Dealing with exam stress

It’s coming up to exam season and the stress is mounting to a fever pitch amongst students and staff alike. As a teacher, you’ve worked your way through the curriculum and you’re probably now at the stage where you’re going over the final pieces and some mock papers.

We all remember how stressful exam time can be, so we have some advice on how to reduce angst during this time.

1. Keep the messages positive

It’s easy to fall back on the adage that GCSE results will affect the rest of your life. While to some degree this can be true, GCSEs are not the be all and end all. People go on to have successful careers and play vital roles in society without the best grades.

Instead, it’s important to promote the message that as long as each student gives it their all, that’s the most important thing. Only they will know deep down if they did or not. There are options after GCSEs, whether that’s further study or apprenticeships; ensure your pupils know what they are.

2. The school will be there to help

Make sure that students are aware that whatever the results of their GCSEs the school will be there to provide advice. Whether students are looking to do further study or head straight into the working world, knowing that the school will be there to provide help and guidance means the world isn’t going to collapse around them as soon as they receive their results.

3. Demonstrate to students how to make the most of their time

Stress and anxiety can be caused by the sheer volume of work required per subject. For students, planning their time effectively to make sure they are revising enough but also resting enough is crucial.

Outline a revision plan for students which encompasses half an hour’s study combined with a short amount of time exercising or engaged in other activities away from study.

Let the students know that it’s okay to have a life outside of revising and over-study will only lead to tired and weary brains. Push them to have something to look forward to after a long time studying, this could be a trip to the cinema, rock climbing or another activity which helps take their mind off the body of work.

4. Hold an open day with parents

Even if parents’ evening has passed, hold an informal open evening session welcoming parents. Here you could discuss which stage their child is at and how they can get the most out of their revision time. It’s important that the pupils are able to attend this meeting for transparency.

You could talk to parents about their outline revision plans and the importance of downtime and activities which they can look forward to. If an open day is not an option, perhaps writing a letter to each family describing how to get the best out of revision time.

5. Talk about it

In your classroom, talk to students about the anxiety they may be feeling. Normalise those feelings by telling them that it’s not unusual to feel stress but it’s important to talk about it positively. Promote the fact that they are not going into the exam blind, they’ve worked for it all year and there is still time to iron out some of the finer details.

Open a discussion with pupils about ways in which they can manage stress. Some of these options include meditation, exercise, eating the right foods and sleeping 7-8 hours per night.