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5 Steps to Help Your Child Master Their Exams

For parents, it can be frustrating to watch your child study all night and bring a low grade on the exam back home. You might ask yourself "What is wrong?" or "Why isn't that teacher teaching them properly?" or "How can I help short of taking the test for them?"

These questions have most likely gone through every parent's mind and then you most likely tried to rack your brain for a solution.

Have you considered that perhaps the amount of hours they spend studying doesn't matter? 

Now stick with me here..

I say that because perhaps while they are spending all night "studying," they may not be studying effectively. Some students don't ever figure out what their best study habits are but those that do are able to excel much more and much easier.

Today, I am going to give you 5 steps to ensure effective study habits for your child so they can master their exams.

1. Getting enough sleep

I don't want to spend too much time on this because most parents already know there is an epidemic of sleep deprivation among youth. According to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation, "more than 87 percent of high school students in the United States get far less than the recommended eight to 10 hours, and the amount of time they sleep is decreasing — a serious threat to their health, safety and academic success." Sleeping the recommended hours is not only important the night before an exam but consistently! This will actually enable them to pay more attention between exams and most likely will need to study less the night before since they retained more throughout the semester.

Still, being well-rested on exam day is absolutely critical. They need to be alert, not dozing off.

2. Eating a healthy breakfast and lunch

To put it simply, students needs energy for their brain in order to perform well on an exam. Your child also needs to focus on the exam, not a grumbling tummy. They can spend all the hours of the night studying but if they show up hungry, that distraction will likely decrease their scores exponentially.

Some brain-boosting breakfasts they can eat include protein-rich options which boost mental alertness. This includes eggs, nuts, and yogurt. A good breakfast meal might include whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk, eggs and toast with jam or peanut butter, oatmeal with fresh fruit. Also, chia seeds can be added to the meal for a super-boost. 

Many of these can be eaten on the road which is what I did as a student so if that is what it takes, bag it up and send them on their way!

3. Finding a distraction-free place to study

Many students study while sitting in front of a TV or with their phone constantly going off. It is said that one single buzz from your phone requires 20 minutes to get back to the level of focus you were in before the buzz.. TWENTY minutes! I highly recommend suggesting them putting the phone on silent and maybe even tucking it away where they won't see it. Out of sight, out of mind. 

While I am sure they won't agree to putting their phone away all night, they can use it during breaks. We'll talk about a good break schedule in just a second. 

4. Choosing an effective personal study method


There are many study methods out there, especially depending on how your student learns (auditory, kinesthetic or visual). I am going to suggest one that I was never taught while in school but has helped me exponentially in everything I do and that is the Pomodoro Technique. 

To use this, your student will choose the topic they want to study (perhaps one chapter or half the chapter depending on how long it is) and then set a timer for 25-50 minutes (they can choose how long they think they can go but no longer than 50 minutes!)

I use the Chrome extension "1-Click Timer" to keep track of my time because I have the flexibility to do longer stints but there are other options out there.

From then on, this is what their study night will look like:

  • 25-50 minutes of work
  • 5-10 minutes of break
  • 25-50 minutes of work
  • 5-10 minutes of break

Then they repeat the cycle until they've completed 4 "pomodoros," the 25 minutes of working, or 2 cycles if they did 50 minutes long. Once they've done that, they can take a 20-30 minute break (which is where their phone can come back if they want) and then get back to studying.

Again, this was never covered in depth in my education (if at all) so I wanted to make sure I mentioned this effective habit for your student.

There are also the study habits such as using flash cards, folding a paper "hot dog" style and then writing a term on one side, definition on the other and quizzing themselves, etc.

My main point is that they need to figure out what works best for them and stick with it and that time management is a huge part of making a successful study routine.

5. Eating mints

Here's a fun one! This is becoming more and more common so perhaps you are already aware of this but eating mints while studying and then also during the exam can actually boost your child's exam success.

A 2008 study published in the “International Journal of Neuroscience” found that participants exposed to peppermint oil experienced enhanced memory and processing speeds. Peppermint also increased alertness while helping them maintain a sense of calm. 

So grab them a bag of mints and tell them to enjoy!

Overall, these are very simple changes that can dramatically increase your child's test scores. If you can't get them to buy into all of them right off the bat, maybe start introducing them one at a time. Still, these will be especially important for exam week!