I'm so excited to bring you my very first Guest Blog by my friend and Academic Coach Lucy Parsons. Lucy has a track record of helping teeneragers to get the most from their schooling, pass exams and get into the university of their choice so I know you're going to love her blog. 

Have you got a teenager taking GCSE or A Level exams? If you have it’s highly likely that stress levels in your household are pretty high. And, when stress levels get high, it becomes harder to look after mind body and soul in the ways that we all know we ought to be doing. As a parent you want to help your child through this stressful time and shower treats on them such as home baking and trips to the local café during revision breaks. However this isn’t the best way to sustain their energy and give them your support in the long-run.

As an exam skills and mindset specialist today I’m going to share with you my top tips to reduce the stress of exam season so that comfort food is much less necessary.

1.Start early

One of the biggest mistakes I see students making is starting their revision, or even getting serious about their studies, too late in the academic year. This tip may be too late for your child for this exam season but it’s well worth bearing in mind for the academic years to come.

One of the best ways to start early is to have a solid homework routine from the word go. Check out how to create one in my article The Weekly Routine of a Straight A Student.

2.Cultivate good study habits

Habits are all about consistency. If your child has good study habits, over time, they will consistently be building toward good outcomes. If they have bad study habits they’ll be building towards bad exam results.

So what examples can I give of good and bad study habits?

Good study habits include doing 5 minutes of revision every day throughout the school year, reading through class notes at the end of every day and having a ‘filing Friday’ where you organise all your notes from the week that’s just finished.

Bad study habits include having a haphazard way of recording deadlines, checking social media every five minutes when you’re working and not taking revision breaks.

Which good and bad study habits does your teenager have?

3.Build confidence

One of the biggest reasons I see students fearing or doubting themselves when it comes to exam season is a lack of confidence in their abilities. This is down to two things:

  • They listen to that nasty little voice in their head which tells them they’re not good enough
  • They don’t do confidence building activities like past papers that, over time, prove to them over and over again that they are improving and moving towards meeting the necessary standard

Students who are confident in their abilities walk into exam halls with their heads held high looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead of them. Students who aren’t confident are prone to panic attacks.

As a parent you can help to build your child’s confidence over the school year by telling them regularly what they’re doing well, praising their efforts and helping them to record and remember their successes.

4.Prioritise

Exam season is so over-whelming because it feels like there is too much to do and too little time. In order to combat this, it’s important to help your child to prioritise. They need to know what to focus on and when to get the best results.

One of the best ways to prioritise is with the traffic light system. Print off copies of the specification for each subject your child is studying and help them go through with a red, an amber and a green pen to mark which areas they’re clueless about (red), need to brush up on (amber) and are confident about (green). Your child should them focus on the red areas, followed by the amber ones, to get the most marks possible in their exams.

You can find out more about this approach to revision planning in this free extract of my book, The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take.

5.Take breaks

Revision breaks are vital for good learning as well as your child’s mental health in exam season. During breaks your teenager’s brain has a chance to store away all the knowledge they’ve gained in their most recent revision session and rejuvenate for the next one. It’s a particularly good idea to get the blood moving and take some exercise in active revision breaks as they help to remove stress and give the brain a complete change of scene.

Check out this post on my own website to find out how long revision breaks should be and how often they should be taken.

I hope you’ve found these tips helpful. If you’d like to get more ideas about how to support your child in exam season I’d love you to get a copy of the Supportive Parents’ Exam Season Toolkit which was written and designed for parents just like you.

Lucy Parsons is an academic coach and author of The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take. She works with 15-18 year olds and their families to help them reach their full academic potential in a balanced and happy way. Find out more about Lucy’s work on her website, lifemoreextraordinary.com.

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