i‑Learner Education Centre

Steps to Success » Exam Tips

Working On Your Kid’s Weaker Skills

As part of the team which works on school specific exam practice, I have regular conversations with parents about their child’s progress on school tests. One question which comes up often is: ‘Why doesn’t my kid’s hard work seem to pay off?’

Parents find it understandably frustrating to see their child studying hard for exams but still getting low grades. This can be especially tough to deal with when the child really is much better than the test mark reflects.

When I speak to parents about this issue, I encourage them to look at the bigger picture – not the specific test or exam the student just did, but their overall skill set. Improving a child’s grades is often about working on a few fundamentals rather than a single point from the syllabus. Take a look at some ideas on how to start working on this:

1. Improve one or two key skills at a time
Look for a pattern of common mistakes throughout your child’s schoolwork. Focus on those areas, even if they’re not on the exam syllabus. For instance, students who are weak at irregular verbs lose marks in many areas of their tests (not just tense exercises, but other grammar questions, as well as comprehension and compositions too). You can easily find lists of irregular verbs online. Have your child copy out and write sentences with a few each night and you’ll see their overall confidence with English and their test marks improve.

2. Clear up any misconceptions that lead to accumulative mistakes
Sometimes students make several mistakes in a row because of the same misconception. For instance, in tense exercises, students often overlook a specific keyword that indicates the tense to be used (e.g. ‘now’ for present continuous or ‘since’ for present perfect). As a result, they lose marks on 3-4 questions in a row. Clearing up misconceptions like these can be more valuable than asking your child to repeat the exercise without really understanding their mistake.

3. Be encouraging
As I mentioned, it’s understandable for parents to feel frustrated by their child’s low grades, especially when the parent feels they’re doing all they can. However, when parents show these feelings, it can lead to the child becoming scared to share their weaknesses. Children learn well when they’re able to confide about things they find difficult. Be open and encouraging so that your child makes all the improvement they can!

Each child will have different areas they need to work on. Your child’s teacher is a great resource when you start thinking about this. Ask the teacher for any fundamental areas that your child needs to work on and focus on these topics in the periods between tests.