Start them young on the big picture...
Exams, no matter how big or small, are always made to be a big deal. Come exam time, we reduce children's TV time, we put on hold the weekend outing, we even put on hold taking them out for ice-creams or treats altogether.
"Let the exams get over first, we will have plenty of time for all these after that!" is what we always think.
In fact, exams are such a major cause of stress and worry in many parents and children that we all actually look forward to the celebration after the exams!
But do exams really have to be such a scary beast? Are they really so important, that we rob our children of their daily playtime and TV time? Are exams something to just 'get done with' so that then we can actually enjoy and have fun? Why do we stress our children out so much when 'exam dates' are announced? And more importantly, why do we parents get so stressed ourselves!? There has to be an easier way, don't you think?
By definition, exams are a formal test of a student’s knowledge or proficiency in a particular subject or skill. They are intended to be used as a standard measure to determine how much a student has understood what he/she has been taught. And as with everything else in life, preparation is extremely important to crack them. After all, how good the preparation is, decides how great the result will be! And that is why, parents strive to ensure that children are always well prepared for their exams, be it the school exams of any other.
Every parent, therefore, has their own special ways of helping their children with the preparations. Some parents opt for sending their children for special tuition. Some prefer to spend time with their children revising the lessons; while some others prepare mock worksheets or practice worksheets or get their children to solve past years' test papers or sample test papers available on the internet or otherwise.
But what is the best method to ensure that children will do well? To answer that question, we need to first know this -
What’s your method of preparation?
Take a look at what your method of preparation is. Do you have children learn things ‘by heart’ from the texts and copies? Or do you ensure that the child reads and re-reads and revises till you think he is prepared? Do you give her tricks and short-cuts to remember the answers or make her ‘mug them up’? Do you insist on the us of the exact same words for an answer as given in the notes by the teacher? Or do you let your child write her answers in her own words?
What’s your goal?
This is very important. What is your goal as a parent, when it comes to your child appearing for exams? Do you want the child to know all the answers and get full marks? Or do you want your child to understand what she is taught? Do you insist that your child be the class topper no matter what? Or are you okay with a few low scores on her paper, so long as your child understands the concepts that are taught to her?
What does a low score mean to you?
This brings us to the next question. How low is a low score ? We live in a highly competitive age; and if we need our children to attend the best of the colleges and pursue the best of the careers; we are obviously going to have to ensure that they score the best marks! But what happens when a child scores low on a test for some reason? Will it be a big deal? Or will you be okay with it? Or do you think that this is not an option at all!?
And then, consider this -
The Big Picture
The full marks in exams, the high percentage scores, basically everything we want our kids to achieve, is so that they succeed in life. And we know, that every mark counts; and goes a long way in making this ultimate goal a reality. But while we concentrate on the marks for each individual test, we forget to look at the big picture. We want our children to score more marks, yes, but we also want our children to understand the basic concepts of what is being taught in school. We don’t want those marks at the cost of their not understanding the subject!
So then, how do we achieve both?
Start them young
Young children are like wet clay. You can mould them into your ways easier when they are young. And every one works better with a map! So when children are still young, give them the road map to success. Give them a method to study that they can easily follow. Show them the way, sit with them when they study. Test them on their understanding of the subject.
And most importantly,
Make the change
Have children read their lessons regularly and ensure that they understand the subject clearly. Don’t just test their knowledge by asking them the question from their notes. Ask a variety of questions from the text as well as the notes and throw in some thought provoking questions too, in the mix.
Let the children know that it is important for them to understand the topic and know it inside out. Tell them its important that once they understand the concepts, they should be able to write it down in their own words (or if some children hate to write, like most do); have them explain the lessons to you in their own words. Do not give undue importance to past years’ question papers or sample test papers, just use them as a guide.
Why the change?
This is the most obvious question. Why write answers in your own words when the same answers are right there in the notes? Well, for one - 'mugging up' the notes, is the easy way out; and more importantly, it teaches the child to only look at the “here and now” of the question.
As opposed to that, the ability to understand the concept and explain it in their own words gives them a sense of confidence and teaches them to look at the problem from every angle and think about things themselves and find a solution.
Scoring most marks is, no doubt, important for us all. But every child is different. Some children an inherently smart, others are better at the arts, and yet others are exceptional athletes. Every child also has a different temperament (well, they take after us parents, don’t they?) So then obviously, every child is going to look at studies and exams in his/her own way…and decide on their own method, with a little help from you. So go ahead, show them the way, give them the support; and then sit back and see the amazing results!