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Parental preparation for exams


There are a number of advice sites for your children to assist them as they prepare for exams. Many are excellent and one of those worthy of a read is Karen Boyes’ Preparing for Practice and External Exams ( However, in this short article I wish to offer a few thoughts on how you can assist your child to prepare for exams and look after both their and your wellbeing.

1/ It is never too late

End-of-year or end-of-school exams approach and their proximity can be a trigger for anxiety levels to rise and feelings of despondency to grow. It is never too late to improve and the weeks left prior to exams is plenty of time for significant improvement if the will and determination exists and is coupled with PPP (preparation, planning and practice). A positive attitude matters and you have influence and can model it appropriately.

2/ It is not your future

As parents we love our children unconditionally. We care for them and about them deeply. This being the case, the best thing we can do for them is to assist them to develop the values, skills and attitudes that will allow them to thrive. Their future is just that – theirs, not ours! They own their own future; we can advise and influence only.

I have strong recollections as a young teenage man. I thought I was a young man and able to make decisions about my future and I appreciated my parents offering advice (which I often followed) and resented being told what to do (which I often ignored).

Offer sage advice and explain why, but most importantly, model the appropriate adult values, attitudes and exhibit the skills you want them to learn. Young people are far more likely to copy what you do than do what you say.

3/ PPP matters (Preparation, Planning and Practice)

Preparation is about attitude. Being gently positive and realistic. Begin conversations about what realistic improvement and success might look like. Model calmness, care, positivity and lucid thinking.

Calm, sensible thinking leads to pragmatic and achievable planning. Discuss a sensible study regime. Read about or ask teachers at your daughter or son’s school about how information can be learned and revised and how your child should be studying. There is material readily available in many places. Putting it into a sensible plan and then practicing that plan daily is harder. Setting new or better habits requires effort and persistence. It is simple in theory and hard work in reality. You will need to potentially adjust your family routines to support your daughter or son.

4/ Encouragement and support matter more than fear and threats

Your attitude towards your daughter or son will be clear to them. Encouragement and support work best. Our actions or inactions have consequences but do not phrase consequences as a threat or to induce fear. As a parent your role is to be supportive, to encourage and be realistic about outcomes and refocus attention on PPP (see above).

5/ Stay calm and keep going

If you agree that your son or daughter is more likely to copy what you do than do what you say, then stay calm and keep going.

6/ Encourage dialogue, reflection, debriefing and asking of questions

Keep talking about progress in a gentle and objective manner, even when things are going awry.

7/ Stay fresh and focused – balance does matter

While strong success at exams in Year 12 requires significant amounts of high-quality study for your daughter or son, ensure they have breaks, take physical exercise, relax and allow time for point 6 above. These all make a positive contribution to the atmosphere in the home. Join in with them; it will be good for you, too!

8/ There is life after school

As a school principal I believe school makes a positive difference in the lives of young people. That said, it is but a part of life and success or otherwise at school has a low correlation with success in the years beyond school.

In all my years of professional study and reading, one of the most important pieces of knowledge I have learned is that the influence I have as a parent is far stronger on my children than I had as a classroom teacher on my students and both are more important than the influence I have as a school principal on a community.

Stay positive and keep working at setting a good example for your children. Parenting matters.

Allan Shaw
Principal and chief executive
The Knox School, Wantirna South

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Religion Uniting Church
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