Education Matters

How to stay focussed at exam time

Posted by Trinity Grammar School on Sep 23, 2019 6:00:00 AM

How to stay focussed at exam timeExam periods can be stressful for some students. Boys often feel increased pressure leading up to exam time and require a supportive home environment to help them through study demands. As parents, you have an important role to play in supporting your son through his exams. You can help him to prepare, encourage him to rest and create a family environment that is conducive to study.

Focus is a key attribute of successful study. Today, boys have so many distractions such as technology, social media and after school commitments that can make it difficult to stay focussed. However, it is important to maintain a healthy balance between study commitments and relaxation. In fact, even during peak study periods taking a break can be highly beneficial, providing rejuvenation before taking on the next challenge.

Nowadays, there’s such an abundance of information providing tips and study advice that it can become overwhelming. The good news is, there’s no ‘perfect’ way to stay focussed at exam time. It comes down to your son’s individual lifestyle, personality and learning techniques.

Whether your son is a high achiever or requires academic support, exam stress can take a toll. It’s important not to let it take over by following a realistic and sustainable routine that will suit your son’s disposition. Here are four practical and evidence-based tips on how to stay focussed at exam time:

1. Study space matters (more than you think)
Research has found that if you study for an exam in a similar environment as the exam location, you will increase your ability to remember the information that you have learned. This theory dates back several decades. Dr Godden and Alan Baddeley conducted a ground-breaking study in 1975 where participants were placed in two separate environments and were asked to recall a list of words.

The results revealed that the participants who sat the test in the same environment as the learning environment recalled more words than those who were tested in a different environment. Some students prefer studying at the school library while others prefer studying at home in their own ‘sanctuary’. No matter where it is, ensure that the space has a similar feel to an exam environment. And remember, clutter is an avoidable distraction! Discover our tips for creating an efficient home study space here.

2. Distractions are inevitable – prepare for them 
Movement is bound to occur during exams. People will ask to go to the bathroom, officiators will walk around the exam room and papers will be shuffled. While it may be easier to hope for no distractions, it’s more realistic for your son to expect distractions and prepare for them. Ask your son to keep you informed about his study schedule so that you can ensure the household is considerate of his study practice. Entirely disconnecting from technology may seem like an appropriate decision to avoid distractions, however it may have the opposite effect, provoking distraction and sparking curiosity. Within his study routine, include some ‘downtime’ with technology to keep his interest at bay and allow for some social interaction. We recommend two-hour study periods, dispersed with 15-minute breaks to stretch, grab a drink or snack and check-in online.

3. Establish a routine which includes exercise and downtime
Although the number of social outings and amount of screen time require some level of sacrifice during exam time, a healthy lifestyle balance should be maintained. Exercise and relaxation should not be compromised, even during peak study periods. Studies demonstrate that problem-solving, memory and attention improve immediately following exercise and physical activity. Maintaining a healthy balance is vital to study success. If your son has regular sports commitments, ensure he continues his schedule as usual. Studying without breaks or the chance to re-charge, may cause your son to burnout. Establish a realistic routine with your son that has time set aside for studying, exercising and relaxing.

4. Sleep
Sleep is considered the best ‘food’ for the brain. Research has found that without adequate sleep and rest, over-worked neurons can no longer function to coordinate information properly, and we lose our ability to access previously learned information. Some students feel tempted to cram just days before an exam, resulting in pressure to undertake ‘all-nighters’. Encourage your son to maintain healthy study habits throughout the year to avoid cramming during exam time which may have detrimental effects on sleep. Studies indicate that teenagers aged 13 to 18 should sleep for eight to 10 hours per night on a regular basis.

The Trinity Education Support Services (TESS) department offers a wide range of support for boys, including those who need social and emotional support. The TESS Counselling department comprises psychologists who offer individual counselling and assessment for learning and mental health needs, small group-based programmes, parent information sessions, and assistance with life skills programming and year group presentations.

Our Life Skills Programme is part of a whole School approach to health and wellbeing. In conjunction with the development of ethical, moral and religious values, its goal is to enhance boys’ capacity to be emotionally resilient and socially competent.

To learn more about the Trinity difference, and how we support boys through the demands of Year 12, download our Life Skills booklet.

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Topics: Raising boys, Improve learning, Technology, Study tips, Education, Students