How to help at exam time

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Exams can be a time of pressure and one where a little bit of family tolerance and understanding can help, writes Ian Munro.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro

The 2018 end-of-year exams began this week with candidates facing up to three further weeks of assessment.

It's a few years since I wrote about exams so it seemed a good time to do so again as, undoubtedly, there's a new group of parents dealing with them for the first time.

Although, we must only be a year or two away from the time when a goodly number of parents themselves were assessed under the 16-year-old ``new'' system of standards-based assessment.

The November exams aren't necessarily as crucial as they used to be, as many pupils will have already achieved enough credits through internal assessment to be awarded their qualification, but they might now be working towards Merit or Excellence endorsements or to meet requirements for tertiary education.

The three-hour session isn't necessarily as pressured or gruelling as it used to be. Pupils might only be entered for a few of the standards being assessed. If that's the case, they could finish, for example, the one standard entered in its recommended time of 60 minutes.

However, most will be entered for more than one standard and will usually spend the three hours in the room, as will pupils who have entered subjects for Scholarship.

So, it can still be a time of pressure and one where a little bit of family tolerance and understanding can help.

Hopefully, they're set up in a quiet place relatively free of distractions where they can leave work set up so that time isn't wasted fussing around getting out and putting away books and notes.

Don't be too upset if the midnight oil is being burnt. Some people do study better later at night and it's probably quieter then anyway.

Good learning takes place in blocks of 30-45 minutes with a five to 10-minute break between. During this break encourage some light physical activity such as running the dog, making a drink, or having a shower, but not watching television or online activities, which can distract for much longer. Alternatively, if they aren't taking breaks, quietly slip in with their favourite drink.

There may be some debate over background music. Teenagers today aren't used to total silence and can feel distracted or uncomfortable with it. Music also masks other household noises. However, the brain does have to process and deal with whatever noises are coming in. Encourage but don't make a fuss.

This is also one time of the year when you need to be a little lenient about chores.

Finally, younger members of the family need to be aware that it is a time of stress, that it only lasts for two or three more weeks and that the whole family can contribute towards a good outcome.



From memory, and it was pre NCEA, studying till 3am on exam day is not good, but regular meals through the exam weeks are.