Tips on How to Prepare for the IGCSE exams

For students at international schools, preparing for IGCSE exams has long been part of the educational process and a central facet of curriculum planning. Despite the difficult nature of the test and intense competition that exists to achieve high scores, many students—and their parents—view success on the exam as critical to their future wellbeing, as attaining IGCSE qualifications can help to set students on the path to successful academic careers.

While there are no shortcuts to attaining a high grade in the IGCSE exams, there are some ways of developing your plan of study and preparing for the exams that can make life significantly easier (and less stressful) for both parents and students.  None of these tips can replace hard work and dedication, but using these tips may help reinforce successful study habits and help students study more efficiently, leaving them with more time to develop their interests in sports, extracurricular activities, community service or other endeavors. Additionally, becoming comfortable with different ways of learning and processing information is vital for future educational and occupational development, where students may benefit indirectly from learning how to study differently.

Below you will find three tips to help students prepare for their IGCSE exams that will hopefully relieve stress in the process.

1.  Practice makes perfect, but…
Although practice can “make perfect” in many situations, receiving and properly making use of feedback is just as vital for continued success, as is constantly practicing a task or studying a subject.  If “practice” means doing something incorrectly many times over, it is not nearly as helpful as constantly improving one’s approach to the task. 

This more refined approach should be applied to homework and exams. Homework allows students to review what was taught that day. Exams test students’ abilities to absorb, synthesize and re-produce information. Both are helpful to a students’ development but, on their own, are incomplete academic exercises. If students are confused or unable to solve a problem while working on homework, you should encourage them to seek extra help from instructors or tutors. By doing so, students will learn how to solve the problem(s) and can then incorporate that knowledge into other homework assignments and related subjects. This improved knowledge base can also help improve exam scores as students’ knowledge becomes more thorough and more complete.  Old exams should be reviewed and reworked to avoid repeating similar mistakes and to increase familiarity with various problem-solving approaches.

IGSCE exams are very thorough and comprehensive, so if the student is comfortable working on a plethora of different subjects and types of problems this will greatly enhance a student’s ability to score well. By reinforcing correct problem solving methods or writing processes through consultation and repetition, students will also be able to respond to exam prompts more quickly and accurately. This will allow them to answer and address a larger number of questions, raising their potential grades.

2.  Students cannot be perfect at everything, so…
The IGCSE exams encourage creative thinking, analytical reading, problem solving and many other essential skills, applicable to a wide array of academic subjects. In order to provide opportunities to students of diverse academic backgrounds and with different academic interests, Cambridge International Examinations offers qualifications in over 70 subjects and in more than 30 languages.

It is very rare that a student will enjoy and be equally skilled in studying every subject in which an IGCSE exam is offered, let alone every subject in academia. With only so many hours of each day available for schooling and studying, it is important that students choose to take IGCSE exams in subjects that they are passionate and academically strong in. This combination of passion and academic prowess will enable students to realize their maximum potential, both in terms of IGCSE exam grades and educational development.

How can you ensure that students’ choices align with their skills and passion? This is especially difficult; as many young students may not have a very strong idea of what subjects they like or are most adept in studying. Students—in consultation with family and school guidance personnel—should carefully consider what exams and subjects they wish to take in order to achieve the aforementioned outcomes. It is crucial that students do not merely mimic the choices of their friends and peers in an effort to “fit in” or be like everyone else. 

Each school has a different approach to guiding students and fostering their passions. YCIS Shanghai, for example, provides students with relevant guides for a plethora of academic subjects and topics, and challenges students throughout the term to think creatively, analyze deeply and study passionately. Moreover, YCIS Shanghai offers extra English classes to ensure students are able to fully engage with their IGCSE subject material and exams.

3.  Positivity is critical, therefore…
Encouraging students to have a positive attitude about studying and school itself will pay dividends both in the classroom and in life in general. Great emphasis should be placed on why studying matters and what students will be able to do with the knowledge they have attained, rather than just emphasizing the importance of attaining high grades. By keeping the importance of tests in perspective, parents and teachers can help students to feel less stressed and anxious about studying for and taking the exams, leaving them with more energy and capacity to actually study and perform well. 

There are several ways by which parents and teachers can help to create a positive atmosphere for students. Adopting and maintaining a confident attitude about students’ capabilities is an essential part of helping students to stay positive. Parents should never compare their children with other students or friends’ children. Instead, parents should focus on finding and fostering the positive traits and habits that their children already possess. Making improvements to children’s academic or extracurricular lives should be framed as ways to be better students or more involved community members, not as a way to become like another student or to match the accomplishments of peers.  Positive feelings are infectious and children will follow your example in embracing positivity. 

Finally, children should be encouraged to be social, treating classmates as friends instead of competition. Positive social experiences and interactions with others are known to play a large role in influencing how children develop and learn. 

About Author: Amber Gong is a native of Beijing, currently pursuing a career in digital marketing as a content writer and researcher. She has previous experience as a Chinese language teacher, and is currently working with Yew Chung International School, an international school based in Shanghai and Beijing.

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