The worst thing about school entrance exams – without doubt – is that they rob you of your Saturday morning.
That may seem simplistic, given the stresses and strains you and your child have gone through when completing the rounds of forms, the pencilling-in of diary dates and the securing of a report from your current school as part of your admissions application, but it’s true. Or it should be.
Much of the worry children feel around entrance exams can stem from their parents, so it’s vital to let your child know that this one Saturday morning is not the be-all and end-all. Providing practical support and advice, and talking through any concerns they have, can also help allay any worries they may have ahead of the big day, and when planning time for study and revision, it’s also important to make time for relaxing as a family.
The exams generally test basic skills in English and Maths and are not meant to catch out students. They’re similar to tests children take in primary school. That message can be tough to get across to a 10-year-old child with their heart set on a place at a selective school, but it’s important to establish this in their minds. Too many children sit down to an entrance exam expecting an inquisition – and their performance can suffer because of it.
Encouraging your child to learn about learning can work hugely to their advantage. Understanding how your child learns best is also important when it comes to how you, as a parent, can best support them in the revision process. It’s crucial to remember that every child really is different when it comes to the way they absorb and retain information, and by learning more about the individual ways of revising, you will be providing your child with the encouragement and the tools to discover for themselves the techniques which will help make the best use of their time. It has been proved again and again that personalised learning is one of the surest ways to help children make sure they stand the best chance of succeeding in any exams they face.
Despite all their best efforts, when it comes to preparing a child for examination, family members can frequently be the weak link in the chain. It’s important to make sure that the run-up to the exam isn’t too intense, while also ensuring your child is fully prepared. Rewarding children for their hard work can be a really proactive and healthy way to stimulate consistent revision – whether that be through permitting them time out with friends, spending quality time as a family, or just chilling out in front of a film.
As for the day itself, make sure the morning is as free from outside stress as possible to prevent your child from panicking before they turn the first page on the test. Arrive at the school with a well-stocked pencil case and plenty of time to spare. Don’t panic, and make sure to have something fun lined up – a meal out, perhaps, or an activity – for after the event, where you can ask your child calmly how they felt it all went.
Most important of all is to manage expectations. We are all notoriously bad judges of our performance in any area, so a child saying they flunked the test may well prove not to be the case at all.
Tests aren’t the only way that schools will judge candidates before admission. Many schools include an interview as part of their assessment, and that is often your child’s real chance to shine. Schools usually look for curious learners; children who are passionate about finding out about new things and discovering the world. They should also try, where possible, to let their personality show through and tell their interviewers about the things they really feel passionate about.
For those still fearful – be they student or parents – it’s important to remember that entrance exams are not necessarily a pass/fail exercise: for schools, they’re a way to further filter a highly-intelligent group of young men and women with very little to differentiate them. Not being one of the few who make it through to a selective school should not be taken as a negative. Though some friends may make it to one school while your child or their peers make it to another, it’s crucial to point out that they will still be able to stay in touch – and, more importantly, will make hundreds of new friends, regardless of which school they attend.