Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3

Preparing for final exams

When you hear the word “test”, “exam” or “assessment” how do you feel? Does it trigger some emotions or feelings?

Tests, whether formal or informal, are a big part of the schooling journey and they begin as soon as a child enters a building that isn’t their home. They are observed, evaluated and compared by someone else, other than their parent.

Children as young as 3 and 4 years of age are attending a creche, daycare or early learning centre, where adults are assigned to look after and keep little ones busy while mom and dad are at work. Even at this stage, children are being compared to one another and milestone charts are scrutinized and normal development stages are observed and discussed. These informal assessments occur throughout the year.

Preparing for final examsFor teachers…

If you’re a teacher, I bet it makes you feel a tad stressed, because with an assessment task, comes finishing off a section of work, drawing up a paper and memo and then once the assessment has been written, there’s the marking of it, the moderation that happens and of course, entering the marks into your system that I’m sure includes books, spreadsheets and reports.

For parents…

If you’re a parent, preparing for final exams I bet it makes you feel a bit uneasy, because, with an up-and-coming test, there’s usually a period of studying that needs to take place. Sometimes, you might be very involved in this process, trying to get access to past papers, additional notes, and study guides and you might need to produce study snacks and other forms of external motivation, to keep your child engaged with their books and notes.

On the other hand, you might be lucky enough to have a child who just gets on with it by himself or herself and you hardly even know that there is a test looming, the only clue being that your child spends a lot of time with their heads down in their books and only comes out of their room to grab a quick bite to eat or a shower, before heading back into their room to carry on.

I was that parent who drew up study schedules, and timetables, printed out the papers, and kept an endless supply of jelly babies and microwave popcorn available on demand to keep hunger pangs at bay between meals.

For students…

And finally, if you’re a student, preparing for final exams it makes you feel stressed, anxious, and uneasy, all of the above, as everything rests on you doing as well as you possibly can. The pressure is huge…excellent marks are needed to apply for post-school study and of course, to avoid being labeled lazy, stupid, dumb, a loser, and other equally harmful names.

Types of assessments at school

The most important assessment takes place at around 5 years of age. Is this particular child ready for the demands of Grade 1? This is the school-readiness assessment and 4 main areas are observed:

–  Social/Emotional development,

–  Language development,

–  Maths/Cognitive Development and

–  Motor/Physical development

If a child is struggling in any of these areas, they can be referred for further evaluations with a speech therapist, occupational development, or educational psychologist or developmental paediatrician. Usually, following an assessment, intervention therapy is recommended to address the problem areas that are holding the child back.

This school readiness checklist can assist in identifying some possible red flags that might need early intervention.


When the child is in the Foundation Phase, Grades R – 3, there are assessments that also take place during the course of the year, and these will be continuous assessments and formal assessment tasks that are usually at the end of every term. These assessments are based on the learning areas literacy, numeracy and life orientation which deals with the social, emotional and physical development of the child. The results of these assessments will be indicated on the school reports and given out to parents at the end of every term.

As the child moves through school, the assessments involve bigger sections of work and they become longer and more comprehensive. The aim is to prepare students for their most important series of tests that they will probably ever write at school, their matric finals.

Preparing for final exams

Often students don’t have the skills to prepare a study and revision schedule to prevent last minute cramming.

A revision schedule takes the work needing to be covered and divides it up between the days leading up to the exam. Using colour-coding and time blocking, so that a student can manage their time more effectively using morning sessions for learning for the content-heavy subjects, afternoons for working on the practical subjects and then evenings for reading over work and practicing exam papers.

The exam preparation and revision schedules can be workshopped with the student present or just requested to be drawn up and sent along for review and approval. View a sample study and revision schedule here


As I am writing this article now at the end of October, matrics all over the country have, or are busy with final school assemblies, prize givings and valedictory ceremonies and tears of sadness and joy are shed, both by the students themselves, their teachers and parents, especially if a child has really struggled and needed hard work, grit and determination, to get through each school day.

Ask any teacher, and they will admit that assessments take up far too much of their teaching time. They would prefer to spend more time on preparing and giving lessons than on writing up and marking tests. More often than not, students write the test and soon after forget the work that they just studied. They don’t retain information very well. There’s no time for revision of work, as the pace is too fast and there’s just too much content to get through. Gaps occur and these become wider and wider as more content is delivered but not processed and retained.

The impact from the pandemic

Educators are noticing the impact that this past pandemic has had on our children, regardless of age. Pre-schoolers have missed out on vital opportunities to engage, socialize with and learn from peers. Primary school children have not had all the teaching time that they need to learn to read, spell, write correctly and work effectively with numbers and calculations. Our teenagers have had to contend with time away from their friends, less time on the sportsfield and of course, seeing and watching their parents deal with work stress, losing friends and family, losing jobs, income, and dealing with their own anxieties following the impact of Covid19.

It’s like everyone is playing catchup and trying to make up for the tumultuous 2 years that have just gone by. Its only October and the shops are already playing Christmas tunes and stocking their shelves with decorations and gifts. No sooner is it Christmas, and then before we know it, the new school year starts all over again and its “Back to School” madness in the shops.

Final thoughts

So before your palms start to sweat and your heart starts to race, reflect on this year that’s quickly drawing to a close.

Enjoy the final lap of 2023…don’t wish the time away, it’s going by fast enough.

So here are some November freebies for you…

If you’re a mom and concerned about your child’s progress, make an appointment now to see the teacher. Don’t wait until the last week of school. If you want to know how best to prepare for that parent/teacher consultation, CLICK HERE

If you’re a teacher and you want an easy-to-use, all in one assessment file, CLICK HERE to order your own 126 page copy for only R250 (2023 price). Here’s a quick PAGE THROUGH VIDEO of the file.

Teachers and parents can find past exam papers and memos here


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