The Top 5 Challenges for Students Going into Exams

Sep 30, 2020NCEA, Parent advice

Exams are approaching fast, and we understand that things may be looking a bit different this year. 

The disruptions caused by lockdown have interfered with student’s day-to-day learning as well as their NCEA exam preparation. Whether you are a past or present client of Inspiration Education, or have never used our services before, our aim is always to keep parents informed and help you empower your children.  

With that in mind, here are the top 5 reasons students struggle in exams and the strategies we recommend to help take some of the pressure off.   

1. Lack of Study Plan and Strategy


 Most students lack a plan of not just when and what they’ll study, but most importantly “how” they will study.

Why this is a problem:

Without a clear plan of attack, students struggle to know exactly what to do. This can result in procrastination, feelings of anxiousness, and a lack of preparation which may lead to underperformance on the big day.

How you can help: 

Help them write up a “study formula” that not only includes when and what they’ll study, but how they’ll study as well.

2. Gaps in Their Knowledge


Due to illness, sports, forgetting or not getting along with a particular teacher, your child may have missed content throughout the year. Often, your child won’t be aware about which content they don’t know.

Why this is a problem: 

Gaps in knowledge lead to a lack of understanding, which can prevent students from passing, and students getting higher grades, like Merit and Excellence grades.

How you can help:

Sites such as StudyTime, StudyIt and NoBrainTooSmall have checklists of what you need to know for each subject and topic. Get your child to run through these and test themselves on what they do and don’t know. From there, they can make themselves a targeted plan of what to work on next.

3. Not Sure How to Approach Exam Questions


Students may know the information, but find it hard to interpret the question and/or aren’t sure how to put their responses in the right language for the marker.

Why this is a problem: 

Although they might understand the content, NCEA is strict on wording for each grade level. The language students use in their explanations can make the difference between grade levels, particularly at the higher-levels.

How you can help: 

Past exam papers are a huge help, but most students don’t use them in the most effective way. After doing the question, they should be closely studying the answers and they should be writing down how to improve their answer. This will result in a list of all the ways they can improve their explanations.

4. Exam Anxiety


Students often feel very anxious about exams, due to the high stakes and high-pressure nature of exams.

Why this is a problem: 

Anxiety prevents students from performing at their peak.

How you can help: 

Encourage your child to write up an exam action plan on how they’ll deal with exam anxiety (for example, “if I feel anxious in the exam, I will __________”). Some of our tutors wrote an article for StudyTime with heaps of helpful strategies for dealing with exam anxiety – check it out here.

5. Lack of Exam Management Skills


Students are often not taught exam management skills by their school.

Why this is a problem: 

If doing the exam in a linear manner, your child may spend more time on the harder questions that they can’t do, rather than the questions that they can. This may result in them not finishing the exam, or thinking they can’t do the whole exam (rather than the 1-2 questions they can’t do).

How you can help: 

Encourage your child to read through all of their exam questions first before attempting any and get them to write a number between 1 and 5 (5 being hardest and 1 being the easiest) next to each question. From there, they should be doing lower-numbered questions first.

I hope this information gives you ideas on how you can further help your child during their stressful exam period.

Looking for Extra Help?

Our tutoring team are specialists in teaching and implementing the above strategies, so should you want to try a risk-free lesson, please fill out your details here and we’ll reply to you within 6 hours to get things started, as exams are not far away!



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