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How to Help Your Child Study for an Exam

I'm a dad, husband, and Christian first. Second, I'm an educator & organizational development professional.


How Do You Make Study Time Possible?

Let's face it, the modern world can move at a hectic place. Even setting time aside to make sure your children study well for their upcoming exams can be daunting! Several days back, I had to wake up at 4:00 a.m. and work later that day. By 8:30 p.m., I was already dead tired. When I got home, I saw my daughter sitting at the table looking really serious. She told me she had to write one sentence for each chapter of the book she was reading at school. And she still had five more chapters to go. Although she read it before, she wanted to read it again so she wouldn’t miss a thing. I asked if she wanted me to read it and help her with her homework. Her face lit up and her spirits rejuvenated. So in spite of almost dozing off, I mustered the energy to read several chapters and helped her finish the assignment.

When I walked towards my daughter, it dawned on me that I was willing to work extended periods of time at my job. I drive more than one hundred kilometers when needed just to accomplish my duties. I spend hours in traffic just to get from point A to point B. Moreover, I was always one phone call or text away for my boss. Surely I can spend a few more minutes helping my daughter.

As I read to her the adventures of Dorothy, Toto, Tin Man, Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion, she sank into my arms, and I never felt so comfortable and relaxed. Study time has always been our time to bond.

Why did I share this story? It's to show that is indeed possible to help your children study for exams and other school work so they can have a brighter future one day. Here are the techniques I used to help my own children study effectively:

  • Learn the topics.
  • Set aside regular study time with your child.
  • Turn study time into a habit.
  • Build confidence and competence.

Learn the Topics

If you're looking to help your child do well on an exam, you must first know what to teach your child. Now that the obvious is said, let’s get down to more details about this. First, it is important to talk to your child’s teacher often. That way you get to know how well your child is doing as well as the topics covered at school. Moreover, it is crucial to get a copy of these topics. Unless you kept this list from parents' orientation, you might want to ask for another copy from your child’s teacher.

Here are some excellent ways to get in touch with the teacher or school:

  • During parent-teacher conferences
  • During school assemblies and activities
  • Online correspondence
  • Write a note for the teacher and secure it in your child’s notebook (my child has a homework notebook, and it is a great way to communicate with the teacher).
  • Set an appointment with the teacher.
  • Texting or calling the teacher directly is an option if the school allows it.

It's essential that you get to know what is going on at school. This means learning the schedules, activities, deadlines, and anything else that concerns your child.

In addition, brush up on your child’s lessons. Depending on their level, you may need a little review yourself. For many of us, basic addition and subtraction are not a problem. However, when the topics become a little harder, it’s time to review. In fact, take this time to study together. Every now and then allow your child to teach you what they have learned at school.


Set Aside Regular Study Time With Your Child

This step is often misunderstood. First, many parents think that it is enough that the child goes to one corner of the room and reads a book. Second, parents tend to miss out on the fundamental part of this exam tip…study time WITH YOUR CHILD. That means you and your child need to be together. I do not mean sitting beside them while they study and you watch the ballgame or play Candy Crush. Instead, parents need to devote their attention to the child and whatever they are studying. Be present.

I must admit that I often do not have enough time to do this. After work, I bet the prospect of rest and relaxation is very enticing. But we must understand that our children need our guidance and support as well. So get off that couch and start studying with them.

Here are some tips to make this work:

  • Set a regular time and place to study together—establishing a routine is important in fostering study discipline.
  • Remove all distractions—this means putting down your phone or laptop, switching off the TV, or even closing your favorite book for a while. This goes the same way for your child. Both of you must focus on preparing for the test.
  • Set a limit or goal for what the child needs to accomplish—this can be time, amount of exercises, number of pages, etc. By setting a specific target, the child becomes aware of their goal. Just make sure that the targets are reasonable. Finishing War and Peace in one go is too much even for adults.
  • Prepare all the needed materials—make sure all the pertinent info is available.
  • It helps to have an outline or checklist.

Your efforts to help your child study for a test will show that you care. Moreover, spending time with them allows you to connect and interact. And this is essential in raising children. In addition, the more time you spend with them, the more you’ll learn about them. Take this opportunity to be with your child.

Turn Study Time Into a Habit

When my daughter was four years old I gave her a sheet of paper with ten simple addition problems. We called it an activity sheet. Sometimes it also included grammar questions that she had to answer. Other times she was just encouraged to doodle and draw. What was important was that she had to do it every day. She got into the habit of sitting down and focusing on her activity sheet. On days when I'd forget to give her one, she’d bug me until I did.

She was already reading C-V-C words by the age of two. Her vocabulary was above her peers when she was three and by six years old she played Scrabble with us and scored an average of 120 points per game. We can attribute this to constantly reading to her. Every night we’d read the bible to her, and when she was four years old, she insisted on getting her own. We gave her books as gifts and many of her toys helped her learn. Even the apps on her iPad are all about learning. Suffice to say, we turn learning and studying into a habit. Now, she no longer sees it as a chore but rather as an essential part of exploring the world. When studying becomes part of our life, we crave to learn more.

Here are some tips on how to help your child:

  • When studying, choose a time and place where they most inclined to learn.
  • Turn every opportunity into a learning moment—if your child’s test is on addition, try adding the numbers on a car's license plate.
  • Turn studying into a game—when studying about synonyms, my daughter would choose a word, and we'd take turns giving synonyms. Whoever fails to give one loses.

While my daughter’s first-grade classmates are still learning addition and subtraction, the activity sheets I give her now include basic algebra, and she recently started graphing simple algebraic equations.


Build Confidence and Competence

Learning something new is often difficult. But we have to challenge our child's mind so that it will expand. There are many instances when they need to draw from previous knowledge. More than just teaching concepts themselves, we have to help our children learn how to synthesize and analyze so that they can learn more. Our child’s ability to think, ask questions, and put together concepts will allow them to come up with their own conclusions.

After one of our nightly Bible readings, my daughter asked us a simple question: If God created everything, then who created God? She paused for a while before falling asleep. I was not about to debate the origin and nature of God with a five-year-old. Early the next day, she woke us up and said that she knows the answer. She said that either God created Himself or simply existed. I did not even think about the answer to her question until she woke us up very early in the morning to share her eureka moment. Her ability to ask and analyze was far beyond that of her peers. It was far beyond what I was thinking when I was five years old.

Confidence and competence are more connected with each other than most of us realize. The more we allow our children to explore and learn, the more they discover who they are and what they can do. Their limitations are seen as opportunities to explore.

Here are some confidence-building tips:

  • Allow them to make mistakes—although it seems counterproductive, when children learn to deal with mistakes and rectify them, they learn how to deal with difficult situations.
  • Be there to guide them—when they do make mistakes (and they will), be there to comfort them, reassure them, and, most importantly, guide them.
  • Before making a decision, allow your child to explore the pros and cons. This will help them analyze the situation and decide the right course of action.
  • Allow them to explore—the child’s mind is ready to receive information. The more they have to work with, the better it is for them to create concepts and understand the world around them.

Perhaps I am not alone in wanting our children to have an easy life. However, shielding them from tough decisions, mistakes, and all sorts of dismal situations won’t help them in the long run. I remember carrying my daughter instead of letting her run around because I feared she would fall. Well, getting scratched up and falling is part of growing up. One of the greatest lessons we can teach them is getting up when they fall.

The confidence to face challenges, even if it is just an exam, is a great start to building confidence in life. Sure, it can be daunting at times. However, when we build confidence and competence early on in life, we can have the peace of mind that our child can overcome challenges later on in life.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 JP Carlos


peachy from Home Sweet Home on May 18, 2018:

very good advice, I sit beside my son and guide him through

JP Carlos (author) from Quezon CIty, Phlippines on May 17, 2018:

HI there DredCuan, Thank you for sharing that memory. As kids often see studying as a chore. Little did we know that it is the foundation for most of life's learning. And yes, our parents made sacrifices just to keep us in school. We should be thankful for the sacrifices they have made so that our future is secure.

Travel Chef from Manila on May 17, 2018:

I still remember when my father used to help me during my exams. He will always let me read my materials at night then wake me up early to make a review. For me, that's one of the greatest sacrifice of my father since he needed to give up some hours of his sleep. As an auditor of a firm, he needed to be mentally alert when checking all their engagements. In return of these sacrifices, I was able to maintain being on top students and was able to compete in different quiz bee at school.