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Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 3, No. 5 - September/October 2011

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Stress Less for University Exams: Top Tips for Families

By Jenna Hanson

73% of higher education students report difficulties preparing for exams, and this percentage of reported study problems is consistent across the years, according to a 2007 report published by Chris Rachal in the Journal of Instructional Psychology.

However, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Ken Kiewra, an expert in study methods, has recently published research showing some hope for university students.

Kiewra believes students tend to mindlessly over-copy long passages verbatim, take incomplete or linear notes, build lengthy outlines that make it difficult to connect related information, and rely on memory drills like re-reading text or recopying notes.

A better study strategy, according to Kiewra, uses the method SOAR: Selecting key lesson ideas, organizing information with comparative charts and illustrations, associating ideas to create meaningful connections, and regulating learning through practice.

It's often difficult for parents to step back from your children and let them do as they want. However, the point of a university education is to create independence; a person capable of not only learning new information, but also applying it to different situations.

When it comes to studying for exams, everyone has their own method for producing the results they wish to achieve. However, moving from a high school to a university level of education may need a change of study plan.

One way you may help your child is to research different study strategies, most of which are readily available on university websites. There are countless study guides available in local libraries or online from a range of other sources.

The following ideas are a guide to help parents manage the delicate balance between comfort and crowding.


  • Be positive: Exams are stressful for everyone, regardless of what level they are studying at. By supporting your child and remaining positive, you can increase the amount of effort your child puts in to studying.
  • Be interested: Try not to focus solely on what your child is studying. Ask about their activities outside of university, such as their friends, university groups and outside interests.
  • Be involved: One of the best ways for a student to learn or solidify an idea is to talk it through and teach someone else. By listening and becoming a sounding-board for your child you can become an active part of their study strategy.
  • Provide an escape: One of the worst things a student can do is study for long periods of time without a break. Generally, a short break after every hour of study is needed to refocus the student's attention and consolidate the information just learnt. These breaks don't have to be long and in some cases they can be used as a time to practice the information they just learnt in a real-life situation.
  • Acknowledge success: Acknowledging success at university level is often over-looked. University lecturers rarely praise students in the manner high school students are used to. By recognising the positive achievements of your child, you can increase their confidence and release their anxiety over their academic performance.
  • University is a time for learning, independence and building the necessary skills for your career and life. Exams are only one part of university life, albeit a stressful and difficult part. Parents need to support their children during this transition, providing a strong foundation and positive outlook.


Ken Kiewra

Chris Rachal Psychology/173375575.html

About Jenna Hanson

Jenna Hanson is a Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Arts (Honours) graduate from the University of Wollongong and a current Diploma of Journalism student at Macleay College. As a former university student and current college student, she has undertaken many exams and in the future hopes to influence the way science is taught in schools.

More Information

Jenna Hanson
P: 0407 204 765


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