Maintaining Motivation during Exams

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In Hong Kong, students of all ages have to sit regular tests and exams. These can be draining to even the most enthusiastic of learners. As a parent, it’s hard to watch your child struggle through revision. You might also feel that you can’t help, since your kid is the one who has to take the test. But read on for some ideas on how to keep your child’s motivation up during exams. 

Common Problems and How to Help:

‘I don’t know what’s on the exam.’

The school will provide a syllabus for each test and exam, however, students vary wildly in how much of that information they write down and keep hold of. From an early age, it’s good to get your child into the habit of getting a detailed syllabus and keeping it somewhere safe. That’s their first step to feeling empowered to do well. If you have a kid who takes a little longer to get the hang of this, make sure to ask the parents of classmates to keep you updated on any syllabus information that comes their way.

‘I don’t know where to start.’

Revision and exam strategies are learned skills. Often, adults forget this, but it took us years to understand how to segment our tasks and make plans to complete them. Help your child sit down with a calendar and divide the list of what they need to study in time for each exam. If there’s too much to do, help them prioritise the most important topics and select a few which will only be studied in depth if there’s time.

One helpful revision exercise that’s often overlooked is to create a plan for the actual exam. Students don’t always check the points for each section, or review the paper for places where they can get easy marks. Practise this with your child and also help them plan how to make the paper work for them – some children do best when they tackle the hardest questions in the back while they’re fresh, rather than at the end of the exam.

‘I did badly last time, so I don’t even want to try.’

Students feeling defeated by a bad experience need to experience a sense of success next time around. This could be the time to get some short-term revision help from a tutor who is highly experienced with your child’s syllabus. You can also work with your kid to improve one or two specific things in time for their next exam. Make sure they know that their main goal is just to improve those things rather than trying to fix everything at once. When the next test comes, you can choose something else to improve, and bit-by-bit you’ll see your child’s grades and confidence increase.

‘I don’t understand this topic.’

This tends to be a problem experienced by older students. They study a lot of difficult things every day, and by the time the exams come around, they find a few that they never understood at all and completely lose motivation. It’s hard to study from notes you couldn’t even follow with a teacher in front of you!

It can be tempting to look online for explanations or study notes to help your child, but that usually leaves them more confused than ever. What one school calls an argumentative essay will go by several different names on the internet, and none of these will follow the conventions your child needs to adopt to get good marks. Encourage your child to review their notes regularly to find anything they’re struggling with, and to approach the teacher or ask a classmate for their notes on topics they’re confused by.

‘I can’t focus.’

Whether it’s something that only hits at the end of exam season, or an on-going issue, lack of focus affects everyone at some point. Just as with exam strategy, it’s important to remember that focus is something which improves with age. Even though you can power through paperwork for ten hours straight, your ten-year-old can’t do the same for their exams.

You can help your child improve their focus by setting goals with them, such as doing half an hour on a difficult subject and then playing a game or reading for a break. Also make sure your child build’s time into their study plan for sleep and relaxation. These will give them more energy for studying for exams, more motivation and a better attention span.

Written by Willow Hewitt – Head of English for i-Learner Education Centre ( https://www.i-learner.edu.hk/). She has been teaching in Hong Kong for several years and she also leads i-Learner’s Publishing Department, which creates engaging storybooks for young learners of both English and Mandarin.

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