The exam regulator Ofqual has released new guidance for pupils to help them cope with the stress of exams as the summer exam season looms. The guidance says that ‘exam stress is not necessarily a bad thing’ – which seems to contradict some of the statement made by the chair of Ofqual, Roger Taylor in January.

He said at the time that there was still a lot of progress to be made in the understanding of how exam pressure can trigger anxiety and mental health pressures in young people while also urging more research be done in the face of increased levels of self-harm amongst teenagers.

In the coping with exam stress guide released today however, the document instead says that exam stress can motivate pupils by giving them the “get up and go they need to succeed”.

The document is called Coping with exam pressure: a guide for students and was produced in partnership with Liverpool John Moores University.

What does the guide say? 

  • The student guide says that everyone reacts to stress and exams differently, some are able to channel it into motivation, others aren’t affected by it and for some it can be overwhelming.
  • The student guide also tells pupils not to be afraid of exam stress and that it is possible to learn how to cope with stress more effectively.
  • It sets out the signs of high exam anxiety as including issues such as going blank in an exam, having problems concentrating, feeling panic, tense and overwhelmed as well as physical signs such as feeling dizzy or feint, having a churning stomach and shaky legs.
    • Pupils recognising those signs of anxiety are advised to try deep breathing exercises in order to calm the mind and regain a feeling of control.
    • Yoga and mindfulness classes are also recommended as a means of controlling anxiety.

What tips does Ofqual’s Coping with exam pressure document suggest? 

To help students feel more confident going into exams, Ofqual suggests:

  • Replacing negative believes, such as that life is over if an exam is failed, with more realistic and positive thoughts, noting that those with a ‘can do’ attitude tend to be more positive people.
  • Students struggling to start revision are told to create a plan, set targets and check revision progress regularly. Targets, it says, should be short-term goals, with a set time limit, be achievable and manageable. 
    • For more help on setting goals for exam revision, visit our guide here. 

The guide can be downloaded here.

What do you think to the new Ofqual guide? Is it common sense advice or is more thought needed? Share your opinions with us on social media.