Tips if You’re Cramming for Exams

Don’t Cram; Cramming for exam is the study-mate of procrastination. It is what happens when you decide, the night before the exam, that you can make up for lost time. “All I need is coffee and I’ll stay up all night reading all of the text book and then I’ll be set for the exam.”

The problem is; it doesn’t work. First of all, sleep is essential. For everything. Even short term sleep deprivation has observable consequences for memory retention and recall. Thinking slows down, reasoning gets cloudy and your stress levels elevate. All of the research around sleep and memory report that people who are sleep deprived achieve poorer results on memory and skills tests. If you haven’t slept your brain can’t store facts, it can’t recall them, you have a reduced ability to reason and you feel stressed.

Second, you don’t learn by rereading the text book or your notes. We have all reached the bottom of a page and realized that not a single word has made it from your eyeball to your brain. This is because, apart from your fatigue (see above) you aren’t paying attention to the words. In you stressed state you are probably thinking about how many more pages there are, how many more hours you have, how many hours of sleep you’ll be missing and what people are going to think of you when you flunk chemistry. Your anxiety levels are making your brain unreceptive to any information that isn’t directly related to the stressors.

So, cramming for exam the night before doesn’t work. It can even make things worse. A good tutor can help with study planning skills, gaining confidence for learning and effective exam preparation.

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Avoid this last minute approach by avoiding procrastination.

Procrastination is a stress response; you avoid study because it feels stressful.  The reason that you will avoid hitting the books today, and every day, is because you think it is too hard. Just about ANYTHING seems easier than practicing algebra. Right? Naturally, you want to avoid something that is too hard or stressful.

The opinion that something is ‘too hard’ is based, not on the intrinsic difficulty of the task, but on the belief that you’re no match for it. Are these beliefs true? And is it actually too hard? Is it harder than staring at a mystifying exam paper? Harder than admitting to yourself that you have, actually, made life harder for yourself?

The problem with avoiding things is that they don’t go away. All the stress you avoided by not studying will present itself again, now significantly intensified, in the exam room. This heightened level of stress will encourage your rational brain to shut down and hand everything over to your emotional brain. Your emotional brain (While great for making friends and many other things) cannot help you with algebra or comprehension.

So, you’re constantly avoiding studying because it is hard, at least you think so, and then your brain can’t help you at all when that stress you’ve been avoiding comes back all at once. And, of course, when you’re exam doesn’t go very well you will site it as evidence that you’re not smart. You are smart – you just need to stop procrastinating. So, here are some tips for getting past your procrastination.

cramming-for-exam1, Have a plan. Break down your study into increments. Even if your plan simply involves writing a list of the things that you have to cover. You will feel organized, instead of stressed, and you will have jumped the ‘getting started’ hurdle.

2, Break it down; so, instead of telling yourself that “I’ll just play one game of Candy Crush then I’ll get started.” Try this instead: “OK, one hour of algebra then I can relax with Candy crush” By breaking your study into smaller units; hours or half hours, it will seem more achievable and you will be less inclined to avoid it.

3, Believe in yourself. Don’t listen to that doubting voice in your head that says “I’ll never understand it anyway” or “If I was smarter I wouldn’t need to study”. You will and you do. That voice is lying! You have a giant brain and it was built for learning. You are capable.

4, Be kind to yourself. You don’t have to know everything. You do have to know more than you did yesterday. If you got a C last time – let’s shoot for B next time. Don’t compare yourself to the person at the top of the class. The only person you’re competing is with the person you were yesterday.

5, Just do it! Keep your eye on the prize! Suck it up Princess! It’s annoying to hear but sometimes you just have to sit yourself down and make yourself do it. If you struggle with motivation – that’s completely normal. Consider getting a tutor who can help you with your motivation and confidence.

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We’d love to hear your thoughts. Comment below if you have any you would like to add.

A Tutor’s Perspective

As we move closer to the the beginning of the new school year I keep thinking about ways in which we can inspire our students to gain a love of learning. I guess that’s a little bit of a cliche, but I truly believe that education must become an act of passion to be successful.

As a tutor who works to see improved outcomes in children’s skills and grades at school, I believe this must start with happy learners. Does the child feel comfortable with me as a visitor in their home? Did the child want their precious time invaded with more school like banter and activities?
First and foremost, as a tutor, it is my role to make a child believe with all their heart, that tutoring is going to be one of the most important steps in their life’s journey. Somewhere along the line things just stopped moving forward and it is my job, as a tutor, to switch that light bulb back on, ever so dimly at first, and assist them to see that together we can form a little team to make the light shine brighter each week.

As I go off to tutor, I won’t be slapping a pile of worksheets on the table for my student to plough through. I won’t be worried about standardised tests or what reading level my students are on right now. We will talk a while about the holidays and what great things they have done and what ideas have they been creating in their thoughts about the coming year ? We will create a mind map of ideas, set some realistic and exciting goals on one of my goal setting grids, find out what they need to discover about their own learning and then maybe do a bit of a recap on what we were doing last year.

Most importantly their mind map and goal setting grid will be a visual stimulus to look at during the week to remind them that I am mostly certainly here to work with them to help improve their grades, but most importantly to learn who they are, how they learn best and how we will work together to tick off one goal at a time as they are ready to move to the next step in their learning journey.

It is all about the stuff that starts to whet their appetite to begin to dream and say “I can do this.” When I go and see my students next week I will greet them with a huge smile. I have missed seeing them and know I will leave with a bigger smile as I watch them resume to create the person they were born to be.

Do I need a Tutor for my Child?

 

The decision to seek a tutor for your child can be somewhat daunting and confusing.  There are a variety of reasons you might head off on the journey to find a tutor for your son or daughter:

  • You may have noticed they don’t seem to be reading or writing as well as their peers.
  • They are expressing frustration with Mathematics and inform you they do not understand certain concepts.
  • Perhaps a teacher has told you that your child is struggling with a particular area of their learning.
  • You receive a less than favourable report that shows a drop in or little improvement in their grades.
  • Your daughter or son is preparing for the HSC and is drowning in the demands placed on them to complete assessment tasks and maintain a study program.
  • Your child has missed a block of schooling due to illness and requires some catch up tutoring to bring them up to speed.
  • Your own intuition just tells you they need some help.

 

These are some of the common reasons we receive emails and phone calls from parents seeking a tutor for their child. What I have come to learn, in the dialogue between myself and parents, is that they simply want to provide their son or daughter with the ability to work to their potential, to be given the confidence to do so and to have a mentor who will regularly encourage them on a one to one basis.

 

Children and teens are well aware when they are not reaching their personal goals or are struggling to keep up with school expectations.  Over time they can develop a sense of “learned helplessness” if problems are not arrested early. You might see a change in their enthusiasm in going to school, hear them complain about school in general and notice a reticence to engage in their homework tasks. In a busy classroom with twenty five plus students it is so easy for a student to slip through the cracks and this is when we find they have lost confidence in their ability to catch up. Tutors come to the rescue and solve these problems by

 

  • building a good relationship with the student
  • bringing activities and tasks that allow a student to succeed in the first instance
  • And, finally, working with the student to fill in the gaps which enables the student to be better prepared in the areas which they have found challenging.

student classroom The tutor/student relationship is crucial to success. When a student is comfortable with their tutor, they are morereceptive to learning, are more likely to overcome their fear of failure, to ask questions and are therefore more willing to tackle previous learning issues without frustrations. Matching the correct tutor with a student is the most important first step. From my dialogue with parents it is about knowing that your child needs a good “role model”.  If a mentor type relationship can be established, a student is more receptive to allow the tutor to capitalise on their strengths which in turn will give them confidence to work with the tutor to overcome their weaknesses.

There is no set time to look for a tutor, but it is best to offer your son or daughter help sooner rather than later.