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Encouraging children to do their best

When it comes to exams, recent news highlights the severe stress exam season can cause young children. Meanwhile, around five million students will sit their GCSEs this summer across the country. So how is best for them to prepare? And what advice can we follow when it comes to best identifying and helping children through any exam stress?


Of course planning for exams is key, as is keeping things in perspective. Remaining active and sleeping and eating well will also go a long way in relieving exam stress.

Eden talked to child psychologist expert Dr Ramya Mohan, a Senior Consultant Psychiatrist and Medical Educator with the National Health Service UK, about identifying and helping children to cope with exam stress. She told us:

1) Identify exam stress early

Look out for warning signs that your child/ teenager is stressed or suffering from anxiety. These signs might include sleep disturbances, erratic/poor eating, low mood, low confidence, frustration/anger, queasy tummies, headaches and flaring up of skin conditions such as eczema.

2) Set realistic goals and expectations

Understand your child’s/teenager’s strengths and interests and focus on those, whilst acknowledging their weaknesses. Reinforce that failure is a normal part of learning.

3) Make learning fun

Depending on your child’s age, make learning an exciting activity. Use toys and tools to aid in their education and revision.

4) Working environment

Create a consistent environment at home for your child/teenager to study e.g. create a revision corner that is comfortable and inviting to work in.

5) Preparation

Plan ahead for each exam. Have an exam rota in a visible place to everyone in the family, i.e. on the fridge or next to the front door. This ensures you all know what exam is when.

6) Create to-do lists

Ensure your child/ teenager has practical and simple considerations in place i.e. let them know you will drive them to each exam so they don’t need to worry they might be late, or ensure your child has access to a quiet space should they require it for revision etc.

7) Communicate

Ask your child/teenager how their revision is going and how their exams are going

A simple conversation at the end of the day and giving positive feedback on their efforts will go a long way.

8) Take a break

Encourage relaxation and that your child/teenager takes part in other activities to unwind i.e. playing football, painting, meeting friends etc. Music and art are ideal activities to aid in stress relief, reducing anxiety and stress management.

Dr Mohan specialises in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and is an expert within Neurodevelopmental disorders, Developmental Neuropsychiatry and Psychopharmacology. You can find out more at:


When it comes to revising for exams, according to one expert, revision techniques have changed. Education expert Murray Morrison told Eden, “Too much emphasis on traditional methods of learning can be counter-productive.” Morrison challenges traditional thinking and advises that effective revision ought to be about re-learning and not remembering.

Many students rely on old-fashioned techniques and outdated methods that if anything, could be doing more harm than good.  By trying to memorise facts off by heart in intensive “cramming” sessions, student fail to gain a true understanding of the subject, according to tutor and software entrepreneur Murray Morrison.

Morrison said “Old-fashioned techniques like ‘copy, cover, repeat’ or sitting numerous practice papers are not nearly as effective as people think – at least in the ways that students are using them, but they still get passed down from parent to child.”

To help students prepare for their exams, Murray’s put together this list of “revision hacks” that he has found to be far more effective than traditional techniques:

  1. Don’t work through practice papers; Pick one question at a time, look at the mark scheme and then do the question. When you’re confident you know how the marking works, you can start doing questions and marking them to see if you’re getting all the marks. It is as important to understand, strategically, HOW the marks are awarded as it is to know all the answers inside out.
  2. Don’t use highlighters to mark the things you don’t know; use a pencil to cross out the things you do know. This builds positive feedback – a sense of achievement as you cross things off, rather than highlighting your gaps.
  3. Don’t copy your notes out again; make very short micro-notes on flash-cards. Rewording and condensing info causes you to process and internalise information far more effectively.
  4. Don’t just sit looking at your text book; read it aloud to yourself, your cat, your parents etc. Read it, sing it, perform it – make it memorable! The more processes (movement, hearing, speaking) you use when learning, the better.
  5. Don’t “cram”; spread your revision over a long period instead of a single intense burst. Studying over a long time allows the information to properly sink in and improves understanding.
  6. Embrace technology; there are a host of online learning platforms that are easy to use and track your progress. These platforms tailor their programmes around you, based on your individual strengths and weaknesses.
  7. Don’t revise for your exam; instead, teach that material to somebody else – a brother/sister, parent, grandparent, Nanny, school friend, anyone. If you can explain it to someone, if you can tell the story, you can explain it to an examiner.

Morrison said: “We’re not suggesting that every student should throw away their highlighters or even that there is a ‘right’ way and a ‘wrong’ way to revise.

However, a lot of the emphasis when it comes to revision has been on trying to force knowledge to stick with little thought put in to making that information “sticky” in the first place.  To get the best results, you need to find interesting ways of engaging with the material – whether that’s teaching it to others, recording notes to play back or even singing it.”

Morrison has taken his theories one step further and developed an online game called Tassomai that tutors students on potential exam questions in the GCSE science syllabus. The software can be used both in schools and by individual students at home and produces a tailor-made teaching programme based on each pupil’s progress.

Tassomai makes revision and learning as effective and as straightforward as possible.  Users can see the revision topics that they need to work through, they can see how they are getting on so far, and they can see what they should do next.  Tassomai prioritises each topic and subject based on progress so far and time remaining (i.e. the date of examination).

A user simply needs to log in regularly and complete the revision assignments at the top of their list. Their mission is simple: keep the pace of progress up to the speed prescribed – a task that requires a few minutes attention each day.

To find out more about this intelligent learning tool, head to

May 24, 2016

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