Children want to please. So they approach exam questions cautiously in the order they are presented.
But exams have changed and this standard approach isn’t good enough any more. If you look back at old 11+ papers or O level maths papers they began with an easier set of warm-up questions and got steadily harder towards the end of the paper – with a couple of crackers aimed only at the genius-types at the very end.
Now questions are thrown together in a bundle. Easy ones appear at the end and tricky ones right at the start. Verbal Reasoning papers throw a handful of complex codes in earlier on and more simple synonyms or antonyms towards the end. But some children taking the test will spend so long on the codes they won’t even get to those exercises.
So one of the most valuable tips you can give your child is to answer questions in their own chosen order. On maths papers they should only attempt the questions they are absolutely sure they can get right and time them individually. By the end of the paper they may only have done a handful, but they will be all correct. And plenty of time will be left over to return to slower or more complicated ones.
A big change of approach like this is tough for your child to take on board (on the back of one quick conversation). Just keep pressing your point home whenever a practice paper is on the cards at home or at school.
It will take time to sink in, as it is going against instinct, but do persevere…