How to reduce exam stress in Year 11


Imagine if no-one did the things on the left……

Don’t …


… extra ‘revision’ classes (lunch/after school/weekends/holidays) in Year 11 Work with individual students from year 7 on things they’ve struggled with at the time they’ve struggled
Use strategies for long term learning from year 7 instead of massed practice (cramming) at the end of year 11
…..never show students an exam paper Show them sample questions from day 2 of the course
Show them what a whole paper looks like (where possible) early on. Not to complete it. Just to see it.
…..suddenly give extra work/set revision/more homework at the end of year 11 Build up homework across the course.
Only give homework.

Don’t call it revision.

Specify exact tasks to complete not just ‘revise’

….leave incomplete homework unchallenged from day 1 Treat every homework as an important part of the course. Each non-completion reduces their chances of a potential higher grade. Emphasise this point. Oh and make sure that EVERY homework is essential!
…do their first ‘walking talk mock’ a couple of weeks before their exam Model answers and thought processes from the start of the course. A visualiser is good for this.
……use the term ‘revision’ without specifying exactly what it is they need to do Create a common language that is specific to your context.
Explicitly teach learning strategies from year 7. Use them throughout your teaching, explaining what they are and why. Ensure this happens across subjects so it is modelled across the curriculum (separate sessions on this aren’t always successful as they struggle to transfer)
Give them materials to support independent study. See here for a suggestion
….talk about ‘revision’ at the end of year 11 Talk about retrieval, testing, recall, long term memory from day one in year 7 and reiterate all the time.
…..leave controlled assessment completion until the end of year 11 deadline date Strategically plan the different elements of the course across the time you have.
Any student that isn’t on track, deal with them at each stage. Not at the end.
Take students out of one lesson to ‘revise’ for another Firstly, a change of the usual routine for some students causes stress. Structure the course so this isn’t needed.
What message does this give about the lesson they’ve left? Good planning of a course should eliminate the need for this
Have a whole day to ‘revise’ for one subject A day’s lesson has many issues….

·       It takes teachers a long time to prepare and they then set cover for other ‘less important’ classes. What does it tell those classes? Year 11 are more important, this year isn’t?

·       It gives students a message about priorities and organisation i.e. the school can’t manage them

·       It’s probably really boring

Instead, plan the course without any ‘surprise’ off timetable days

…..think that year 11 is the most important year group Foundations in years 7/8/9 are incredibly important for setting expectations, continuing and developing effective study habits. The start of the GCSE course is also essential in doing the same. The end of year 11 is far too late.
…..use phrases that share your exam anxieties

e.g. we’ve not got much time left, we’ve got so much to do, we don’t know what they’ll do on the exam

Promote the importance of study from day one. A missed homework is essential to their result (make sure it actually is!) and respond as if it were a week before the exam.
….make it up as you go along (this is when you run out of time) Strategically plan the course with the time you know you have (not with extra ‘intervention’). Leave contingency time. Use principles from cognitive science to plan.
Give them a course outline from day 1. Explain how the course will be taught; give a simple overview if possible.
…..teach in a linear manner, just teaching new material every lesson e.g. following through a textbook page by page Confidence comes from knowing you know things. If you move from lesson to lesson never allowing students to realise they know things they won’t develop that confidence.
….use target grades/grades with students Focus on what it is they actually need to do and what they’ve not done. Decide what a student should be able to do and push them to do it without using grades.

The only grade that matters and technically is accurate is their final grade. Anything else creates anxiety.

And where anomalies occur, such as not having a specialist teacher for the whole course… Give the students a clear plan of what will be happening and when. If they’ve had an uncertain course try to make the support certain. Give them an overview of what, when and how it will help them.