How parents can manage exam stress: supporting different ways of learning

studentexamstress1One of the things that makes the exam period stressful is the frustration, bafflement and irritation of seeing someone studying and revising in ways that just don’t make sense to you. Instead of taking the “Why aren’t you doing this or that” line, try having a conversation about what your young person finds helpful about their particular choices.

You will have approached studying for exams in your own way, which may or may not have been successful. Whatever the process you adopted and whatever the outcome, satisfactory or not, it was your experience. Your YP is now having his or her own experience, which may be similar to yours or may be entirely different.

We tend to assume that habits and practices which worked for us are the right ways of doing things and should work for everyone. If you studied best in silence, it’s hard to see someone working to the accompaniment of loud music. If you got up at the crack of dawn to revise it’s infuriating to see that hump still under the duvet in the middle of the morning. Perhaps you wish you had done things differently and are desperate to stop someone making what you see as the same mistakes.

There could be a reason why your YP needs to revise on the landing with notes spread all over the place so no one can get to the bathroom. There could be a reason for them doing what looks like nothing for ages then working obsessively and snapping at any interruptions. We work best when we work in the mode which suits our style, just as when you get a new piece of electronic or domestic equipment, you might read every word of the instructions before daring to touch it whereas someone else dives straight in and has a go. Neither is right or wrong, it’s just what suits the individual best.

Here are some ways of learning and testing understanding of a topic. Some will appeal to you and some won’t. Some will hit the spot with your YP and some will be rejected. It might be quite interesting to explore your similarities and differences.

  • Making a flow chart of the subject matter
  • Making a Mind Map of the subject matter
  • Using brightly coloured markers
  • Using stickers
  • Recording information and playing it back
  • Explaining the subject matter as if to a child
  • Explaining the topic to another student (or to you)
  • Writing a Wikipedia-style entry
  • Making diagrams and graphs
  • Turning words into a diagram
  • Turning a diagram into words
  • Drawing cartoons or comic strips
  • Flash cards
  • Reading aloud
  • Saying stuff out loud to yourself
  • Putting sticky notes, labels, charts all over the place
  • Linking pieces of music to different topics
  • Colour coding
  • Putting notes on jagged edged cards and fitting them together
  • Repeating information to yourself as you walk around
  • Chewing gum, touching objects as you study
  • Using word association
  • Making up mnemonics

And many more.

Talking about ways of learning and revising should help you to understand each other’s preferences. You could end up with a sounder understanding of what makes each other tick. Now there’s a result.