the importance of taking a break at exam time

Take a break!

Recently, an article appeared in The Daily Mail in which it was claimed that because of the pressure of achieving top grades at GCSE or A Level, there are parents who are cancelling or postponing family holidays in the buildup to exam season.

As a teacher and counsellor, I think this is a really bad idea. What would be much better is to continue with the planned holiday but to help the child use the break in a constructive way as time away from home is good for the entire family. But the basic rule is: Establish a routine.

Each day should include:

  • fresh air or exercise

Whether it be skiing, swimming or walking around a city, the outdoor exercise is vital for a healthy mind and body. It gets the heart pumping; fills us with oxygen and the change in scenery is good for the soul. A bit of time away from the books gives the brain some time to consolidate and file away what it learnt the previous day.

  • revision

Find the time of day when your child feels the most productive and work around that. Your child will know how many hours they can practically do in a day. The exam season is a long one. Avoid burnout!

  • family time

Have meals out together or do anything else that will allow your child to unwind and relax. Your child needs it; you need it. Exams are stressful for everyone. Find ways to minimise that stress.

  • a good night’s sleep

The brain needs sleep to send what has been learnt into long-term memory.

A parent once asked me how to make the most of a week in the Alps. This was my plan:

  • have a good breakfast in time to hit the lifts for about 9.30
  • ski till lunchtime
  • family lunch together
  • pupil aims to get home for about 3
  • at the books for 4
  • spend about 3 hours working
  • family dinner
  • bed by 10
  • be flexible and allow time for him or her to do their own thing as well

It was a week away in a 3-week holiday. 3 hours a day is plenty and the pupil ran ramp it up slightly on the return home.

But please do not cancel a holiday. Rather find ways to turn the holiday into part of the exam season. I will refer you back to the earlier blogs about preparing for the exams. You need to prepare and experience the exam season as a family. But parents need to be as relaxed as possible. Your child will feel your tension and that will make him or her more stressed. Having some time away, even a weekend break, can do you all wonders.

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