Tips to prepare for the «Gymi» entrance exam: How do I support my child?

Another school year begins in 6th grade, and everyone involved knows that this will be a different experience for the child, since the thought of possibly entering the Gymi afterwards is just around the corner.

The expectations for 6th grade are rising as it is, but on top of that, in about half a year, the child who wishes to take the Gymi test should not only be working on the highest level in 6th grade - he/she should start understanding 7th-grade materials too. This means a lot of learning materials need to be covered under immense time pressure if a child wishes to be ready for the Gymi entrance exam.

How can you as parents support your child to the very best of your abilities?

The key is finding a balance between work and free time, which should already be something the child has learned by now. Therefore, I not only want to focus on an ideal learning environment and how we at Tandem IMS support our students with this challenge, but also address how a child can learn to find a balance of still being a child while studying hard and being supported by you as their parents.

The balance between learning and being a child

It is important to remember that our students are still children. Some will be twelve years old when they take the exam, others only eleven. The necessary discipline in taking on so much more responsibility while being under pressure is a huge undertaking for children at this age. Because of this factor, the child needs to have an enormous self-willingness to learn (and not feel forced by others) whilst still being a child in their planned free time.

If this willingness only lasts for about a half year until the Gymi exam takes place, it will not be enough. A child who passes the test must keep the work-life balance going into the trial year in Gymi as well as the years following that. The pressures and workloads only increase.

My point is that whenever your child comes home from school and talks about the day, then dives into the homework and Gymi prep work, there should also be plenty of time left for a hobby, be it playing an instrument, sports, or something else that is completely unrelated to school. With that, the child can relax and re-energize for the next day. It is needless to say that fresh air, exercise, enough sleep and well-balanced nutrition are key factors in helping your child complete this challenge and be full of energy and motivation.

For the points mentioned above to play out in real life, it is important to structure and plan all the homework, activities and hobbies. If a child struggles with organizing themselves, you as parents can sit down with them, look at all the things that they would like to get done and help them put together a weekly plan to accomplish this. Eventually, however, the child should begin to make this a habit of their own.

Suggestions for an ideal studying environment

Successful learning requires an ideal studying environment. Here are five suggestions that will likely help to support your child during their studying time:

  • a quiet, uninterrupted place to work
  • an ergonomically designed chair and desk
  • neat surroundings
  • a good lamp
  • a space free of distractions (phone etc)

Tips for effective studying

If a child is on board to put their efforts into getting ready for the Gymi exam, the Gymi prep hours and the quick speed at which 6th-grade progresses will adequately prepare the child for the exam. Here are five tips to additionally support their learning process:

  • Remind them to consistently review completed materials and theory.
  • Support them in reading through the teacher’s feedback closely and working out a way to put it into practice.
  • Help them structure and divide homework into sections so that similar content does not come right after each other (for example, do not do English homework after German homework, instead do some Math).
  • Remind them to get up and move around the room occasionally.
  • Help them to learn to see difficulties and mistakes as opportunities instead of ignoring them.
  • Find ways for them to process content creatively, then it will stay in their long-term memory.

How does Tandem IMS support your child?

  • Differentiated curriculum based on the child's individual performance.
  • Students learn to work independently thanks to «Enquiry-Based Learning». They learn to ask specific questions about a broad topic and then immerse themselves in in-depth research to answer these questions.
  • Independent structuring of longer homework assignments and individual goal setting.
  • Regular assessments and annual tests (UK SATs and «Lernlupe») from Grade 3 onwards.
  • In Grade 6, up to five or more hours of weekly Gymi preparation for students with appropriate grade point averages.
  • Parents gain insight into their child's academic development and progress thanks to lively exchanges between parents and teachers during the school year.

The «Lernlupe» tests of our students show impressively how well our 5th and 6th graders perform in comparison to the rest of the canton. Let us now take a look at some statistics.

How many students pass the exam for the Langzeitgymnasium?

Let’s take a look at some statistics: About 15% of all 6th graders in the Canton of Zurich enter the Gymnasium, which means 85% of all 12 year-olds will go to secondary school or a «Progymnasium» after finishing 6th grade. The number of students entering full-term Gymnasium directly after 6th grade is therefore relatively small.

If we also look at the rate of students sitting their Matura exam in the Canton of Zurich over time, it becomes evident that this has been hovering around the 20% mark for decades. The additional 5% consists of those entering Gymnasium after their 8th school year (so-called Kurzzeit-Gymnasium). The «Mittelschul- und Berufsbildungsamt» of the Canton of Zurich has been restricting this figure for a long time, one reason being that universities wish to have strong, successful students.

In principle, it is therefore a relatively small number of primary school students who will enter the Gymnasium and go all the way through up to their matura exam. The number of 6th graders registering for the Gymi exam are increasing despite that fact. March 2022 recorded 4,752, of which 2,420 passed the «Zentrale Aufnahmeprüfung» (ZAP) for the full-term Gymnasium. The percentage of successful candidates in 2022 rose from 48.4% in the previous year to 50.9%.

At Tandem IMS, approximately 50% of all 6th graders enter the full-term Gymnasium. The students we assess as being «ready for the Gymnasium» have a success rate of 100% at the ZAP. «Ready» refers to both curricular and mental preparedness for the next stage.

Despite the popularity of the Gymi, there are so many other paths that lead to success. Our education system allows every student to find and choose a path that suits them best.

Remember: Many paths lead to success

Are you noticing that the pressure on your child is increasing too much? Is the challenge of Gymi prep besides the 6th-grade classwork possibly a little too much for your child? Then ask, listen to them and talk about it. How are they feeling? Do they have enough motivation to continue down this path? Or are they trying to fulfill your dreams or following the other students in the class?

Make sure you spend time with your child. It does not always have to be at the table talking about school. It can be a walk or a game of table tennis where the topic could come up naturally, and you will get a sense of how your child is doing.

If you notice insecurities or the child expresses clearly that he/she does not want to take the Gymi exam, take the opportunity to openly speak about their emotions and thoughts. Explain to them that they can retry for the Gymi in two or three years. Support your child on the path it wants to take.

Neal Brown, our school director, has discussed the many possibilities on how your child can reach his/her career wish and how open the Swiss school system is in his blog «The Swiss School System - giving your child the roots to branch out?».

Swiss School System Infographic


Support your child without forcing them. Despite their young age, a child can know very clearly whether they are ready to accept this challenge or not. If the Gymi and the entrance exam is the goal of your child, they will have enough motivation to study. Support them in this big undertaking. Make sure they have a healthy study/life balance where exercise and fresh air are key. Be the positive motivation and the safe haven for your child at home. The pressure they are under from the school, and quite possibly from themselves, does not need to be reinforced at home.

If your child should not pass the exam, stay positive and let them know that you are proud of them. Explain to him/her that even though it did not work out this time, he/she will have another opportunity in two years - or that there are other alternative pathways to realize their dreams. Good luck to your child!


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