As examinations get closer, it is hard for some students to figure out what they should study. Panic may set in, and instead of studying, students are worrying. 
It can also be a worrying time for parents as you watch your child become stressed and overwhelmed.
To help you help them, I have compiled a list of five tips that will ensure your son or daughter has a study structure in place that will help them stay calm and focused at all times. 
1. Build in a structure for each day
Now is the time to develop a structure for the examination period. Sit with your teen and write out a schedule for each day. Use the schedule to build in as much structure as possible each day. For example, include a wake-up and bedtime, hours for study, subject to revise, meals and breaks. Also, include time for relaxation. If your son or duaghter is unsure how to divide their study time, get advice from school staff. Remember to consider scores on mock examinations and the potential points available.
2. Review test-taking procedure
Make sure they understand how the examinations work. Review:
  • The time for each examination
  • How your teen will keep track of time during exams
  • The sections where they must choose which question to answer
  • The number of points each question or part is worth
Depending on your teen, it may be worth reviewing these points before each exam as well.
3. Make sure your child has a strategy for choosing which question to answer
Students with special needs may have trouble with decision making, and this is problematic at exam time. Students can waste time trying to choose which question to answer. Prepare for this problem by developing a strategy with your child. Focus the plan on your child’s strengths.
For example, in the English exams, is your son or daughter better at writing a persuasive or argumentative essay? When you identify their strengths, review the structure of the papers and identify the types of questions your child should avoid and those that appeal to his/her strengths.  
4. Plan for stress and anxiety
Teach your teen techniques to use to reduce stress and anxiety. Consider putting a meditation app on their phone or even yours that they can listen to. Have them practice these techniques while studying. It is important for them to have a short meditation or exercise that they can do right before or during exams if they starts to panic. Using these tools now is important so they become a habit before exams start.
Anxiety and stress may also cause sleep problems, so it is important to establish a good sleep routine now if you don’t already have one. If anxiety is particularly bad or your teen struggles with insomnia, bring him/ her to your GP now to get additional advice.

5. Anticipate problems
Now is the time to anticipate and prepare for potential problems. You can’t plan for every problem, but there are some you can prepare for now.
  • Make sure your teen has all the tools they need for each exam. If they need a calculator, consider buying or borrowing an extra in case the battery dies, but make sure the calculators are the same so they know how to use both.
  • Find out if they need USB keys for any exams, particularly if they are using a laptop for some or all of the exams.  
  • If your teen is going to use a computer for exams, make sure the school has an extra computer available in case there are any problems. This measure will probably have to be coordinated with the State Examinations Commission. A computer freezing during an exam happened in the past and added to the student’s anxiety.  
  • Review the accommodations, if any, availble to them, and make sure your son or daughter understands the accommodations and what they mean for each exam. Confirm the accommodations are in place before each exam.
  • If your teen is sensitive to noise or smells, talk to the school about conveying this information to the examiners. The sound of the examiner walking around, turning pages or the smell of perfume or aftershave may distract them during an examination.
Finally, remind your teen that there is life after the Leaving Certificate. No matter how well or poorly they perform, there are lots of options available for the future.
Special Education Advocate



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