30 March 2022

Gearing Up For Exams

March is almost over which means, for many of the students we support, exams are fast approaching. As tutors, you’ve all been working hard to make sure that your students feel prepared and confident for their exams but sometimes it can be hard to know what to say or do as these exams get closer. In this blog, we’ll be outlining some key tips and tricks that might help the students you support stay focussed, motivated, and engaged throughout this stressful period.

Preparation is key

As you will remember from your own exams, the key to success is starting early and planning, to ensure that revision is focussed, productive, and consistent. Pupils will already have heard from teachers, parents, and friends (along with almost everybody else) that they should be revising but, for many of them, it can sometimes be difficult to know what that actually means in practice. 

Students may be wondering whether they are revising enough, whether they are revising too much, or, in some cases, what good revision actually looks like. It might, therefore, be a good idea to discuss revision with your student in an upcoming lesson.

A good first step is to discuss your own experiences sitting secondary school exams. What revision techniques worked for you? Which approaches left you scratching your head? By starting your discussion about exam preparation with these points, you’re not only giving your pupil some valuable tried and tested advice, but also demonstrating that you really understand what it’s like to be in their position!

You can also use your position to help your students to keep themselves accountable. You could set regular progress checkpoints to make sure that your student is on track, or offer to review their revision plan to make sure they’re covering all of the right content.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint!

For some students, it’s easy to approach the daunting task of preparing for exams by overdoing it early on in the process. Whilst this might lead to a really productive March and April, some students then find it difficult to keep up the pace they’ve set up until exams and risk burning out before the big day.

If you think this might be a risk, you could remind your pupil that, even though exams are approaching, it’s crucial that they approach their revision in a consistent way that they know they can manage for several months. This could mean toning down the intensity of their revision compared to their approach for exams with shorter revision periods but, in the long run, this will lead to a greater amount of focussed work.

Practice, practice, practice

Many students find that the type of revision that feels the most productive is note-taking and memorisation. By the time that spring has sprung, some will already have created enough flashcards to create quite a considerable house of cards. However, it’s absolutely vital that this is combined with enough exam practice.

Attempting past papers and sample questions is often avoided because it can be quite daunting. Students might feel like they just need to know more content before they start attempting past papers but, in most cases, the earlier they start answering exam questions, the more familiar they are with the exam process, and the better they perform in May and June.

You can reassure your pupil that, in the first stages of revision, it might take a bit longer (and even some referencing of a textbook) to fully crack a past paper. As long as they can grow in confidence over time, then this shouldn’t be a worry! If they were ready to sit the paper in March, then there would be no need for revision in the first place.

You might find that, in the run up to exams, it’s useful to spend some sessions working specifically on answering past-paper questions that your student has found difficult during their own independent study.

The importance of taking breaks

Sitting exams is a really stressful experience for anyone. Add onto that a global pandemic and it’s easy to see why some young people might be particularly worried in the run up to their GCSEs or A-Levels this year. As a result, it’s important to remind the students you work with that productive revision also has to involve taking care of yourself!

As tutors, it’s completely appropriate to remind your pupil that, alongside all their hard work, they should also be taking time to relax and destress. This is somewhere where sharing your own personal experiences can help the pupil to see that it’s fine to take some time off every now and then!

Of course, if you ever have any concerns about your pupil and how they are handling exams, then please do get in touch with us and we will be more than happy to talk about further ways to support them.

Conclusion

Exams can be a difficult, stressful time for our students but, as tutors, we are in a great position to help them feel prepared and confident. By communicating openly with your student about how they’re feeling, what they need help with, and how you can be most useful, you’ll be able to make sure that you are a positive force in their revision. Each hour you volunteer with your pupil will help them take another step towards exam success – so keep going!

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