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How to Help Your Students Manage Exam Stress

October 2020 by Tradewind Australia

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Exams are just around the corner for secondary schools throughout Victoria, and even without the disruptions that have impacted students this year, this is often a daunting experience for them. As a teacher, you have done everything you can throughout the year to help them prepare; ensuring they have a solid grasp on the curriculum, showing them how to apply what they’ve learned and encouraging them to feel confident in their abilities. Yet when exam-time rolls around, even the most prepared students can get a case of test anxiety, which can make it hard for them to give their best.

Luckily, there are some simple but effective ways to help your students manage exam stress and calm those pesky nerves. If you’re looking for some new anxiety-busting strategies to apply in your classroom, we have put together a list of ideas you can use to help students prepare for exams, stay calm on the day and remain at peak performance.

1. Encourage Students to Explore Different Study Techniques

Teachers are well aware that different people learn in different ways, but when it comes to exam preparation, students often fall back on traditional (and often ineffective) methods, such as reading from the textbook or rewriting their notes over and over.

To help students get the most from their study sessions, encourage them to explore different techniques and discover which ones work best for them. This could include:

  • Creating mind maps
  • Using colours and pictures to visualise notes
  • Explaining a topic to a parent or friend
  • Creating flashcards
  • Writing a revision rap or poem
  • Completing practice exams

2. Have Students Create Their Own Practice Questions

Understanding how exams work and what goes into different types of questions can give students a much-needed confidence boost. A good way to help them get comfortable with the process is to provide a topic and have them write their own questions for it. They should then try to identify what mistakes students could make when answering each question and think about how they could explain where they went wrong.

The aim is to help them understand the way questions are written and know what to do if they encounter something they weren’t expecting in an exam.

3. Suggest Anxiety-Reducing Activities

When the pre-test stress gets overwhelming, it’s helpful for students to know about techniques they can use to reduce nerves, stay calm and focus their thoughts. In the lead up to the examinations, consider having an in-class discussion about stress-management and suggest various strategies that can help them to cope. For example, practising mindfulness, creating a list of past successes, putting things into perspective and reframing mistakes as opportunities to learn can all help take the anxiety down a notch.

You can also offer students advice for the exam itself, such as answering their “best” question first to start off on a positive note and avoiding the exam “post-mortem.”

4. Go Back to Basics

As most of us have experienced, it’s easy to forget the basics of looking after yourself when you are under pressure, so take the opportunity to remind students to maintain good self-care habits amid all the revision. Eating well, getting adequate sleep and exercise, taking regular breaks, avoiding caffeine, setting realistic goals and scheduling in activities they enjoy are all important aspects of successful exam preparation that students should be encouraged to focus on them.

What are some of the techniques you use to help your students cope with exam stress? We’d love to hear your ideas!

If you’re looking for more advice or need help finding your next teaching opportunity, speak to our team of Education recruitment specialists.