Preparing for exams: 10 top tips from Matthew Syed

Exam season is stressful for parents and children alike. Author and journalist Matthew Syed joined us for a webchat and shared his top tips for helping children with exams



More advice from Matthew on helping your child prepare for exams...

1. Take the right attitude

Pushing can easily turn into pressurising - but a gentle, smart nudge now and then can be crucial.


2. Make space for breaks

Many of the greatest ideas emerge during breaks. In fact, there are dozens of research papers on this. It is when we switch off, go for a walk in the fresh air, take a shower, see a bit of nature, that we mentally metabolise the information we have learned, and develop fresh insights. A few short breaks during the day are restorative, and boost memory and creativity!


3. Tackle the fear of maths

In the UK and US, there is a very prevalent view that some children "just don't have a brain for numbers". Children who absorb this view (and there are thousands of them) tend to become demotivated, lack resilience, and often switch off during class. It is like anything else in life: we get better as we engage. It is the attitude that drives success, not just in maths, but in life.


4. Help your child to become familiar with the way the exam looks

They should look through past papers to get a sense of the questions - they will then begin to see what the examiners are looking for. When they eventually sit the exam, the paper will not feel so intimidating. Also, it's a very good idea to do as many practice essays as possible under exam conditions. Once they have done a few, and are used to being timed, the panic will abate.


5. Send them into the exam with all necessary supplies

If your child is easily distracted, it might be worth taking ear plugs into the exam (to overcome the clomping of the invigilators' heels!) It's also amazing how easily dehydrated children can become - and it's terrible for concentration. If they take a bottle of water into the exam with them, they can avoid that.



Matthew will be the keynote speaker at Workfest. Join us on 14 May at Euston Square. Book your tickets here!


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Last updated: 5 months ago