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Helping your child prepare for November's Common Entrance Exams

Updated: Aug 7, 2019

Mock exams for Common Entrance can be more terrifying than the real thing in some respects. Children have barely embarked on their Year 8 journey and the syllabus has not yet been taught in its entirety, let alone learnt. Suddenly, exam week looms.

Prep schools have different approaches to mock exams. Some will use Common Entrance past papers, others will chop and change the structure and format to suit the topics covered to date. Either way, seeing that title page with the words, ‘Common Entrance’, the fear will set in.

To combat the pressure, the ideal approach is to enter the exam room armed both with knowledge and a strategy for success. Preparation is key and independent study is essential at the outset. Here are a few tips for revising:

1. Learn actively: Hold a pen, pencil or highlighter and make notes on work covered. These could be summarised, collected in bullet points or displayed on a spidergram.

2. Repeat to retain: Double back over notes, cover up sections, eyes closed, jot key words or say the detail out loud. A glance at the best bullet points just before the exam can be just the ticket to reinforce the essentials.

3. Colour, jingle, drum: For the hardest lists, vocab and dates, use colour-coding, make up a song or drum out the syllables to a beat.

How about parental guidance in moderation? During the initial stage of revisiting classwork, parents or tutors might assist in organising the workspace; ensuring a positive learning environment conducive to study - no distractions - and be ready with sustenance when the need arises. Most children can go it alone though and make some headway without help. However, if they hit a brick wall and frustration steps in, it could be time for some calm reassurance. A break, a walk, some fresh air or a haribo can help refocus the mind. Following this, going over a few examples or reading the question with the student can ease them back into action.

Once the learning is going strong, this can be interspersed with some quizzing from a parent, sibling or tutor. They idea is to be encouraging enough without giving the answers and firm enough without being off-putting. Someone slightly older can:

1. Set the clock and time bite size chunks of revision. 20 to 30 minute blasts work well.

2. Ask relevant questions from the textbook or exercise book.

3. Analyse practice Common Entrance papers looking at the style of question and most efficient way to approach each task.

4. Check equipment, especially before Maths.

The morning of the exams, be sure to have a substantial breakfast and take snacks and a water bottle in to school. Don’t forget a last minute look at those key bullet points. Three deep breathes and go for it!

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