Exam Stress and anxiety

Tests and exams can be a very stressful time for children leading to worry, sleepless nights and becoming irritable. Resulting in a lack of focus and motivation. It is therefore important that students feel they can talk about their worries and take care of their wellbeing.

BEATING EXAM STRESS

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Here is an article from the guardian in 2016 of ways to help beat exam stress https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2016/jun/08/seven-scientific-ways-beat-panic-exam

Take a deep breath

When under pressure, your brain becomes awash with hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. In many cases, this makes people speed up, as they think they have less time left than they actually do.

Researchers have also discovered a vicious cycle between emotions and heart rate. The more stressed you are, the faster your heart beats. But a faster heart-rate is often interpreted as stress, which means a tough situation can quickly escalate. If you pause for a moment and take a deep breath, this helps everything slow down and break the cycle.

Read the question twice – without holding your pen

One of the most frequent mistakes made in an exam is misreading the question. Re-reading a question sounds so simple, but it’s amazing how easily this can lapse. For students who have low impulse control, try recommending they put down their pen when they read the question. This will help counteract the urge to rush and write down an answer immediately.

Think back to your revision: have you answered similar questions before?

Even if a student hasn’t faced the exact same question before, remembering a successful thought process can help them get started. This is because it helps students be aware of their thought processes and select an effective way of thinking about a problem, rather than panicking. This concept of thinking about your thinking, known as metacognition, has been found to be one of the most effective strategies for improving self-awareness and self-regulation.

What would your teacher say?

Psychologists often talk about the Dunning-Kruger effect, which explains why novices often tend to overestimate their abilities and are less aware of their limitations. Teachers can circumvent this among students by asking them to place themselves in the shoes of someone older or wiser. Chances are that over the previous months teachers will have repeatedly given advice and suggestions on how best to go about answering a question. Asking “What would my teacher say?” should help students get on track.

Better to guess the answer than leave it blank

Write nothing at all and you are guaranteed to get zero. Sport fans (as well as viewers of Broadwalk Empire) know this as “a shot to nothing”, as you have nothing to lose if it goes wrong. The only caveat here is at university, where some exams are negatively marked.

Stick to your exam strategy

It’s easy, when faced with a tricky question, to feel put off and demoralised. But having an exam strategy can help students stay focused.

Our brains crave certainty and control. When we feel unsure of what to do, or that we have no influence on the outcome, we tend to feel more stressed and anxious. By focusing on a pre-prepared game plan, students can wrestle back this feeling of certainty and control.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself

Some stress can help aid performance, but excessive pressure often stops people from thinking clearly. One sign that psychologists say is an indication that a person is under too much pressure is thinking in extremes. This might include phrases such as “I have to get full marks” and “I must write at least four pages to answer this question”.

This all-or-nothing thinking (sometimes referred to as splitting) isn’t helpful. Students should be encouraged to practise self-compassion and be kind to themselves in the exam. This can be done by using words and phrases such as “sometimes”, “I could” or “I might”. For example, “I might write four pages in answer to this question, but if I’m struggling and running out of time, it’s better to move on.”

 EXAM REVISION TECHNIQUES

Preparing for your exams can help you achieve the results you want. Here is some advice from examining board AQA to help you get revising. (http://www.aqa.org.uk/student-support/for-students/revision).

Revision tips

Everyone has their own approach to revising and there isn't a 'best way' or a secret trick. You are the one taking the exam, so do some research to find what works for you. Here are some ideas to get you started.

 

Before revising

  • Start planning far ahead of your exams so you can give yourself enough time to get through all your work.
  • Make a note of all important dates – when assessments are due, exam dates and other commitments such as extra-curricular activities.
  • Set long-term and short-term goals to clarify what you want to achieve. Work out your revision plan and use a planner to help you stay on track; this way you can include time for other commitments and well-deserved breaks. Research shows that learning is much more effective when spaced out over stretches of time.
  • Declutter your study space so you can work comfortably and concentrate. You might find it helpful to remove all distractions from your study area.
  • Gather your study resources and revision tools in one place. You will find subject specifications, past papers and supporting materials very useful. Also ask your subject teachers for specific revision tasks or resources.
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During revision

It's easier to remember information from shorter study sessions than one long one so take a few short breaks during your study sessions. Try 3 subjects, 30 minutes each every day

  • Recognise your achievements along the way and celebrate reaching your revision milestones. 
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Staying motivated

Staying motivated can be one of the biggest obstacles to studying and revising. Here are some tips on how to achieve your revision goals.

  • Set scheduled breaks alongside your revision targets. This will give you something to work towards and keep you focused.
  • Remove distractions - block your 'go to' websites, de-activate gaming or social accounts and turn off your phone. As a reward, access these once you achieve set revision tasks.
  • Try the 'ransom technique' - ask your parents to keep your favourite things until you have completed agreed tasks or specific parts of your revision.

Anxiety Self Help

Beat Exam Stress