by John Yeo

I’ve decided to do up a post about this after many parents have consulted us about the use of top school exam papers since their children have 4 weeks of school holidays soon.

My answer to them is “Yes”, only if you are very clear of these 2 things:
– Your purpose (Your Why)
– Your child’s Maths standard.

Caution: Not knowing your ‘Why’ may result in drop in performance or some children disliking math even more.

So use them with extreme care.

(Part 2 of our 7-part “Exam Smart Skills” series)

There are 5 common ‘Whys’ parents buy top school papers. See if any of this matches yours. 😉

1. I want my child to be exposed to more (difficult) questions.
2. I have a great plan to help my child speed up.
3. I want my child to have a feel of being able to complete Paper 1 and 2. And if he can’t, I can find out why.
4. Because my friends said it’s good. So I bought them too.
5. I’m a busy parent. So it’s easy for me to keep my child occupied while I’m at work. (Just 3 sets a day can keep him busy the whole day)

If you’re a parent who belongs to group #1, 2 or 3, Congratulations.

You really understand your child’s needs and you have a better study plan. 😀

Next, how should one go about maximizing the use of top school exam papers?

(*In fact, as you are reading this, you realised our study tips can be applied to both Maths and Science.)

* * *

#1. ‘I want my child to be exposed to more (difficult) questions.’

If you know your child’s standard, you can choose questions related to specific topics, concepts of certain difficulty level. You need not start from the 1st question of Paper 1 and end off with the last question of Paper 2 like everybody else.

For example, your child may be weak in division of fractions or you would like your child to work on Angles questions. All you need is to choose related questions. It could be from the same paper or from multiple sets of papers from different schools.

Do start off with easier questions such as those in MCQ section. Then you can pick other questions of various difficulty level – ranging from short answer questions to long questions. This is to help build your child’s confidence.

* * *

#2. ‘I have a great plan to help my child speed up’

If your aim is to train your child to speed up, you will need to time him while he is working through the problems sums. The best way is to sit with him during the entire process so that you can observe him and how he manages the questions.

Take note of these 2 aspects:
a. The type of questions he is good at solving. How long did he take? Under a minute?
b. His response when he faces a difficult problem. What did he do? Did he panic or feel disheartened? How long did he take before he moves on to next question?

As an encouraging adult, we should praise the child for the fact that he is determined to solve those harder questions. By telling the child that he is “slow” or “always not being to solve such simple questions” is not helpful and can hurt his self esteem.

Let your child know that on average, one mark is equivalent to spending one minute to secure this one mark. For instance, a child is given only 1 minute to solve a 1-mark question. Likewise for a 4-mark long answers questions, remind your child to spend at most 4 to 5 minutes to solve it.

If he’s still stuck at the 5th minute, all he could spare is another 2-3 minutes. After which, he must move on to the next question.

By following this guideline, your child will be more time conscious and his speed will eventually increase.

* * *

#3. ‘I want my child to have a feel of being able to complete Paper 1 and 2. And if he can’t, I can find out why.’

If your aim is to for your child to go through the motion of exam-taking by sitting for mock papers, do space out the practice schedule. Attempting to complete 1 set of SA and CA papers per day for 7 days straight is definitely an overkill.

A healthy arrangement is to have one to two rest days in between. Or you can get your child to try out Paper 1 on day 1 and Paper 2 on day 3.

To sum up, it’s common that most parents would prefer their children to at least try solving questions from top school exam papers. However, not knowing that the questions are too difficult for their children can make them lose confidence and even fear Maths.

Knowing your ‘Why’ before using top school papers is very important. I can’t stress it enough.

Don’t use them simply because other said it’s good or it’s a good way to fill your child’s time.

Use them wisely.

In Part 3, I will reveal more study tips on how to use other tools wisely.

It’s the fastest way you can help your child to secure marks.

We call this the ‘Lowest hanging fruits’ method.

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