating a Stress-free Environment

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    Provide healthy snacks. An important aspect of academic success is good nutrition. Children cannot study effectively if they are hungry, or if they only eat unhealthy snacks. Set your child up for study success by making healthy snacks available.[10]
    • Good choices include hummus and carrots, peanut butter and apples, and popsicles made from 100% juice.
    • Be sure your child stays hydrated! Provide lots of water to drink.
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    Turn off the TV. Kids will study much more effectively if they can focus on one thing at a time. As a result, it is crucial to avoid as many distractions as you can. Perhaps the number one distraction to avoid is television during your study time. Go ahead and turn it off. Even leaving the TV on in the background will limit both you and your child’s ability to focus.[11]
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    Communicate with your family. Whenever your child has a big exam coming up (or especially if it is multiple exams), it is a good idea to let all members of the family know. This way, everyone can be supportive, and try not to create additional stress for that child.[12]
    • For instance, you might say to your other children, "Alex has his exams this week, so I really need your help making him feel supported. Let's cut him a little slack this week, OK?"
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    Try to ensure a good night’s sleep. Sleep is absolutely crucial for exam success. At least one week prior to the exam, be sure that your child gets at least 8 hours of rest each night. Of course, this is particularly important on the night preceding the exam.[13]
    • If your child does not have a regular bedtime, consider establishing one.
    • Likewise, it is important for healthy sleep cycles to wake up at the same time each day, too!
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    Avoid bribery. You may be tempted to bribe your child into studying or doing well on a test. This method should be avoided, however, because it sets up a false system of external rewards. You want your child to study and do well in school for the intrinsic value of doing well, not for the candy or money you will give them. If the work for intrinsic value, this will ensure greater academic success over time.[14]
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    Be patient with your child. Of course, no matter which methods you choose, you should always practice patience when studying with your child. When you are calm and patient, it will help your child to cope when they become frustrated, and ultimately to study more effectively.
    • Instead of becoming angry when your child does not want to work, try offering solutions.
    • You might say, "How about if we set the timer for 20 minutes and just do our best to study until the timer goes off?"
    • You might say, "I noticed you're getting a lot of these wrong. Why don't we give the quiz a break for today and look at flashcards instead?"

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Categories: Tests and Exams