Earlier this month we caught up with Ben Thomas, Assistant Head at Ranikhet Academy and a Primary Education Consultant for SchoolOnline. After speaking about exam anxiety, we thought we would give Ben the chance to provide some great tips and insight to teachers, parents as well as students on how to better manage such a stressful period.
Here is what Ben had to say:
I recently did a webinar for a blue chip company which has a parental working party. Within that webinar, I was asked by one parent how to stop exam anxiety in children. Simple answer: you can’t. One person’s anxieties are another person’s daydreams, basically. Every child reacts in different ways to each single event. I think in education, we are guilty at times of this “one size fits all” approach, especially when it comes to tackling concerns around tests.
It’s easy to assume that young people get caught up with this idea of failing. Technically, you can’t “fail” KS2 SATS. With other exams higher up the academic ladder, the young person may not do the best they wanted, but there is always a way to solve these outcomes. The way we talk about exams, as parents and adults, is vitally important to how our children deal with them mentally.
In a lot of cases:
- The environment exams are completed in is the thing that throws the young person the most.
- Blank walls, unfamiliar rooms, even silence can have a detrimental effect on the child.
That’s’ why schools go through their own “mocks” programme, to get children used to how things will look on the day or week of the tests themselves.
Here Is How To Deal With Exam Anxiety
Meet Heather Holmes, a teacher of English for almost 11 years, having previously worked in journalism and PR. As a Director of English, she works for a multi-academy trust in the north of England, working with Y11 students to help improve their results in their GCSE English and English Literature exams as well as working for SchoolOnline.
SchoolOnline is a award winning platform for GCSE and KS2 students to help them gain exam success in English and Maths. Heather makes part of our vast bitesize tutorial video library in GCSE English and is also an examiner for GCSE English Literature and so is aware of the key messages students need to succeed in their studies and exams!
I think, with any anxiety or worry, getting the root of the problem and allowing the pupil space and time to process that worry and then communicate it is absolutely key. Whatever that worry is, whether we as educators or parents think is a problem or not, is still a worry for that pupil who will potentially spend many hours concerned about it, if not given the right care to express it and articulate it.
Educators plan for every eventuality in test conditions: runny noses, broken pencils, temperature of the room- everything. In my years of invigilating exams at KS2 level, I’ve seen pretty much all there is to see. The bottom line is that, come what may, the young person has to complete the tests within a given time. That’s the harsh reality of the education system.
3 Ways To Decrease Exam Anxiety
- Learn overtime – Use learning techniques like Sticky Learning and the Pomodoro Technique!
- Use a study planner – Know exactly what is coming up and what to prioritise. ORGANISATION IS KEY!
- Speak about exam anxiety – Go over topics with friends, ask last minute questions to teachers or speak to family about how you are feeling. They might just have a solution!
Ultimately, the way we talk about any test to our children is vital for how they feel heading into it. Normality during test weeks are key: constantly talking about it, analysing it and rehashing it won’t help the outcome. Children are incredibly resilient and are able to adapt to contrasting situations. What they must have is time and space to process these changes- exam season is no different.