When the exams are around the corner – entire families of those taking the exams are stressed.
Even the parents of the most relaxed children are treading on eggshells around their children. And every parent is looking for an opportunity to do something to help their exam going child. Sadly however – most parents have no idea what to do.
If you are a parent - the simplest way in which you can help your child while you wait for the nail biting race to the finish line – is to help your children with food.
To work effectively – the brain needs food. Carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals, are all essential to keep the brain functioning well. As stress gets the better of children – the first thing they do is skip meals and survive on junk food.
It may be difficult to convince children to eat regular meals as they study – but parents can make an attempt to include all the elements of a balanced diet into the food that their child eats through the day with some innovatively cooked snacks
It is important to focus on nutrients because a diet that lacks essential nutrients can compromise concentration.
While all the elements of a balanced diet are required to keep the brain and body going – it is important to remember that having the regular three or four square meals while studying long hours can be counterproductive. Heavy meals can be sleep inducing and so frequent small healthy meals packaged as snacks - is what you should ideally give your child.
Eating too much or too little can interfere with the ability to focus. A heavy meal may make one feel tired, while too few calories can result in distracting hunger pangs
The brain runs on sugar. It is the brains most preferred fuel source and so some amount of craving for sweet things is normal in a child who is spending several long hours exercising his/her brain cells. However an excess of sugar can actually impair the functioning of the brain and cause both brain and body to slow down. So keep a watch on how much sugar your child takes in.
If your child insists on sweets, try chocolate or cocoa based sweets, which keep the brain in great functioning condition when they are consumed in moderate amounts, because of their antioxidant properties. Nuts and dry fruits are full of antioxidants and very good for the brain too
It is tempting to offer caffeine in the form of tea coffee and other energy drinks to keep the mind alert. However too much caffeine can actually have the reverse effect and make your child jittery and uncomfortable
There is a long gap between dinner and breakfast and since the brain needs food before it can function effectively - breakfast is a non-negotiable. If your child refuses a regular breakfast – package it innovatively into small tasty snacks. Studies have found that eating breakfast may improve short-term memory and attention. Students who eat breakfast tend to perform better than those who don’t. Foods that top the brain-fuel list include high-fibre whole grains, dairy, and fruits.
Overeating at breakfast however – is not a good idea because high-calorie breakfasts induce sleep and sluggishness
As the exams approach – the “I am forgetting everything” feeling can grip students. And their panic about forgetting can overwhelm parents as well.
I have often encountered parents looking around for memory enhancing drugs to help their children at such times.
It is important to remember that while a lot of claims have been made about the memory boosting properties of a lot of drugs – a great deal of research is still required in most cases to prove their efficacy and ensure their safety and absence of side effects. In such a scenario – it is best to exercise extreme caution before experimenting with medications or supplements.
Both the brain and the body function best when they are well hydrated. It is important to drink water.
Juices, tea, coffee and other beverages cannot take over the function of water.
Frequent sips from a bottle strategically placed on the study table can make a lot of difference to the functioning of the brain.
A healthy body and mind are extremely important for success in exams. You can contribute to your child’s success by feeding him/her right. And you should.
No one likes exams. Even if you are extremely well prepared, as the exams approach you are bound to feel a little scared. And if you know that you are not as well prepared as you should be – you can feel like you are living in a nightmare.
There is no doubt that regular study – with a systematic approach to every subject and lots and lots of practice is the best way to prepare for exams. However, when you are just a few weeks away from exams – instead of crying about what you haven’t done and drowning in anxiety by imagining extreme situations and worst case scenarios, the smart thing to do is – to utilise the time you have left effectively and do the best you can.
Follow this 5 Point Plan for effective last minute study
Pamper your Brain – you are going to need it
The brain is the one organ in your body that you are going to need the most to do well in your exams and it must be kept in top notch condition. Nutritious food and adequate sleep are the two things that the brain really needs to function optimally – but these are usually the first things to be sacrificed when there is a lot to study.
Do not neglect meals. Eating nutrient rich meals at regular intervals is the key to remembering all that you study. Remember – complex carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals are all essential. Restrictive diets or junk food diets are extremely harmful for brains that are trying to learn and remember.
Sleep is just as essential because a tired brain cannot learn and remember like it should.
Fear makes us run away from what is scary and so we often tend to neglect subjects that we are weak in. This is a big mistake.
The board exam results are an aggregate percentage of all your subjects and doing very badly in one subject can ruin your overall result – even if you have done extremely well in the other subjects. Make sure you study all the subjects and all the chapters of each subject and don’t ignore diagrams, tables and graphs.
Allocate time to each subject depending on how much syllabus there is and how good you are at that subject.
Spend more time on your weak subjects
When the exams are around four weeks away - start preparing for them in the reverse order. Prepare first for the last exam and plan it such - that you start preparing for the first exam about 2 weeks before the date.
Write formulae, theorems, definitions and other points that you tend to forget – in bright colours on chart paper and stick them in your room where you will be able to constantly see them
Remember that quizzing yourself on what you have learnt is a more effective way of revising than simply rereading everything repeatedly.
Use question papers of the previous years to revise as it is likely that several questions may be repeated.
Also, study in 3 hour slots so that it helps you practice the intense concentration that you will need during your exams which will be of the same duration.
The stressed brain does not work well.
While it is impossible not to feel stressed about exams - it is important to actively try to minimise the stress. One of the best ways to reduce the fear of what may happen in the future – is to plunge into action in the present moment. And therefore the only way to reduce exam stress is to study.
Stop comparing yourself with others. What another person is doing, has done or may do in the future is not going to change your result. Concentrate on doing what you can do. Forget about others.
If you feel the stress mounting take a break from studying and go for a short run or walk. If that does not help speak to a parent or teacher who you think may be able to help.
Focus on the task at hand in the exam hall
However much or however little you may know in a subject – what you write in the exam and how well you present it - is what really matters. Read the question carefully, answer to the point and write neatly without cutting and scribbling.
Always get enough sleep before your exams. And never go to the exam hall on an empty stomach.
Put your best foot forward as you prepare for your exams and tackle them, but remember that a poor result is not the end of the road. Exams are just a sample of the challenges that will be thrown to you later in life – they are designed to prepare you to meet these challenges.
Thoughts determine action – action determines outcome. Always remain positive.