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The Art Of Preparing For An Exam

As we are approaching another exam season, especially with the mocks in the UK. We must remind our young people what they need to remember before they start.

Over the past few blogs, I have taken you down a variation of reading and writing skills. But if I had to narrow down my aims for this blog. My three key objectives are to get your child to:

  • Choose the right book.

  • Build up healthy reading habits

  • Apply these new habits to your writing

  • Practise, Practise, Practise!!

The Most Common Writing Mistakes In Exams

  • Misread or misinterpret the question

When your child is in an exam, it can become a very tense atmosphere for them. Especially when they have to write creatively. Sometimes, they can develop writer's block due to stress and anxiety.

As a result of this stress, they would fail to not only READ the question but UNDERSTAND the question.

Solution: Teach them to HIGHLIGHT keywords in the question, so they have a clear focus on what they need to answer.

I wrote a few useful tips when tackling comprehension, so check out my other blog post:

  • Not planning work before writing the final draft

Reflecting on my last blog post: 'How to write as good as J K Rowling'

If J K Rowling had to re-draft the first Harry Potter book, 15 times!! What makes your child think they can write a story in just one draft?

Obviously, due to time restraints, they are unable to re-draft their story as much as Ms. Rowling. We only have at least 45 mins to an hour to get this right.

So using a simple and concise plan of 5-7mins before writing their story, can make a world of difference!

  • Lose confidence and give up

Most students that feel unprepared, may give up too early and they do not communicate this to you as the parent.

It is always good to touch base with them when they are revising, or the night before an exam, so you can affirm them and make them feel at ease.

As young people have the habit of playing it cool, but their anxiety might be doing somersaults, without you knowing.

  • Lose sight of the skills they need to include in their writing

English is all about skills, and usually, they are broken down into two sections: Reading and Writing.

For Reading, your child would need to focus on applying the following skills into their writing:


CF: Clear focus in the answer and referring back to the question with the use of paragraphs.

E: Adding evidence (quote) from the text to support your answer.

AQ: Analysing the quote.

WT: Mentioning the writing technique that is used in the chosen quote.

E: Explaining your answer in more detail and referring back to the question.

Z: Zoom into a word in the quote and explaining what does it tell the reader.

ER: What effect do all these examples have on the reader?

WM: What is the writer's message?


AV: Using ambitious vocabulary - words that are not usually used E.g instead of the word excited - use the word 'elated'

AP: Ambitious punctuation - punctuation that is used to create a particular effect or emotion E.g question marks, hyphens, ellipsis

WT: Using a variety of writing techniques E.g alliteration, similes, personification, metaphors, etc.

SO: Using sentence openers E.g Cautiously, suddenly, etc.

S: Using a variety of sentence structures E.g Simple, compound, complex.

Now whether your child is in a school or they are being homeschooled. The writing criteria all depends on which exam board they are following. But this small example I have included above, are some of the skills they need to include in all their writing, especially in an exam.

  • Chooses the safest option and end up writing an average story

If your child has to choose a question or activity in their exam. Please advise them not to pick an option because they think it is easier, but to pick the option that they feel more comfortable with.

There have been many occasions where a student would choose an option because they thought it was easy, then when they are in the middle of answering the question or completing the activity.

They are disappointed with how difficult it is.

Top Ways To Prepare Your Child For A Writing Exam

Get plenty of sleep

You may be used to your child staying up most of the night secretly on their phone. (If you are not aware of this secret, unfortunately, it's true!)

If you have a talk with them the night before their exam and encourage them to have a relaxing routine before bed. Whether it is putting on some relaxing music, lighting a candle, reading, or even meditation.

Encourage them to wind down so they are not overstimulated and they are ready for a snooze.

Exercise and eat healthy

This is no surprise, but you would be very surprised how many young people overlook this and go straight for the energy drinks first thing in the morning.

Get them to eat something nutritious the morning before their exam. A banana or apple would be a good start.

Also, instead of getting the bus. Advise them to walk where they can. Maybe not to school but to leave a few minutes earlier, or get off the bus a few stops away from their school, so they can stretch their legs.

Use quick revision resources

It is always useful to use these if they need to remember quick skills for their writing. They can use flashcards which is a great way to revise on the go.

They would need to prepare this beforehand, but it only takes a few minutes. Once completed, they can continue to use it anytime.

Focus on strengths

Near to the exam, when anxiety hits, your child might start to develop imposter syndrome. Where they might feel they are not good enough and they are going to fail the exam.

Give them as much praise and verbal encouragement and remind them that they got this!

Study and practice daily

To reduce anxiety and develop their confidence, studying in small time frames daily is better than just studying for hours and hours a few days a week.

Small steps are better when it comes to revision. So get your child to commit to maybe 1 hour of revision on one subject a day.

I promise you, they will make massive progress using this method.

Use a timetable for revision

Routine is important when it comes to revision, so have a clear timetable to structure their subjects, topics, and skills that they need to focus on each day of the week.

Take time to relax

Exams are important, but also your peace of mind! the brain cannot function under immense stimulation or stress. So if they need to have a break to lie down or even have a cheeky nap. Make sure you give them permission to do so!

Do not revise overnight

I said this before, but I will say it again. Remind your child to not leave all their revision the night before. This is extremely stressful and they will forget most things the next morning.

It is really hard to do this for English anyway, so make sure they are prepared much earlier.

Practice on past test papers

Take advantage of your child's school teachers or the web and download/print some past test papers. This will give you and your child more scope on the exam and you both will feel much more at ease when they take their final exam.

So to conclude:

Top Ways To Prepare Your Child For A Writing Exam

  • Get plenty of sleep

  • Exercise and eat healthy

  • Use quick revision resources

  • Focus on their strengths

  • Study and practice daily

  • Use a timetable for revision

  • Take time to relax

  • Do not revise overnight

  • Practice on past test papers

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