Top Tips to help your child with the Kent/Medway Test (11+)
September is once again upon us and for some year 6 children this means preparing for the Kent/Medway test (11+).
Did you know that academic anxiety has replaced body image worries as the number one reason pupils give for feelings of distress, as reported by Natasha Devon (former government advisor on mental health). There may be many reasons for this but one thing that can be done to help is better teaching. I am not talking about the academic side of teaching but more the nurturing side. I am talking about nurturing children's brains, boosting their confidence and making them feel enthusiastic. This is far more important and more likely to get positive results than focusing solely on the importance of the test. This is something that can be worked on in school and at home.
If all that's done is focus on the test, the child may begin to feel pressured to do well and pressured to please their teachers and parents. In turn this may begin to create anxiety and exam stress for the child. When this happens, nerves kick in and your child's fight or flight response will be in full force. This is exactly what you don't want to happen on the test day. When we are anxious we do not perform to our highest ability. Our memory does not perform as well, we struggle to focus and our body is flooded with adrenaline and noradrenaline. It can take up to an hour after this happens for our body to return to normal. By this point the test is nearly over. This is why some children crumble when they are being tested but perform perfectly well under less pressured circumstances. One of my younger clients recently came to see me at the end of year 4 feeling very anxious and refusing to go to school. When we got to the bottom of it, it was because he was so worried about the SATS in year 6 that he didn't want to start year 5. The school was already mentioning this to their students and stressing the importance of these tests nearly 2 years early. Unfortunately this is an all too common occurrence.
Children really do learn best when they are calm and positive. With all that being said, what can you do to help your child with exam stress?
1) Preparation is key. Remember the old saying of 'fail to prepare, prepare to fail'? Well it's true. By making your child feel prepared instead of pressured you are giving them confidence. One way to do this is to have them tutored once a week a few months before the test. Some schools even offer this service after school. If this is not an option you can download old test papers to work through so that they have a feel for what the test is like.
2) Good study habits are essential. This includes:
-Short bursts of revision. Work for 20/30 minutes at a time and have a 5 minute break. Do not try and study for hours at a time.
-Healthy eating habits. Drink plenty of water and have healthy snacks.
-Designate a study area. This should be quiet, clutter free and free of distractions.
-Make a timetable with set days and times that are revision time. Make sure to include leisure time also.
-Use 'Mind Maps' with lots of colour to help memory. My clients find this very effective if they are struggling with their memory.
-Think positively. If you don't get it straight away, keep going over it until you do. Explain to your child that people rarely get things first time. I often use babies learning to walk as an example and simply explain about neural pathways. Children learn by building connections between brain cells called “neural pathways.” Sometimes just explaining this to your child can boost their confidence if they are struggling.
-Sleep. Getting enough sleep really does make all the difference to how your child functions.
-Mindfulness. If you see signs of your child starting to stress over their exam, teach them mindfulness so that they can learn how to relax. Children who know how to relax perform a lot better than a child who doesn't.
3) Organisational Skills are very important.
-Talk through the exam day with your child. Get them to envisage the day step by step in calm and positive way. I often get my clients to imagine themselves sitting confidently and calmly in the exam.
-Organise all bags, books and stationary the night before so that the morning of the exam remains calm and not rushed. I think all of us parents can relate to how busy and stressful some mornings can be!
-Make time for a healthy breakfast.
4) Have a confident and positive attitude. This is probably the single most important thing you can do for your child. Work on their confidence in all aspects of life and teach them about positive thinking.
Finally I would like to wish all the children who are sitting this exam later in the month good luck!
Karen Marie Wells
A calm kids coach