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How to beat stress during exam week

24 April, 2012

Helping children to create a revision timetable will ensure that they can adequately manage their workload before exam week.

Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 SATs are just a few weeks away, and children may become increasingly anxious in the days and weeks leading up to tests in reading, writing and maths.

For Year 6 pupils, in particular, this can be a particularly nerve-wracking time as they may need to achieve certain grades to get into their Secondary School of choice. There are a number of ways that parents can work together with children to ease stress during exam time, including the techniques listed below:

Be well prepared
Helping children to create a revision timetable will ensure that they can adequately manage their workload before exam week.  Ask your child’s school or teacher for guidance, as they may have set templates for you to modify of provide guidance on how many hours of revision should be devoted to particular subjects.

Using revisions cards, books and files to organise revision notes will help to ensure that your child doesn’t become overwhelmed with the barrage of study material they receive during this period.

Familiarising themselves with the format and question style of previous past papers, will also help to ensure that children are not thrown off by test formats. Schools will often do this in class, so this may only need to be practiced briefly at home.

Finding a study routine that suits your child (whether it is short periods with regular breaks or longer periods of uninterrupted study) will ensure that they don’t get frustrated with the demands of their schedule.

Keeping calm on test days
Starting the day that they do their SATs with a hearty breakfast, such as porridge, will ensure that children maintain high energy levels throughout the exams. Many schools offer breakfast on each day of Key Stage 2 SATs to ensure that children arrive on time and are set up well for exams.

Remind children to read the instructions before starting the exam and to read questions thoroughly before answering them. Pupils are also encouraged to move on to other questions if they are stuck on a particular problem, and to return to it when they have finished. As a final measure, pupils will need to ensure that they read over their papers to check for mistakes, mark schemes and that they have answered questions in the appropriate format.

Remind children that they can only try their hardest
Although it’s always important to encourage children to fulfil their potential, remind them that the most important thing is that they complete tests to the best of their ability.

Children are expected to achieve Level 4 in their Key Stage 2 SATs, but particularly able pupils may aim as high as Level 6. In Key Stage 1, pupils are expected to achieve a good Level 2 (2b/2a) and some may be hoping for a Level 3.

Reassuring children that you will be happy with their test results regardless of the outcome will remove their concerns about exam week.

Discourage children from sharing their answers after an exam with peers as this may lead them to form incorrect conclusions about their performance in an exam.

Creating down time
Children may become completely absorbed in the exam process, but it’s important that they give themselves time to unwind. Encourage children to give themselves weekly or daily incentives when they have stuck to their revision timetable or completed an exam.

A revision timetable will also ensure that children finish their work at a fixed time and that they are able to switch off to devote time for their interests and to spend time with family and friends.

ChildLine, the leading children’s charity, offers the following advice to children completing their exams:

Remember it’s important to eat and sleep well
Put yourself first – this is an important time for you. Try to talk to your family about how they can make studying a little easier for you – for example, by agreeing times when you can have your own space, when they will try to be a little quieter around the house and when you’d rather not be disturbed (except perhaps for the occasional treat, such as a drink or snack).

Don’t revise all the time
Make sure you designate specific time each day to relax, taking breaks to do something you enjoy – watch TV, listen to music, read a book or go out for a walk.

Parents and carers can help too
Ask your parents or carers to give you encouragement and support, and not to put pressure on you. Arrange with them when you can have your own quiet time and space in the house to study without being disturbed. Don’t forget to talk to them if you are worried – don’t bottle things up inside.