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Preparing for Exams with a Foster Child

If a young person in your care is taking exams this year, then here are some practical ways that you can support them.

July 12 2023 - 4 min read

Preparing for exams

Exam season can be incredibly stressful for teenagers. Many will experience more regular mood swings and outbursts, particularly if they’re struggling with the work or feeling the pressure to achieve certain grades.

They may also experience a change in sleep pattern, appetite or behaviour because of this too. As a foster parent whose fostering teenagers, you’ll play an important part in helping your young person manage the stressors of exam season and go into each one feeling as prepared as possible.

If a young person in your care is taking exams this year, then here are some practical ways that you can support them.

6 tips for exam preparation with a foster child

1. Start early

It sounds obvious, but it’s one of the single most important things you can do to help your young person prepare for exams. Burning the midnight oil the night before a big exam will just pile on the pressure, but starting early with short and focused revision sessions will help them absorb and retain more information.

2. Help them to create a study plan

Setting a schedule is very important. It will help your young person to visualise what they need to do and when. It will also stop them from getting transfixed on one subject to the detriment of others and help them to study a broader selection of topics that may come up.

It may sound counterproductive but the key to a good study plan is to factor in breaks and days off. Nobody can study 24/7 and if they tried it would actually be harder to retain information because they would get burnt out easily. The best way to study is by hitting the books for 30-45 minutes per hour, depending on your young person’s learning needs and concentration levels, and using the remaining time to get up and move about. This will help them to concentrate for the next study session.

It’s also important that you schedule no more than three hours of revision time for each session. Every young person will be different though – some may not be able to concentrate for 3 hours, and so you may need to break this up into shorter, more regular revision sessions - so make sure you adapt this to suit your young person. You should also plan something fun to do with them after their study time is over so that it gives them something to look forward to.

3. Give them a study space

One of the most important things you can do for your young person at exam time is to give them a quiet space to study in. This can be their bedroom or another part of the house if they feel more comfortable. Ideally, they will have a good light, so they are not straining their eyes, and they should be located in an area where they are unlikely to be disturbed by the rest of the family wandering in and out. Try to keep the noise such as music or the vacuum cleaner to a minimum to help them to concentrate.

4. Equip them with the right tools

Giving your young person access to the right tools will help them to focus on what they are doing, and it means that they don’t have to waste time after their study session begins getting up to look for a pen or study book.

Useful tools to help with studying include pens, paper, pencils, rulers, and study books. A laptop or tablet will be incredibly useful for them as they can use it to research or simplify anything they don’t understand.

Another fantastic tool for studying for most exams is past papers. There are a finite number of questions they can be asked for an exam so the chances are if they tackle enough past papers some questions will come up on their actual exam paper. Failing that, they will have had practise answering questions on a topic and can adapt their answer to suit a similar question.

5. Give them the right fuel

You should consider the snacks you are actually giving them if you want to help them to improve their brain power. Food such as oily fish, bananas, and nuts are brilliant for improving memory, while slow-release energy food such as porridge can be a fantastic way to keep them full for longer which will keep them going in a three-hour exam.

Keeping them hydrated is particularly important for concentration so make sure they drink plenty of water, especially if they are studying or sitting exams on a hot day. Caffeine may be an effective way for them to stay awake during a long study session, but it can make them thirstier and affect their concentration.

6. Teach them some exam techniques

Many people panic when they first turn over an exam paper and everything they know goes out of their heads. However, it can be easy to overcome if you know how.

Teach your young person using past exam papers. Allow them to look at the paper and see what questions they can answer. If they panic, teach them to take a few deep breaths and then have another look. They might be surprised at how many questions they are able to answer once they have calmed down.

You should teach them to read the instructions carefully and see what they need to do. For example, they may have ten questions in front of them, but they only need to answer four. If they try to answer all ten, they will be marked down for not giving enough detail. If they have a choice, they should answer the questions that they know the most about.

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