Smashing the exam season
The main exam season begins on Monday and continues for five school weeks.
Both last year and the year before, the part of the media that focusses on education was right now highlighting the cancellation of all exams and the alternative arrangements that were put in place. This year we are very much back to normal. There have been some alterations to the content that students will be tested on in some subjects, but the exams themselves are taking place in their usual rigorous way. My personal professional opinion is that it’s fantastic to see the exams back again. They are the best way for each student to show what they can do, and despite their flaws they are the fairest way too. I also believe that the exam season brings out the best in our Year 11s and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do this year.
However, the exam season can be a stressful time for students and their families. Therefore my colleague Lyn Lawton has pulled together some useful advice that you may want to read. If even a small part of it is helpful then it’s worth doing. If your child isn’t doing exams at the moment, unlike the Year 11s and almost all Year 9s, then there are still some helpful things here both for now and for the future.
Finally, if parents of younger students could support us by reminding their children to follow the ‘quiet please’ signs wherever they see them, that would be great. As the signs tell them, ‘One day it will be your turn’.
Helping your child maintain a positive mindset during the [extended] exam period:
- Studies have proven that a person’s mood can affect their performance. For example, one study showed that by simply asking participants in an experiment to think ‘happy thoughts’ it doubled their accuracy in a word association test. On the morning of exams, try reminding your child of a happy future event [a summer holiday/day out/prom] or happy times in the past. Or simply give them some positive vibes: ‘I know you can do this’ or ‘You are doing great.’
- Ego-depleted students are more likely to quit. ‘Ego-depletion’ is when self-confidence plummets and students lose faith in their own ability. Protecting your child’s confidence during exam periods is tricky, but one way is to be on the look-out for it. For example, [despite our advice] students often chat to their peers after exams and compare themselves to others. If they find out they answered questions wrongly, they can feel less confident about themselves moving forward to the next exam. As well as advising them not to have these chats after exams, give them reassuring messages such as ‘Don’t worry, everyone drops a few marks here and there – you will be able to make up it in the next exam’ or ‘There will be plenty of questions you got right, so don’t focus on the wrong ones.’
- When students are actively involved in difficult cognitive reasoning [engaged in difficult exam tasks], their blood-glucose level can drop which can impact on their concentration. Encourage your child to eat breakfast on the day of exams and ensure they have enough snacks/money on their school accounts to replenish their energy during the day.
- Keeping a closer eye on your child during this period can be beneficial: ensuring there are not any major family events/too much socialising at the weekend; the half-term break is quiet; bedtimes aren’t too late; and their alarm is set for the morning of exams can all help avoid stress.
- Finally, try not to feel too worried yourself. It can be a stressful time for the whole family, especially if this is your first child to take GCSEs. Remember to contact your child’s form tutor if you have any particular concerns.