Brendon Fulton, Principal, Dubai British School
The important thing with preparing for exams is to maintain a consistent approach, thus students should remain engaged in some way with material even during holiday breaks. This needn’t be too onerous and detract significantly from family time. Often just short bursts of revision are enough to ensure that content is fresh in one’s mind.
Having said that, most adults also find it difficult to refocus emotionally and physically after a holiday break. Thus I always think that it is a good idea to dedicate the last day or two of the break to some robust work and revision. This reduces the ‘shock’ of having to re-enter work-mode the day of the exam. Dubai British School offers revision sessions at the school, which is a wonderful way for children to re-engage with the work, whilst also interacting and socialising with their friends and peers. It can be comforting to share your stress with other people in the same position.
Rafia Zafar Ali, Principal, Leaders Private School, Sharjah
It’s only this year that we had such a long Eid Al Fitr break right before our periodic tests for grades three to 10. These tests will go on till June 17. What we’ve done to make it easier for the senior grades is to have the lighter papers on the first days and give break days in between the harder papers. For the junior grades, the portion and syllabus is not so much as we only had a month and three weeks of schooling since our term began, on April 7.
What I would always say to students — whether during the break or school days — is to break up revision into routine chunks so it doesn’t pile up. They should enjoy their break but also leave the last few days for revision. That way, it’s easier to adjust and get back into study mode again.
Peter Fremaux, Head of Secondary, Greenfield Community School, Dubai
Successful exam preparation is all about planning, variety and support — and re-starting revision after a break is just the same. No doubt students are increasingly used to working to a revision timetable, but getting back down to the work can be tough, so I recommend making an event of it.
Be clear when the holiday is finished and the work begins again with a clear date and time which everyone knows about. Re-engaging with revision is also about having early successes and bridging the gap. Rather than starting a new topic, start with what you were looking at before the holiday as this not only gives immediate success, but like a good story, it allows students to pick up the thread of revision in a logical place.
Like all revision, make sure that it is fun and exciting. We know that just reading notes in a book is not only incredibly ineffective in terms of learning, but the lack of variety is something that leads to demotivation. Revision tasks must be varied and fun, whether it being making mind maps, or flow diagrams, or using memory techniques or drama, the brain will take in more and students be more motivated with things that they enjoy.
Aman Motwani, 17, Al Diyafah High School, Grade 12
“I feel exams surely are a way to test one’s ability to apply their knowledge from school but they do not decide anyone’s fate so that keeps me calm and composed. Low level stress is good as it pushes one to set realistic goals for themselves and also motivates you to work harder than normal. I avoid stress by not keeping things to the last minute and by consistently working on improving myself in every subject. During the exam days, I eat healthy and sleep well. To unwind I walk for about 20 minutes. My mother is always around to motivate me during my preparations. She is a teacher by profession so she makes sure that I don’t overthink and worry about the various outcomes.”
Finney Ninan Babu, 15, Grade 10, Sunrise English Private School
“The stress of exams is a common phenomenon faced by most of the students. Almost everyone feels nervous or experiences some anxiety when faced with a test or an exam. In fact, it is unusual to find a student who doesn’t approach a test without a degree of anxiety. As a student I experience a good deal of stress from all quarters, but over the years I have armed myself with some ways to tackle this stress. One of the many ways that I wrestle with my exam stress is that I ensure to set realistic goals and be un-mindful from any source that adds to my pressure. Having healthy food, sleeping well and going out for a walk after a long session of learning are a few of the things that I do to relax. Regular prayers and meditation are other very significant measures I take in order to release stress.”
Vimla Naik, mother of grade one student in Dubai
“Having a long Eid break right before the exams didn’t really help us. Yes, there were many days off, but it’s not easy to revise for exams — especially for younger children — as they see other children playing and there are more distractions during holidays. It’s not realistic to tell younger to children to study every single day, so what we did is space out the revision every other day for my daughter.
Giving children more breaks during revision in the Eid holidays is important as well so they get time with friends. Otherwise they won’t be as attentive or interested to study.
My daughter will have her regular papers — as well as practical tests, for subjects like computer science — from Sunday to June 20.”
Nina Chami, mother of grade 12 student in Dubai
“It didn’t really feel like an Eid holiday because my daughter was studying four or five hours every day for her official French baccalaureate exams, which start this week and last till June 15. We stayed at home to give her the kind of support she needed and create the right environment for her. The timing of the holiday just wasn’t ideal, not only because there were exams right afterwards, but also because there was confusion about how the private sector handle Eid holidays, which were supposed to be synched with public sector holidays.”