Keep calm and carry on teaching
As exams loom ever closer, our consultant teachers Kenny and Kelly are on hand with handy top tips to avoid cramming and help your pupils prepare for exams through thoughtful re-assurance and guidance.
The pitfalls of exam preparation
In the lead up to exams there is often a hive of activity in schools where ‘cramming’ is effectively put in place so that pupils can do their ‘best’. However, the information pupils will need will have been taught over a period of time and they just need re-assurance and guidance on how to retrieve this information. For pupils to perform at their best they need to feel confident and part of that confidence will involve knowing their class teacher has every faith in them doing well.
Staying calm during exam season
Teachers please stay calm! Any emotion or anxiety you express in the lead up to the exam is likely to have a negative effect on your pupils as they pick up on your tense body language. All the pupils need to know is that they have covered as much as they can do and that you are confident in their ability to do well. Use of positive non-verbal communication such as smiles and thumbs up are going to provide a welcome boost and reassurance for pupils without making them feel pressured in anyway.
Any last-minute cramming is likely to unsettle some individuals and could lead to them feeling anxious as they then realise, they now know what they don’t know!
What you can do is give them advice and guidance in the lead up to the exam so they feel prepared but also equipped with strategies that can help them overcome any anxiety on the day.
Exam preparation top tips
- The night before, relax, read, switch off technology and try to get some sleep. Check you have all the equipment needed, check pens work and pencils are sharp.
- Avoid any last-minute revision and in the morning enjoy a good breakfast before arriving to school in plenty of time.
- When you arrive and take your seat in the classroom, give yourself a good talking to, ‘I have practised this and will do my best’ ‘I’ve got the skills to achieve in this test’ ‘I am ready and full of energy’.
- When the paper arrives on your desk fill out your name carefully and read the instructions on the front page. It is important to read all instructions and questions carefully. Marks can easily be lost by missing a simple instruction.
- Consider how many marks a question is worth and what that says about how long your answer should be.
- If a question looks unfamiliar look for clues, could this question be worded differently? Have you seen the answers before (look for clues)? What might the connection be? Give yourself time to think about the answer before thinking you don’t know it. The chances are you have revised it and it’s in your memory somewhere.
- You don’t have to tackle the questions in order, unless it is a reading comprehension. If you are particularly good at shapes for example, then completing a couple of questions on this topic will fill up the confidence tanks for more challenging questions.
Ultimately the message for teachers, pupils and parents alike is to try to stay calm! Your brain works better when you are calm, it will be easier to find key information in your brain if you can think rationally.
If you start to panic and worry begins to cloud your mind, try this focusing technique to bring you back to the here and now:
5 things you see
4 things you feel
3 things you hear
2 things you smell
1 thing you taste