11 Top tips for sailing through SATs or any exam for that matter……..

The final term of the school year is just around the corner with the summer term and longer days signalling a renewed energy and sense of optimism for many. The final drive for learners to be the best that they can be before the next stage of their educational career is on!

It is nevertheless, also the time of year when many children, their parents and educators will be facing SATs and other forms of formal assessment. Topical to say the least and featured almost daily in the media, there is uncertainty on the future of SATs, but one thing is certain......all children, at some point will face and have to deal with exams and testing of some description.

To get through these times, children need to learn how to deploy effective exam preparation techniques. Regardless of your view of SATs or testing in general, if a child is prepared and has a few simple techniques up their sleeve it can make a huge difference to how they approach and react under test conditions. Exam preparation and technique are important skills for children to deal with these situations, both now and into adulthood.

There are a number of resources, approaches and strategies out there to tap into to help children deal with exam situations, nevertheless, in my experience of teaching, simple steps are the best and often overlooked. I've used and come across some tried and tested approaches and techniques that will help and can be used immediately both at home and at school. They may not work for everyone but provide a starting point from which to explore.

11 top tips for sailing through SATs (or any exam)!

Water, water and more water:

It may seem really obvious but hydration is a major factor in ensuring effective and efficient brain function. There are well documented studies that demonstrate the negative effects of dehydration on brain function, concentration and clarity of mind. Downing a 2 litre bottle of water is probably not advisable, resulting in a mid-test toilet stop but sipping regularly before and during an exam will help to keep the brain and body well hydrated and in tip top condition.


There is a lot to be said for “brain food!” No one performs well on an empty stomach. Balanced and nutritious food can help to regulate blood sugar, energy levels and provides stamina. Just as an athlete would treat their body to the best foods to create strong muscles – we need to do the same for the thinking muscle – the brain: Foods like oily fish and wholegrains are reputed to be the best.


Tiredness and sleep deprivation can have detrimental effects on reaction times, capacity to think clearly, positivity and mood. What better excuse for a few extra snoozes, early nights or lie ins and if your child is a poor sleeper, periods of rest or engaging in restful activities such as reading or listening to some relaxing music can serve just as well.

Downtime and streamline:

Family life is often hectic and packed full. Build in lazy days and downtime on the run up to exams to give you all a much needed rest. Taking a break from a full on schedule of extra-curricular activities before an exam can provide a little extra space to chill and be less busy.


I’m not talking about pouring over notes for hours and hours on end. This method for younger children is often ineffective but children do need some opportunities to practice and review their knowledge. Little and often works best for younger learners so the pomodoro technique might be just the ticket. Post it notes with key facts and vocabulary, pictures, recorded audio prompts and online resources and games are a great ways of revising. Studying in a group, creating a study zone and pretending to be the teacher and teaching someone else are also effective methods. Minimising distractions when focussing on a new or tricky topic or concept can help as can using background music to steady a wondering mind.

Mother nature:

Get outside as much as possible and soak up mother nature. Fresh air and exercise are noted factors in supporting and developing wellbeing, positivity, concentration, creative thinking and lifting mood.


Make sure any equipment needed is prepared, working and ready to go. Spare pens, pencils and so on could save precious minutes.


Practise working against the clock and using a clock, watch or timer so that children get used to timing themselves doing tasks. An hour can seem like a lifetime to younger children so build up stamina and start by breaking up tasks into smaller chunks of time. It can help to know how long approximately to spend on a particular task or question. If they are not used to working under time pressure they’ll flag before they reach the end or worse, panic and freeze.

Don't waste time:

Inevitably some tasks or questions will be more challenging than others. Children should be encouraged to not spend too long or waste time on a question to the detriment of answering others that may be easier. Remind them to move on and come back to missed questions when others have been completed.

Wobbly moments:

If your child does have a wobble, breathing exercises can be a great way of banishing anxiety. Practise deep breathing. Focussing on breathing in and out slowly ten times will help regulate heart rate and calm the mind.


Whatever exam or test you and your children are facing try to put it in perspective. This can be hard at the time but it’s a snapshot of performance relating to a particular subject, at a particular time, on a particular day and that’s all it is. It won’t tell you how funny, how kind, how generous or how creative you are! So if you can, remember, no matter what…….. YOUR BEST IS and will be GOOD ENOUGH!

By Jennie Adams on 15th March 2018  
Also published in Lindfield Life Magazine.  You can download the free magazine and read the article here.

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