How to get good grades
Dr Alan Beggs, Senior Consultant at ExamSuccess, discusses how to get good grades.
A look at the pschology of getting good grades and being successful in school.
There’s a surprisingly close link between Olympic sports training and the 11 Plus. In particular, the competitive challenges, with lots of prior preparation and ultimately – winners and losers. And a lot of accompanying angst!
Around 100,000 children sit the 11Plus selective exam in England each year, but there are only about 15,000 grammar school places, giving each child about a 1 in 6 chance of gaining a place in a school near them. That’s a tough challenge. And don’t forget that there are a few sought-after schools, sometimes known as ‘super-selective’, which allow anyone living anywhere to apply; they only take the ‘crème de la crème’. This means that places are especially hard fought for – for instance in 2013, one North London super-selective reportedly had over 2000 children sitting the 11 plus, trying for just 96 places at the school. I will leave you to do the maths.
Unsurprisingly, just like an international sporting event, the 11 Plus can be horribly stressful. Writing in a 2015 report entitled “Exam Factories?” Emeritus Professor Merryn Hutchings of London Metropolitan University stated that children aged 10 or 11 are said to be “in complete meltdown”, in tears, or feeling sick with stress at school. I do hope your child is not one of these, but I suspect they are feeling under considerable pressure.
A brand-new approach
Lorrae Jaderberg of Jaderberg Krais, a respected education consultancy, said recently that “[The 11 Plus] is a challenging experience even for the most suitable and prepared children”. Her tips for keeping children relaxed include trying not to talk about it all too much, creating a schedule and keeping to it. She also recommends giving lots of positive feedback about how well they’re working and doing their best.
All good tips, but there is much more that can be done.
As a parent, you may well be putting in place additional tutoring and coaching in the skills and knowledge your child will need if they are to pass the examination. This is the equivalent of fitness training in sport. However, can you imagine any serious athlete entering a major competition these days without a lot of mental preparation as well as physical training?
Mental skills training can make a huge difference for people engaged in any challenge. Remember that in sport, competitors are carefully matched for fitness and skill – it is their ability to stay self-confident and resilient, and having stress management tools when needed which ultimately will make the difference between winning and losing. At last, we are beginning to realise that these mental factors are just as important for a child facing the challenge of the 11 Plus as for an Olympic athlete. Let’s look at a couple of them in more detail.
Most of us spend a lot of time focusing on, thinking about and worrying about our weaknesses. There is probably a good reason for this.
Dwelling on one’s weaknesses is counterproductive, especially where the eleven-plus is concerned. So why don’t we do the exact opposite? In fact, being really aware of your strengths is one of the most powerful sources of self-confidence. Unfortunately, we abhor people who ‘brag’, who are ‘arrogant’, who are ‘too big for their boots’. As a result, I bet you cannot easily trot out your top six strengths! The truth is that almost all of us let them sink right off our radar. The key to becoming and staying self-confident is to find a way to keep our strengths showing up on that radar. All we need to do is help our children focus on their strengths. Easy to say – and actually easy to do if you know how!
Currently, psychologists have two main ways they think about resilience. Either it is about an ability to bounce back when something untoward happens. Or, it’s an ability to keep going even when the going gets tough.
The good news is that while there are differences in the academic definitions of resilience. It’s generally agreed that resilience has several different strands. These contribute to the capacity of an individual to take the strain. In each of these strands, there are a number of personal characteristics.
Research and theory tell us that there seem to be four main strands we need to think about.
- The first strand concerns thinking strengths.
- The second one is about emotional strengths such as the abilities to stay positive and manage stress.
- Thirdly, some social strengths including the abilities to ask for help and support and maintain good relationships with other people seem to be important.
- Finally, some character strengths.
Now if you look at this list of skills, abilities, strengths or whatever you want to call them, it’s pretty obvious that together they describe someone who is probably going to be able to deal with setbacks. Also, to keep going when the going gets tough. In other words – someone who is resilient.
Olympic Sport Psychologist
When my own son was preparing for his 11 Plus it occurred to me that I knew about lots of simple, yet powerful mental techniques for sports performers. It was my Olympic Sports Psychologist experience which prompted me to write a book for children facing their first truly challenging experience.
Children can learn these skills and strengths – amongst others – by using ‘How to be a Front Runner’. It’s available on Amazon, and you can also get a free downloadable book for parents. This will help you understand it, and how to support your child as he or she works through it. The strategies in the book can be helpful in many areas of life.
More info on the website www.examsuccess.solutions.
Who is Dr Alan Beggs:
After a long and distinguished research career at the University of Nottingham, with over fifty academic publications to his name, Alan spent fifteen years working as one of the first sports psychologists in the UK. As well as working closely with medal-winning Olympic and Paralympic performers, he was a psychological advisor to the British Olympic Association and had a part to play in 25% of the medals which Britain took home from the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
Alan is convinced that it is the possession of a robust sense of one’s positive personal qualities and strengths which underpins performance at the highest level. Whatever the role and whatever the challenge. Since 1999, he has been a Founding Director of The Human Dimension Ltd. He has developed and delivered cutting-edge processes to help people build and sustain a self-assured, can-do mindset.
After the 2012 Olympics in London, a charity called 21st Century Legacy was set up. They help school children all across Britain to be the best they can be by becoming more confident and self-responsible. To date, over 200,000 children have taken part in this endeavour. Alan had an important part to play in the development of their programme. This programme is delivered in primary schools.
Exam preparation for all ages, all in one place.