Primary school assessments: 3 factors that lay the foundation for success

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As parents, we eagerly watch our children attempt and reach their milestones from birth. One significant milestone that often fills us with both excitement and apprehension is their first big formal assessments in primary school.

In public schools, these are usually the mid-year exams in Grade 5, which thousands of students across the country are currently preparing for. In private schools, formal assessments may only start later, with Grade 6 students starting out by writing core subjects at year-end, and full formal assessments starting in Grade 7.  

Regardless of when these formal assessments first start, students and parents will face new expectations in terms of planning, studying, commitment and scope of work that needs to be mastered – amounting to moving up to the next level in students’ academic journey.

“It is important for parents to understand this move into the next phase, and the importance of these exams in terms of setting the tone for a successful academic journey for the rest of students’ lives,” says Nalani Singarum, Academic Advisor: InterSen Phase at ADvTECH Schools, a division of JSE-listed ADvTECH, Africa’s leading private education provider.

“While a good performance in formal assessments should be planned and worked towards, parents also need to realise that the experience of the journey of studying and preparing at this time will make a substantial impact on the child’s approach to exams in the future, when adult assistance and guidance won’t be available or even desirable.”

Singarum says there are 3 FACTORS that can lay the groundwork for developing a successful study foundation, to help empower and support young students during this crucial time and in the future.

Cultivating a positive mindset and atmosphere

Parents’ influence and attitude matter. Our children absorb our emotions like sponges, and if we ourselves approach exams with anxiety or negativity, or a push for peak performance at all costs, they’ll pick up on it. Instead, parents must aspire to model a positive attitude. Share stories of your own exam experiences, with an emphasis on growth and learning. Encourage your child to view exams as opportunities to showcase their knowledge and skills.

Organisation and preparation

Make the effort to create a clutter-free, dedicated study zone over which the student can feel some ‘ownership’, to set the stage for focused learning. Ensure it’s free from distractions like mobile phones. Before study sessions, check that stationery, textbooks, and an exam pad are readily available. This simple step minimizes disruptions and keeps the momentum going.

Help your child break down the work, as large tasks can overwhelm anyone, but especially young students. Help them section the exam requirements into manageable pieces, and guide them in terms of creating summaries and flash cards (without doing the job for them!).

Celebrate small victories every day. Each section completed is progress toward success, and reduces the need for anxiety-ridden cramming the day or weekend before the exam.

Encourage your child to develop a habit of writing and drawing keywords while studying, as this reinforces memory retention. Whether it’s jotting down key points, solving math problems, or practising spelling, the act of writing solidifies understanding. This is the age where just reading the textbook for revision is no longer a strategy for success.

Goalsetting and effort

Formal assessments in primary school are important in terms of performance, but in the earlier years, laying the foundation for future years is even more important. This is the time to show your child how to determine and set achievable goals, to provide direction and motivation.

Teach your child that effort matters and that hard work pays off. Anxiety may still creep in, but consistently putting in the work, a little bit every day at this stage, helps students feel more empowered.

“As parents, we hold the keys to unlock our child’s potential, and the next few weeks are an important learning process and milestone in their educational journey. By fostering a positive mindset, ensuring organisation, and emphasizing effort, we empower them to thrive during their first big exams, while at the same time empowering them to become lifelong learners with a positive attitude even in the face of challenges,” says Singarum.