Preparing for your first exam in Grade 4

We want our children to study on their own, but we often forget that they should be taught how to study properly before they can study independently. If children are left to figure this out on their own, they will often just reread the study material. This is not an effective way of studying, because their work will become more and more.

Let’s look at the major subject areas and how to study for them:

1. Spelling words 

  • Let your child clap out the sound clusters of the word while saying it aloud and looking at it.
  • Let your child spell the word out loud.
  • Let them write the word with their finger in maize/sand.
  • Say the word or show a picture of the word and let your child write it down. If they misspell it, let them write the correct spelling out three times. 
  • Put their spelling list up somewhere where they will see it a few times, for example, on the mirror where they brush their teeth.

2. Comprehension tests

  • Teach your child to read the questions first and high light or underline important words. The important words should include the words that tell you what to do, for example, Make a list/compare/quote, as well as the words that tell you what the action is about, for example, advantages of cricket/why the kids decided to not participate etc.
  • They should then read the text and mark/high light any important words/answers that they spot. They can reread the text if they still don’t understand it fully. Some children find it helpful to mouth the words while the read. Because of the exam conditions they are unfortunately unable to read it aloud, but mouthing it might still help with comprehension.
  • Your child should now answer the questions. After they read a question, they should use their finger to help them scan through the text to find the answer. They shouldn’t reread the entire text for every question, this will prevent them from completing the test in time.

3. Writing pieces

  • Teach your child to plan their answers. They should always have an introduction paragraph, 2-3 paragraphs for the body and a conclusion paragraph. They might first want to jot down a few words/ideas for each section and then start to write it out.
  • Some children find it helpful to first do a draft to get their ideas sorted and to then rewrite a final version.


  1. Your child should memorise the definition of concepts or formulas/methods. This will help them to understand what the question is asking of them. For example, they need to know what add, multiply, factorise, the sum of etc. means for them to know what to do.  
  2. Knowing their timetables can help improve the speed with which they complete their exams at this level. 
  3. Let them do practice examples from their text book. Mark it and discuss where they made mistakes. Practice some more!
  4. Story problems can be tricky. Let them high light/underline important words, and then reread it while writing it out in numbers, for example, Five birds are sitting on the fence, two flies away, how many do you have left? Should now look like this: 5-2= 

Subjects with a lot of facts to remember

  1. Teach your child how to identify the important information when you read through the work by marking/high lighting/underlining this. This information can now be memorised through various techniques. Try out some of the following techniques and let your child stick to the ones that work best for them.
  2. Spider diagrams: Put the main idea in the middle with some concepts around the main idea that they should remember. Keep it short. They should only memorise the key concepts and then know the story around it.
  3. Study cards with the key word/concept on the front and more detail on the back can be used as a way for your child to quiz themselves.
  4. If they have to remember a list of facts/things, they can use the first letter from each sentence or the first letter from the key words to form a new word or sentence, for example, Go Meet Dad Very Fast could be the 5 food groups Grain, Meat, Diary, Vegetables and Fruit.
  5. Some children remember better when they talk out loud, sing a song about the work, use colour, move while they study or draw pictures that represent the information. Find out what works best for your child.

Good luck!
You might want to read more about Making Summaries.