Tips, Tricks and Treats for Beating Exam Terrors

The Art of Achieving Exam Preparedness

f101-tree2Around October each year, as another major academic examination season gets under way, the frenzy of preparations can start to take their toll on both parents and their children.

You need to keep your wits about you, and ensure that your child is performing to his potential at this critical juncture, with exams just around the corner.

The key is to remember that it is about balance. To give your child the best chance at performing well now, you will have to use a mixture of tips, tricks and treats to ensure that he or she will build the skills and habits to perform at his best, not just for exams, but for lifelong learning.


Focusing on building the skills for lifelong learning, these tips are designed to provide a template for creating your child’s own set of tools and coping strategies. This will allow him to thrive under challenging and dynamic conditions in school and in other situations that require the ability to learn under pressure.

Our tips are contained in a method known as the Bullseye Strategy. This strategy applies to a student’s approach to any subject, and contains four components: Overview, Test Assessment, Self Assessment and Task Assessment. Encourage your child to use this strategy, or tailor a similar strategy along these lines to suit him.

The Bullseye Strategy: Four Components

Overview: This component requires the student to focus on getting a ‘big picture’ view of the subject, familiarizing himself with the crucial versus the non-crucial concepts. This will allow him to form a context for his study of various aspects or sections in a given subject.

Test Assessment: The student should focus on areas that have been highlighted by the teacher as important, and to note or mark out these areas accordingly, so that these areas are not missed.

Self Assessment: Determine the student’s appreciation of the level of his own understanding of the subject. As your child does the self assessment, he should use it as a basis for designing his study guide, doing practice problems and where necessary, doing in-depth study of specific chapters or sections, to reinforce understanding.

Task Assessment: Identify gaps between what is required knowledge and the student’s own knowledge. This allows the student to know where to focus his time. Knowing what is expected of him is the main objective of task assessment. Improved time management is another benefit of taking this step.


The most common obstacle to doing well in exams is lack of confidence and focus. The first can lead to forgetfulness and uncertainty, while the latter can lead to unnecessary careless mistakes.

Our greatest tool is our mind, and the same goes for our kids. Two tricks that you will want your child to have are resilience and alertness. In the face of an exam situation, these traits are their best weapon against confidence and focus issues.

In order to train resilience, know what shakes his confidence. If the memory of past failures is holding your child back, you need to encourage him, and stand beside him to face the failures head on.

Give him a proper perspective, and show him that it is not something inherent that caused the failure, for example a lack of intelligence. Rather, show him that there are things he can do to overcome the situations that led to failure, for example the lack of preparation, a wrong attitude or carelessness. Empower your child.

To train your child to focus, encourage him to employ systematic thinking and train him to ignore distractions while in study situations. That said, it is still important to ensure that his study environment is conducive.


You might think that with examinations nearing, the most you can give your child is short breaks and desserts to perk him up. There are, however, some treats that work well not only to serve as a break from the rigourous study, but also as a mental boost.

Exercise is one of the secret treats that you should offer up to your child during this time. Making time to exercise daily is shown to boost energy and concentration. This allows the mind to function at peak levels, improving the ability to absorb and assimilate information.

Being a part of the balanced strategy, exercise can also give you the opportunity to focus on things outside of academics. This is where both dad and child can “let loose” for a moment. 20 minutes of daily exercise is recommended. Obviously, this is not the time to be taking up a new sport. .

The quickest way to get some exercise is to take a brisk walk or jog together, or go for a quick swim in the pool.

Another helpful treat would be to give your child fruits and healthy snacks, preferably containing protein. Fruits are a good substitute for sugary snacks which you should avoid. Sugar consumption presents the risk of causing energy levels to fluctuate. Ideally, snacks should be high in complex carbohydrates and protein. Try bananas and kiwi fruits, and beef jerkies and unsalted almonds.

Of course, when it comes to mealtime, a balanced diet is essential as well, especially during the examinations period.

Remember, to grow life-long learners, use a balanced approach.

For more strategies, browse:

University of Surrey Exam Revision Stress Buster:

PSLE Survival Guide for the Family by Ng Pan Wei, PhD. NLB call no. 370.130281 NG

Exam Stress: A natural feeling that you can learn to deal with.


1. The Bullseye Strategy. Duke Academic Resource Center., retrieved on 23 September 2011.

2. Yong, John (2010) Reduce Careless Mistakes in Exams, (pp114-5) in Eduguide Singapore Vol 3. 2010.

About the Author: The Dads for Life Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, including psychologists, counsellors, educators and social service professionals, dedicated to developing useful resources for dads.

First published on 12-10-2011