Exams come and go every year, but if you have a teenager in your house who is in a dreaded exam year – the pressure is on! I heard yesterday, on the news, that the Leaving Cert in Ireland is to be overhauled and made more like the Junior Cert Exam. All I can say is WHAT TOOK SO LONG!
I coach teens regularly who are studying for their Junior or Leaving Cert State exams, and I’ve been carrying out Exam Stress Workshops for a number of years in Schools. Some teens have stress about the actual exam, what will come up, the points race, their lack of time, volume of work still needed to be done, and sometimes its more about their lack of motivation to study – they just can’t seem to ‘get into it’. The teens that are studying hard, parents worry that they may be too anxious or over doing it, they could burn themselves out too early. On the other hand there are a huge number of parents who are more worried that their teenager isn’t doing enough work, and its getting very late in the year. When are they going to start? Here are a few tips for Parents and Students to read, no matter where your teen is at, they can get help to feel better about the upcoming exams. In addition, if any of the below sounds like it could help your teenager, then please have a look at my Exam Stress & Study Motivation Workshops open to the public and running this Easter from 15-20th April 2019 – places are limited so book early (also there is an early bird price!).
- What are you telling yourself? If you are saying to yourself ‘I can’t study’, ‘I don’t know where to start’ or something similar, you have to realize what you are saying and how much you are sabotaging your self. Start to reprogramme your mind. (Catch yourself and replace the negative with a more positive statement). Instead of ‘I don’t have enough time’ you can say ‘I’ll do my best with the time I’ve got’.
- Remember all the classes you have sat in, and paid attention in? (hopefully there have been quite a few and its never too late to start to listen in class) and also remember all the homework you have ever done? This is all information and knowledge that you have in your memory. You have started already, there is a base of knowledge there, so don’t tell yourself you haven’t started unless you know absolutely nothing about any subject.
- Change your mindset: Clarify your goal in your mind, what do you really want to do when you finish school, what ever it is – use that goal to motivate yourself every time you sit down and open your books. Link the two things together. The more study, the more chance of getting what you want. Therefore, study is good (not bad.) You change your thinking and start to want to study, really want it, want it as much as you want to reach that goal. Visualize yourself doing what you want after school (your goal).
- Draw up a realistic study timetable. One that is practical and flexible that allows you have down time but also that gets you into good habits. Ask for help to do this if you can’t do it yourself.
- Put important diagrams, acronyms, and summaries all over your bedroom, the fridge, the internal doors, (better ask your Parents or guardians before hand, but tell them it will sink more easily into your subconscious mind if you are seeing it all the time.) I know a Leaving cert student who had all his biology diagrams plastered all over the bathroom!
- Figure out how best to study; for some it’s reading, for others it’s writing things out, highlighting, summarizing, and using acronyms (using the first letter of the important words to come up with a word, or saying, to remember it). Answering exam questions with the books open, is a good way to start. If so far you have done very little but you start with exam questions, you are going to cover a lot of material very quickly.
- Screen addiction is a huge problem. Try to commit to switching off your phone for a period of time everyday, hand your phone over to some one else to look after.
- The worst thing you can do is nothing, so even a move in the right direction is better than continuing to stress over how little you have done.
- Similar to the first point above, what are you telling yourself? If you are saying things like ‘I’ll never get through everything’; or ‘I haven’t done enough’ then you need to start to catch yourself. Change it to something more positive like ‘I can do it’ or ‘I’m doing my best’. Remember we cause a lot of our own stress – by allowing thoughts into our heads and not letting them go.
- Who or what is causing you more stress? Is it a Parent? A Teacher? A well meaning friend discussing what topics they’ve covered/ or cramming and stressing you out with their panic? Or is it the pressure you are putting yourself under? Start to become aware of what triggers your stress, the person, the discussions, talk to that person if you can and ask them to help you. Give yourself positive messages and affirmations – see point 1.
- Remember all the classes you have listened in, and the homework you have done. There is a huge amount of information to retain but you have covered a lot in a year and a half, it is in your memory, it hasn’t all just gone out of your head. We have amazing minds. Do some memory games (find an app on your phone) to sharpen your memory, and try to trust that you have a lot of information already there.
- If you are studying a lot, remember to look after your mental and physical health too. Physical exercise is very important to keep the mind at its peak. Also a good diet with fresh fruit and veg and water keeps our bodies happier.
- A good nights sleep is so important for the memory (as well as for our concentration). Put the screens away at least an hour before you want to be asleep. Really try to sleep with screens in a different room. Get an old fashioned alarm clock. Don’t stay up late the night before an exam, it affects your memory.
- If you are stressed, do whatever relaxes you. Try to meditate or do some relaxing yoga or tai chi. This helps us get out of our heads. Anything with deep breathing is really good for us to get away from the stress and inner chitter chatter. If you can walk in nature, for 10 minutes it is extremely good for our mental health.