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Grade boosting tips for struggling students

In my five years working at i-Learner, I’ve helped countless struggling students make fantastic progress and come out of their exams with good grades and a smile.

In my experience, if your child is struggling with their exams and revision, the measures to take can be split into short-term and long-term strategies.

If your child is having difficulties and their exam is next week, try the following short-term strategies to take the pressure off and optimise performance.

1. Understand where revision is most effective

Imagine your test consists of a writing section and a section based on a book you have been studying in class. Writing takes a long time to practise and refine, whereas preparing to answer questions based on a story is a lot more straightforward. Similarly, students can revise key grammar points in a short period of time. Check what specific points are being examined and focus your revision on these.

2. Master strategies for answering questions

Most exams contain some form of comprehension. Rather than read through the entire passage and then look at the questions, I always advise students to check the questions first, underline or highlight the key part of each question, and only then go back to the text and read through. As you are reading, refer back to the information you have highlighted, and you should increase the speed and efficiency of your comprehension.

3. Get plenty of sleep and stay hydrated

If your exam is tomorrow, it is much more effective to put the books down and get a good night’s sleep. On the day of the exam, drink plenty of water and check with the school if you can bring a bottle of water with you. It has been shown that students who are well hydrated perform better on their tests!


On top of these short-term fixes, it’s also important to think about long-term strategies to help struggling students improve their grades.

1. Vocabulary

Vocabulary is one area of English that I think holds back students the most. Both comprehension and writing will be challenging for a student who doesn’t continue to improve their vocabulary. This can be done by reading lots of English books at home and keeping a vocabulary diary. Alternatively, you can find word lists for Hong Kong students, and pick 3 new words each day to study together.

2. Reviewing material

Some of my students struggle with remembering material they covered in the past for their exams. It is important to create time to regularly review old material. The best way is to revisit class notes and revise them in different ways. Simply reading through notes is not very helpful, especially for students who are already struggling to remember everything. Encourage your child to make a mind map or collage, or even to sing the information out loud, so that they are consistently engaging with old information in fresh ways.

These are just a few tips that have helped my struggling to students to do last-minute exam preparation and to develop strong long-term habits for future exam success. Have a go at home and see what works for you!

Don’t forget that i-Learner offers school-specific exam practice to help you to prepare for tests and exams at both primary and secondary level.