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DS stressed about January entrance exam

(14 Posts)
Laura0806 Tue 01-Jan-13 14:39:34

I think children are under more pressure now than they ever were. When I was at school ( and I was an anxious child as is my dd1)parents didn't worry so much about reading levels and best schools as much as now, it was mainly your local primary or nothing ( some of course did private). I agree though that stress isn't new and we do talk about it more but I think the whole school and education thing is much more prominant and competitive than it used to be. I dont think theres a solution though as the world is competitive , we just have to try and contain our childrens anxiety as much as possible

piggywigwig Mon 31-Dec-12 18:00:21

I felt stress when sitting tests at a very early age, I can vividly remember spelling tests at infant school shock I can also recall the worry over homework projects in junior school. I certainly felt it when I took the 11+ well over 30 years ago. I was an academic high-flyer and put pressure on myself to achieve. I can identify with OP's DS and my own DD2. I'm not convinced that stress in children is such a new thing, it may be that we just didn't talk about it very much then.
Over the years, I've had to accept that I get terribly stressed-out over exams and tests. What I've learned, is that it's important to accept and embrace it, if you like and explore ways of trying to get round that stress and somehow lessen its effects.

Laura0806 Mon 31-Dec-12 17:29:18

gosh it really is terrible that children so young feel this stress. i remember feeling great stress at 15/16 when doing GCSE's but so young it is just not right!(not parents fault just the system!) I took my very bright DD1 out of private school recently becuse I felt the stress was damaging her childhood and I wanted her to enjoy it while she could. I would keep an eye on the situation, I sometimes wonder if not passing the exam may have some benefits too! and point that out, make sure your child understands that not passing is not the end of the world!

NuclearStandoff Mon 31-Dec-12 17:17:52

Rescue remedy is a great idea.

piggywigwig Mon 31-Dec-12 14:09:20


I feel for you

Whilst I have no experience of entrance exams, I do have experience of two DD's sitting the 11+ for superselective state grammars.

DD2 is very bright indeed and coped easily with the practice papers but quietly suffers from exam stress. I acknowledge that you're doing all the exam technique possible and that he's well-prepared. For some people, this is enough to keep the nerves and stress under check but for others like myself and my DD's, it doesn't work. Reassurance that you're good enough to do very well, doesn't necessarily improve confidence levels either.

We asked DD2 how she'd like to approach the final 2 weeks and she told us that she wanted to take the foot off the pedal a little but still keep a hand-in, otherwise this would make her panic more. wink Having checked the various approaches put forward on the forum we felt we'd give this a go. It worked, although she had the expected "melt-down" on the night before the exam. Perhaps you could ask him what he feels would help? We only did short papers in the final week and sometimes used the Bond 10 minute tests in Maths and English. Doing this ensured that she could finish on time and it boosted her confidence immensely. We stayed away from full papers if possible because we didn't want to risk her "bombing" a paper and thus damage her confidence, so close to the real thing. That's why the Bond 10 minute tests are a godsend

We also used several versions of the Bach Flowers "Rescue Remedy". Whether it had a placebo effect we'll never know but they worked. Three weeks before the exam, we let her try the drops before sitting her practice papers and mocks and she felt they really worked. As long as she felt more confident, then that was what really mattered wink I know they worked for me lol! grin

DD had trouble sleeping the week before the exam and reading poetry to her every night, helped her get off to sleep. Perhaps you could chose a book together that may help him to relax and "switch off"?

Good luck - the last few weeks are the worst - it's hard to maintain that focus and keep the rising panic under check.

LetsEscape Mon 31-Dec-12 13:03:22

We had just the same experience last year so I really feel for you. It's so sad that we have to put our kids through this but in some areas there is little choice.

Our DD has always been a bit unpredictable and scores ranging from 90+% to very average. She came out of the first exam saying she hadn't finished - she was like a rabbit in headlights- she panicked and I quietly did too. I agree with all those that talk about working on exam technique. This is what we did: We went through a few past papers she had done and saw that there were one or two types of question that she wasn't doing right or that she had a very slow technique so we just told her to 'drop and move on' - she came up with the idea of making a big mark so she could spot which ones to come back too. With English timing was key and before each exam we went through time given and what this meant for her essay/comprehension timings. The exams varied in length from school to school so it proved important. It seemed to work. When results day came - she didn't get into the 'easier' school but got into the most academically selective. I think it really helped her that she was doing a handful and had the chance to improve her technique.

She says it really helped her that we told her it was all a lottery and she could just to try her best and maybe it would be her lucky day. This took the pressure off the idea of failing. We also told her, rightly or wrongly, that the exams were designed to spot scholarship children so there could be some really tricky questions embedded so not to panic. I know from my DS that some boys' schools don't intend papers to be finished - especially scholarship papers. We told her to concentrate on 'picking up the easy pebbles' and not give away any marks. When rushing she would get the easy questions wrong and the harder right! The day before each exam we did something nice anything to distract - no work or even mentioning exams.

Laura0806 Mon 31-Dec-12 10:46:34

sounds like you have the right idea to me! good luck with it , let us know how he gets on

NuclearStandoff Mon 31-Dec-12 10:13:16

Thank you all for the excellent advice about exam technique - all this has been drilled in to him already.

I have explained that the reason he is practising now is so that he will find it all goes smoothly on the day.

I am just concerned about how to help a stressed-out 11 year old deal with the stress. I think it is worse at this time of year because it is school holidays and we have been house-bound a lot, due to terrible weather, so I am going to put more effort into distractions and having fun.

LIZS Mon 31-Dec-12 09:40:03

Agree with focussing on exam technique. How many marks are allocated and apportion time according ie if 3 marks then look to make 3 individual points/examples to tick. Many papers are n't expected to be finished so he needs to learn to be less hard on himself. However he should look through the whole paper at the beginning then reread in case the last one is worth substantial marks

Theas18 Mon 31-Dec-12 09:34:28

Technique coaching? He should have this but my top tops would be:

Go over the basics of exam technique.

Timing per section of paper is really useful. If there are 3 elements in a test and all have equal marks then spend 1/3 time on each STOPPING when the time for that section is up even if not finished- you get all they easy marks early on- not worth chasing the last 2 marks in 1 section and missing the easy 10 at the start of the next....

Does he know to ignore hard questions and go back? again don't stress about 2 marks and miss out on and easy 10.

This was really useful advice for 11 plus because the sort we have here always has a " curve ball" question or two, and actually if it's so "curve ball" that noone can do it, it's a " non event". DD1 had to label countries around the black sea - for 11plus LOLOLOL . She left it, as did I would think 99.9% or the other candidates. But spending 10 mins trying to do it would have cost her many marks.

And as ever go back and write something for every question if you have time. Guess /make something up!

Also ask school are they actually expected to finish??? Sometimes the questions get harder and harder with the intention that you wont get them all done.

NuclearStandoff Sun 30-Dec-12 22:32:16

I suggested that and he said he would do them in secret! I think that would upset him even more.

Laura0806 Sun 30-Dec-12 22:32:16 the way i wasn't trying to suggest you were putting him under pressure but the school and your ds himself are doing that and I think he probably needs some time to relax now, just tell him its all about trying his best, if he can't do it all in the time limit it doesn't matter ( sure you have already)

Laura0806 Sun 30-Dec-12 22:30:59

I would be inclined to stop doing them and give him a break. Its such a shame for children to feel such pressure at such a young age, he has years ahead of him to be stressed about things.

NuclearStandoff Sun 30-Dec-12 22:19:07

He is at quite a high-pressure independent primary and has been given a lot of practise exam papers to do in timed conditions over the holidays.

This is stressing him out as he sometimes doesn't finish them in the time, and then gets upset. It's keeping him awake at night, and I'm worried it's counterproductive.

Another week before school starts again - I have tried to say all the usual reassuring stuff but it's not helping. He is above average intelligence and we have no worries about him passing the exam, he knows this.

Anyone else been through this got any useful advice?

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