Coping with exam stress

Exam time is stressful for both pupils and teachers, but it's a necessary part of the year. The following tips should help you cope that little bit better during this busy period.

Take small steps

Help your pupils by giving them information in small doses and then reinforcing this - little steps to learning and success not giant leaps.

Ask if pupils have any worries

When pupils are stressed they learn less. Keep them calm by finding out what fears they have and addressing these. There's no point using a general "keep calm" comment as they may not know how to manage this.

Watch for unusual behaviour

Stress will affect pupils in different ways. They may look tired and may be irritable. They may be unable to concentrate. Watch for unusual behaviour.

Don't just teach your subject or stage

Also teach calmness and control.

Introduce new techniques

If you teach senior pupils you may be seeing them cope with their very first external exam. Teach them techniques such as time management and pacing. Teach it all year round not just the days before.

Teach substance over style!

Presentation is important so teach your pupils to write neatly so that it can be read. Keep them away from over stylised writing that is more art than education.

Teach neatness

Teach your pupils to make changes neatly in their written work. Guard against the massive scribble, the litres of tippex and personal comments to the examiner.

Read the small print

Exams can be dealt with if the pupils take a few moments to read the instructions before they begin. Time spent understanding is worth its weight in gold.

Please turn over

Make sure that the entire exam paper is read. Too often there are screams of anguish outside the exam hall when a pupil realised that they forgot to turn over the page.

Be compassionate, kind and supportive

Exams are very stressful for pupils. A good pupil can let themselves down by being scared. Build up their confidence and take the fear and mystery out of exams.

Explain as much as you can

As well as knowing what to prepare for in an exam, pupils should know what an examiner is looking for, how a paper is marked and how much they should be writing.