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How to help 8 YO DD with her exam anxiety

(10 Posts)
AnotheBloodyChinHair Tue 01-Sep-15 07:56:21

She has never taken exams (that she was aware of). She will be doing Grade 1 piano in 2 months time and she's already stressing about it and saying that she doesn't want to take it in case she fails (she is more than ready).

Also, we live in an 11+ area so I would like to tackle this now, I'm just not sure how. We do have a couple of books about being fearful of things but they're quite babyish now. She's a very strong reader and extremely insightful and cannot be fobbed off easily.

I'd love any ideas, suggestions, recommendations... Many thanks.

TeenAndTween Tue 01-Sep-15 08:04:15

Say "we don't care how well you do, we just want you to try your best".
And repeat.

Then techniques such as
- visualising what will happen
- or even role playing what will happen
- taking deep breaths to calm down
- prior preparation leads to perfect performance (or something). i.e. if you have prepared as well as you can then that's all you can do

She needs to practice failing at things. How about juggling or unicycling?

TeenAndTween Tue 01-Sep-15 08:25:31

Also: always praise effort not results.

LIZS Tue 01-Sep-15 08:36:32

Practice - do some mock tests even if you don't call it that, gradually building up to the full 10 minutes or so.

Seeline Tue 01-Sep-15 08:37:42

Agree - just do your best, that's what counts.

My DCs piano teacher always did a little mock with them before each exam, so maybe see if yours would do similar. Make sure she (or you) clearly explains the procedure to her.

I agree that exams like these really help with later ones. My DD didn't seem particularly worried about doing 11+ exams, as she had done music and dance exams from an early age.

CrotchetQuaverMinim Tue 01-Sep-15 08:47:05

There is a video of Grade 1 piano on YouTube and the ABRSM website, made by them, that shows exactly what happens during an exam, what the examiner will say, etc., and that might be quite helpful to watch.

I know that I was always very nervous for music type exams (though luckily not academic ones) and having a very clear idea of exactly what was going to happen, where the room was, what to wear, what to say to the person on the desk, what to say to the examiner, etc, helped me get rid of all the 'extra' worries, so that the only worries I had were the playing ones!

Talking about how exciting exams can be, that they are a chance to show what you can do, etc., is good, because you can explain that some of the physical signs (sweating, nervous tummy, shaking, etc) are because of excitement, which gives them a kind of positive spin.

For academic exams, getting used to doing things with a timer can be helpful - there are lots of computer games etc that have a timer that would work. At first, using one that you can just see rather than hear is less stressful, but then later one that you can hear too - ramps up the stress a bit, and lets her practice staying calm. If it's a fairly easy task - e.g., simple adding, even if she's at the level of doing times tables - then she can get her confidence up about ignoring timers and other pressures, and just simply focus on the task. Again, you can gradually get better at it.

Lots of mock performances are good, even better if she can do background type stuff, so playing when you have a friend over for tea, but not necessarily playing as a performance, just that more people are around at the time, and then gradually build it up to performance if needed.

Get her to practice playing through pieces entirely without stopping - one of the biggest things about music exams in particular (as opposed to academic ones) is that it is the performance that matters, not perfection on little details. She will get far more marks if she plays through without stopping, despite small errors, than if she stops to fix them. But if she is used to practicing to fix things (which is obviously necessarily at times too!), then it might end up happening out of habit in the exam.

AnotheBloodyChinHair Tue 01-Sep-15 11:55:25

Thank you so much to all of you, you have all given some fantastic advice and tips I'm going to use.

CrotchetQuaverMinim again, very helpful advice, thank you so much, can I just ask, are there any particular online exams with the timer you have referred to?

CrotchetQuaverMinim Tue 01-Sep-15 12:04:15

Nothing in particular, but lots of apps/games for mental maths have a timer - things like how many questions can you do in 30seconds, or can you get 10 questions done and beat your time, etc. (the Squeebles app, for example, times your performance, though I'm not sure how much of a clock it shows; there are several games in the Primary Games series of maths games that have a timer - the downside with those ones is that you can't vary the time; it's either on or off, which means that you have to wait until the child's level is just right for it to be helpful! You can change how hard the questions are, which helps, but the time is always 30seconds I think, and it would be useful to be able to vary that a bit to allow more gradual improvement with the children who really panic about time pressure).

You can also just recreate it with a stopwatch (e.g. on a phone) or a microwave that beeps. To start with, just simply timing performances can be enough pressure for some children who really panic. Then trying to go faster to beat a previous time (while still doing the task correctly). Then having a limited time (without a constant tick at first; then with a warning before the end; then with a ticking throughout - eg. the clock on the Countdown program). I'd always be keeping the actual task very simple to start with, so that it's just learning to stay calm and ignore the time pressure that she is practising, not actually (at this stage) practising having to do the maths (or whatever task) faster.

mandy214 Tue 01-Sep-15 13:54:06

Not sure where you are in the country but in my area, there are "mock exams" for Year 5 pupils towards the end of Year 5 and over the summer holidays. Obviously much too far in advance for your child now, but something to bear in mind.

Where we are, there is no 11+ (the children take entrance exams) but its generally a 3 hour format with various papers. My children who have done them have said it is nothing like they expected - not the tests themselves but the way its conducted - one paper, a 5 minute break (where I think they have to be silent), then another etc, someone walking around, shouting instructions, timings etc). They have been so useful - I think for my children - it was the uncertainty that made them nervous. Once they knew what to expect, some of that worry disappeared.

Ferguson Tue 01-Sep-15 19:40:50

OP - You have had plenty of useful advice and tips.

Really, music exams (or any 'voluntary' activity that has tests) are LESS important than school tests and exams, which will be looming up before too long, so they provide good experience at coping with the stress and unfamiliar demands of the exam environment.

Besides playing accurately and 'in time,' the emotional style and interpretation of the music is very important. Although at Grade 1 the scope for a 'beautiful and emotional' style will be limited, making the most of all 'markings' will help towards a good result, and lay the foundation for future progress.

Practise 'sight reading' as much as she can, using ANY music of a similar standard, from charity shops or car-boots. Make sure Scales and Exercises are PERFECT.

RELAX, try and enjoy it, and give the Examiner an enjoyable experience.

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