For many students the pressure that accompanies exams is motivating and even necessary in order to improve exam performance. For others however, high levels of exam related anxiety (also known as test anxiety) can have a detrimental impact on exam performance by as much as one grade per subject and can lead to increased risk of clinical anxiety and depression.
Students with high levels of exam anxiety often find themselves preoccupied with the possibility of failure and on the physical manifestations of anxiety in the body and so, during exams, their ability to focus, recall what they have learnt, and even understand the exam questions can be impeded.
Despite drastic increases in the numbers of young people seeking support for their mental health in the build up to exams each year and the fact that, tragically, 15% of suicides of young people in the UK have been linked to exam pressure in one study of UK coroner reports in 2016, systematic interventions to reduce exam related anxiety in UK schools are sparse.
Whereas the UK education system tends to focus solely on exam practice alone, it is widely acknowledged in the test anxiety literature that the most effective interventions for reducing levels of exam anxiety are those that combine different approaches such as cognitive behavioural therapy, psychoeducation about anxiety and study skills.
There are very few such programmes specifically designed to reduce exam anxiety for UK GCSE students however I have been fortunate enough to be one of only a handful of people in the UK to have had training in one of these approaches which I used for my MA dissertation research project with a group of highly test anxious Year 11 GCSE students. Although high test anxiety can detrimentally effect grades by as much as one grade per subject, all the students who took part showed significant reductions in test anxiety on completion of the programme (see graph) and all but one went on to achieve or surpass their target GCSE grades.
My research in this area has been published by the BACP, the UKs largest professional body for Counsellors and Psychotherapists and I have continued to run the programme in the school where I work where it has now become an integral part of the support offered to students to help with exam preparation.
I am excited to now be able to offer this evidenced based, 5 week programme to Jersey school students to equip them with the skills they need to manage exam related anxiety effectively to not only make the exam process more bearable for them, but potentially, to improve their grades.
The programme is taught to small groups of 6-8 students for 1 hour per week at a cost of £180 per student for the 5 week course which includes all course materials.
Week 1: Recognising stress and understanding why exams are stressful.
Week 2: The link between stress and the way we think.
Week 3: Staying focused and calm during exams and revision.
Week 4: Motivation and problem solving.
Week 5: Time management, revision, exam day prep.
The new, Exam Pressure Solutions, two hour Introductory Workshop is also now available which teaches students 8 evidenced based ways of coping with exam stress. To find out more or book a space on an upcoming course please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Student Feedback about the course.
‘I had two exams today and as we were in the car on the way to school, I practised the calming techniques I had learnt and was absolutely fine whereas before I would have had a meltdown’ - Year 11 Student May 2022.
‘Helpful, encouraging to stop stress during exams and interesting as none of the topics have ever been used before at school’ - Year 8 April 2023
'A helpful way to learn more about coping with exam stress – fun and interesting and I really enjoyed it! Thank You! - Year 8 April 2023
'Very helpful and has allowed me to think positively about my exams’ - Year 11, May 2023
'These sessions helped me with my exam related anxiety because it showed useful techniques to deal with stress.’ Year 11, May 2022
'Helpful for anyone regardless of whether they struggle with exam anxiety’ - Year 12, May 2023
'Allows you to explore, develop and better your personal reaction to exams’ - Year 12, May 2023