Win over exam woes

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Educationist Fatima Agarkar guides you on how to prepare for your exams

It is that time of the year when the pressure mounts, and the inevitable is round the corner. Each year, we discuss and speculate what children can do to ‘better’ prepare themselves to take these crucial exams, and each year we vote overwhelmingly in favour of starting the process of revision well in advance.

Developing a reasonable timeline

Well, that remains my advice to always. Got to create a time-line that works, and plan, plan, plan well in advance. Most children are able to independently plan their revision schedules but some will need help and therefore as mentors and teachers, we must make an effort to sit with the child and help him think through the process – factor in some buffer time, know the child’s strengths and therefore get him to attack the weak subjects first so that even if it spills over into unplanned weeks, the topics that are more familiar will always take less time to revise and this because the road map ahead for the child. Timelines take away the stress of ‘how to fit in so much’ and convert them into small achievable goals that can be monitored by parents or mentors!

Optimising the concepts

The former works for children who have planned in advance and unfortunately the ‘leave to the last minute to learn a concept’ children will have their tasks cut out. For them my advice is to focus on optimising the concepts already learnt because doing everything and doing it without understanding will ill equip them and only add to the stress. Focus on strengths and concentrate on maximum success with what has been learnt.

The physical aspect

The other important strategies of resting enough especially night sleep of 7 to 8 hours and regular healthy food or snacks will equip your body to cope with the stress and anxiety that does sit in irrespective of whether you started in advance or did it last minute. The physical aspect is perhaps more important as the body is out through a grind and without the necessary rest or food, it cannot function! Junk food does nothing for your body, and in fact will slow in down and makes one sluggish hence carbs, proteins helps the body repair itself.

Emotional preparation

I personally always believe that children need a lot of support in terms of communication – someone to listen to their fears, someone to calm the nerves, someone to tell them to plod along, someone to inspire them to do more and this is often ignored as a process. It is critical to be around the children as their moral support and it is incredible how confidence can be the difference between a B and an A!

Time management is crucial

Time management while taking an exam also is a skill that needs to be focused upon, and it must become a practice routine for students to get used to the duration of the exam and also writing their answers as per the stipulated time. Often such mock will throw up areas that the student then re-evaluates – for example a child practicing realises that she often can’t complete the paper because of lack of time. This needs to be addressed quickly – students need to be guided to attempt the questions that carry maximum weightage, and focus on optimising on this. Slow writers need to practice more so that they work on their speed… and it is possible if one writes papers as if they are for the Boards. For facts that need to be remembered, create clues as part of the study and revision process so that last minutes these become cheat notes that are gentle reminders.

Increasing productivity through recreation

Allowing some recreation time, and some time to unwind could also be a key strategy to incorporate as a mind that is relaxed is always quicker and more alert when solving than a mind that is rushed. It is a proven fact that anything that is an area of passion and interest be it sport, music or dance, creates a positive atmosphere for students and therefore higher productivity.

Taking an exam is simply being able to demonstrate your knowledge, understanding and application. If treated with this spirit, the sting will be taken out of the bee, and the process will be more seamless!