Exam season officially kicks into gear this week as pupils in Scotland prepare to sit their final exams in readiness for leaving school or securing their desired university place.
In a special post on its site, the BBC has been reporting on the impact of exams, with its education correspondent Jamie McIvor looking at the impact of stress on pupils about to take exams after years of schooling and how better to cope with the almost unavoidable stress that the prospect of exams causes for pupils. Here, we’re recapping some of the highlights and most useful pointers from the report, in case you too are supporting a student who’ll begin one of the most important weeks of their life tomorrow.
1. Encourage familiarity with the examination environment
Though most students will sit mock exams and may even site the 11+ exams several years before GCSE or A-Level tests loom large, the exam environment itself can sometimes add to the pressure. It’s often an unnatural or unfamiliar setting, with strict time limits, no talking, no mobiles and a clear hush maintained for a couple of hours.
To help students who are feeling anxious about taking their exams, replicating exam conditions when studying past papers or sitting mock tests as part of the revision process can be useful. Even just a few trial runs, timed with a previous exam paper to work in silence can help to soothe the fear of the unknown.
2. Avoid the comparison trap
Us adults are perhaps a lot more aware of the comparison trap than previous generations because it’s something that is often discussed on social media. However, even though we might know better, it’s an easy habit to fall into. For an already stressed student, it’s doubly easy to do. As a parent, teacher or guardian, it’s important to stress that no two people are alike. Comparing grades or performance with class mates, friends or older siblings simply creates more anxiety and doesn’t give a true barometer or capability, skills or knowledge.
3. Eat well, sleep well, exercise more
Fast food and energy drinks are convenient but can cause sugar spikes and crashes plus lethargy so should be avoided during the revision and exam period. Healthy, nutritious foods rich in vitamins and good fatty acids plus lots of fresh fruit and veg and plenty of water are advisable instead. Experts also recommend that students put their books away and stop revising around an hour before going to bed to enable a good night’s sleep and get plenty of exercise to release endorphins.