GCSE exams are looming for 15 and 16-year-olds and revision is in full swing.
But what is the best way for them to cope with the pressure?
We asked Professor Peter Clough, a psychologist at Manchester Metropolitan University, who specialises in ‘mental toughness’, for his top tips on dealing with the stress of exams.
1. Stress is not always a bad thing
You shouldn’t be scared of stress. It’s only when you’re scared of it that it becomes a problem. Once you realise this, you’ll see it in an entirely new light.
2. Control the controllables
If you can’t change something, like the day of the exam, don’t worry about it and put it out of your mind. If you can change something, like revising a certain area you’re worried about, do it. It’s about targeting your anxiety in an effective way.
3. Work out what your strengths are and remember them
People only tend to think about what they’re bad when it comes to tests and exams. Instead, think about the things you’re good at and put them in your head. If you’re good at something in a syllabus, remember that.
4. Set realistic goals
A lot of young people put pressure on themselves to excel in exams. But if you’ve never been very good at maths, you’re not suddenly going to get an A* overnight. Be realistic about what you can achieve. Even if you’re not very good at maths, or whatever subject, you can still maximise your potential.
5. Think about the ‘what ifs?’
People always think about the ‘what ifs?’ in terms of the negative. Instead of thinking ‘what if I get a question on my worst topic’, think ‘what if a question on my best subject’? Think about what could go right for you and it will really help you on the day.
6. Don’t revise for too long
Some people think revising for four hours is twice as good as revising for two. It’s not. Be focussed for shorter blocks and then give yourself a break doing something completely different. Aim for around five hours of good working a day.
7. Give yourself a break
This is key to helping you relax when your revising or sitting your exams. Do something completely different in between blocks of revision, like light exercise or watching your favourite television programme.
8. Keep caffeine and sugar to a minimum
It’s vital your able to sleep when your revising. While energy drinks can give you a quick boost, they can stop you from sleeping and this can build up. Only when you’re well rested and relaxed will you perform well in exams.
9. Stop ‘catastrophizing’
This is when students think failing an exam will be a catastrophe and have a knock-on effect for the rest of their life. It’s not. There is always a Plan B or a re-sit .
10. Get rid of any negative thoughts
It’s all about taking control of any stress and anxiety using simple methods. Do that and you’ll be successful in your exams.