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Coping With Exam Stress

Bev, who was a Modern Foreign Languages teacher for many years now uses her experience in leading trips as a teacher to help us ensure that our trips are always the very best they can be, in her role as Customer Relations Manager.

As we approach the most stressful period in the school calendar, Bev shares her tips on coping with exam stress: 

Help them find the revision method that best suits them

One of the main worries for pupils is that they simply won’t remember all the information. 

The best way to combat this is to start early and small and to gradually increase. 

And, in my experience, this also helps students to make the best use of their exam time. Having worked up to spending time learning, and by tackling past papers and looking at exam technique, they’re generally better able to manage their time during exams. 

Helping them to find techniques other than writing, rewriting and studying endless notes could help them to feel more confident. 

And examples of this include mind maps, teaching the topic to a relative or friend, quizzing each other or developing mnemonics

You can do this by introducing a range of diverse learning methods into the classroom, teaching your students how to learn, as well as what to learn. And you can help them to work out what kind of learner they are – which will then help them to structure an effective revision strategy.

I think it’s times like this where we as teachers can really use our experience to arm our students with the tools and good habits they need to revise effectively. 

Give them some exam period lifestyle tips

Pupils may feel that they have to spend every waking moment cramming – remind them that they would actually be better off breaking their studying into manageable chunks interspersed with regular breaks. 

The brain can only take in so much at a time, so keeping revision sessions to short, sharp bursts and then seeing what they can recall/recap at the end can be much more effective. 

Another useful technique is training themselves to use key words to ‘cue’ a response – this way, they only have to recall the keyword in the exam, and the rest of the information should naturally come to the forefront of their mind.

It’s also really important to remind them also of the importance of sleep, regular exercise and eating properly, even if it’s exactly the opposite of what they feel like doing! 

Help them gain perspective

Of course, it’s important that pupils understand that these exams are important and that now is the time to step up to the mark and take responsibility. Doing well in their exams now can open doors for them in the future, so it is important to get it right now. 

Remind them that this is a very short period which, if well exploited, will pay huge dividends for their future lives. But that it is an incredibly short period of their life which will be over very soon. A little bit of hard work now really will be worth it. 

But if a student is visibly putting too much pressure on themselves, to the point that it’s negatively affecting their health, it could be time to point out that, although important, they’re not the be-all and end-all, and that life isn’t over for them if they don’t do as well as they’d hoped.

Harness the powers of past papers

Tackling past papers may not be the most fun activity on the approach to exam season, but it really can offer huge benefits. 

Firstly, of course, it’s a great way to test your students’ knowledge ahead of the exams. 

And you can go through the paper and the mark scheme afterwards, to make sure everyone avoids the common mistakes and knows how to improve their answers.

But it’s also a fantastic way to prepare them for exam conditions, so that when they go into the exam, they’re not so put off by the situation. 

Run a brief pre-exam session

If possible, run a brief session just before the exam to get the brain in gear. 

I found this worked particularly well for my MFL students and helped them to feel more confident as they stepped in to the exam hall.   

We hope these tips have been helpful. If you have any tips of your own to share with other teachers, we’d love to hear them – head to Twitter or Facebook to share! 

And we’ve designed a poster with some great exam season tips for your students – download your copy now!

Download poster »

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