Abu Dhabi: Board exams are just around the corner for many high school students at Indian curriculum schools across the UAE, with students, families and educators gearing up for what will be the first assessments in more than two years that will not be curtailed by precautionary measures for COVID-19.
Ahead of these exams - for Grade 10 and 12 in February - educators are calling upon students to manage their time well, and to prioritise sleep and a healthy diet alongside their study plans.
“Proper sleep habits ensure more productivity and better performance in the exams. Students who burn the midnight oil often fail to retain the content learnt, and subsequently risk going blank due to a lack of sleep,” warned Rachel Pereira, head of senior school at the Our Own English High School – Sharjah, Girls.
“We all know how important regular sleep patterns are and, with most teenagers needing 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night to support their physical and mental wellbeing, I would advise against any revision plans that interrupt sleep,” said Abigail Fishbourne, director of learning at the International Schools Partnership – Middle East.
Board exams are set to begin next month for students following the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). Other education boards, including the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE), and the Kerala State Board, will begin their assessments soon after.
Over the last two years, the pandemic had necessitated extra layers of measures so that board exams could be conducted in a safe manner. Even with these precautions removed, a full-fledged assessment can prove to be stressful for many students.
Educators urged that students prepare ahead, while also leaving just enough time for family and any other activities, instead of studying late into the night close to the exams. Planned revision and time management are essential skills that can help students fare well in the upcoming assessments.
“For students who are sitting summative assessments, I would suggest that parents work with the school to create revision plans and timetables. My advice would be that these plans include revision time, plus well-being time that includes exercise and time for socialising with family and friends,” Fishbourne suggested.
For students looking to do well, study time at this point should be used to revise already learnt content.
“Reverse planning from the date of the exam may help students to break their revision into manageable blocks. Parents must also remember that revision is a skill that needs to be taught and children will need both support, encouragement and for many, time to reflect on their own revision styles,” Fishbourne said.
“Students are advised to manage their time wisely and be up to date with their studies. This will avoid a lot of stress towards the end,” Pereira added.
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Mock exam learnings
Schools also conduct mock exams to help students adapt to the needs of a summative exam. Students can take stock of how they have performed on mock exams, and work to improve upon their performance.
“Mock exams are a platform to familiarise students with a wide variety of questions, and to test the content studied. Students should [ideally] consider the mock exams as a practice opportunity and a chance to rectify their errors. They should also not get dejected at their performance in the mock exam, as these exams are conducted well ahead of the actual assessments, thus giving them time to prepare,” Pereira said.
Fishbourne added that mock exams essentially give teachers and students another of information about what should be covered or re-taught before the final exams, and that they help students understand and answer exam-style questions.
Striking a balance
While students set themselves up for these decisive exams, they must also make sure to strike a balance between the other elements in their lives.
“As with everything in life, students need to find an appropriate balance between revision and their social life. Exams are of course incredibly important, but so are maintaining friendships and being physically active. We encourage our parents to work with their children to create a revision plan that ensures academic, social, emotional and physical wellbeing. This will mean blocking out time when studying will be most effective, as well as time away from their books,” Fishbourne said.
The educator also urged parents to keep the kitchen stocked with healthy, quick to prepare snacks and drinks so students can grab something to eat and drink mid-study.
For students following other curriculums, including British curriculums and the UAE Ministry of Education curriculum, school-leaving exams are set to begin by May.
Advice from a topper
Indian student Nishkka Kathpal was the CBSE Grade 10 topper at The Millennium School – Dubai. Now an 11th-grader in the Science stream, the 16-year-old said she hopes to continue studying in the same organised manner that helped her score 98.8 per cent last year.
Unlike many other students, Nishkka also prioritised her health and fitness, even in the run up to her exams. A basketball player for her school, she made sure to go for a 30-minute run every single day.
“I exercised or worked out every day, and I stuck mainly to home cooked food to stay healthy,” Nishkka said.
This is not to say that she did not hit the books diligently through the year.
“I have to say that I put in a lot of prep. I solved a lot of sample papers, stayed up to date with my lesson, and made sure to study from the textbook rather than confusing myself with a variety of sources,” Nishkka said about her strategy.
On days when she attended classes, Nishkka only began studying at home in the evenings. But once the one-and-a-half-month study leave began in March, she was up and at it from 7am, with a break in the afternoon, and more studying in the evening.
Kathpal advised students to stress less ahead of the exams, and to simply put in all their effort to do well.
How to study smart
• Prepare a sensible revision timetable that includes study time and time away from books.
• Set up a distraction free study area.
• Think about the best way you learn and experiment with different revision techniques.
• Make sure you are getting enough sleep.
• Ensure you are eating a healthy diet.
• If your revision is not going to plan, reach out to your teachers for support.