Through the haze of Exam Period

With Yr. 12 exams imminent, stress will likely be at an all-time high. Whilst there is arguably little students can do at this late stage to drastically change their fortunes, there are several tips that teachers can share, helping to guide their students through the haze over the next fortnight.

Harness Nerves – Mindset leading into exams is critical. A negative mindset overly preoccupied with the threat of failure will likely exacerbate nerves; hindering clear and creative thought during exams. Encouraging students to focus on what they do know – as opposed to don`t know – is a great way to help students feel more confident. Furthermore, encouraging students to interpret feelings of stress and anxiety as feelings of excitement (as opposed to impending doom) will also help students create positive energy. Additionally, any relaxation, visualisation and mindfulness exercises (including those from Apps such as ‘Smiling Mind’ and ‘Headspace’) should be regularly used over this period.

Replenish Energy – Exams will likely be a mental and emotional drain for most students. It’s important students try to replenish their energy between exams. We suggest a well-balanced diet (incorporating healthy fats, carbs and protein), hydration (plenty of water), decent sleep (8-10 hours per night), and regular exercise. Although likely not front of mind, exercise is especially important because it simultaneously combats stress, helping to improve sleep quality and sharpen thinking! As little as 20 minutes ‘huff and puff’ exercise either before or after an exam can make a huge difference to well-being and performance!

Use study time to refresh – Students should ideally spend their last study sessions as short and sharp refreshers, to improve their memory and application of key content – rather than for learning entirely new concepts. At this late stage, mastering new concepts may be unrealistic and consume valuable mental energy needed for the performance itself. Instead, refresher study sessions will help prime the brain, improving response speed during the exam; not to mention enhance confidence in the lead up. Using flash cards, talking out concepts aloud and thinking through examples to support claims (particularly with humanity based subjects) are great ways to spend final preparations.

Avoid ‘Stress-heads’ – Perhaps the worst thing students can do to undermine their performance in the lead up to exams is to indulge in unnecessary ‘stress talk’ with other students. “I know nothing”, “I am going to fail”, and “I won`t remember anything” are common phrases heard while students are waiting to enter the exam room. Encouraging students to spend their final minutes of preparation engaging in positive self-talk and slow deliberate breathing will be much more beneficial. This will likely mean actively avoiding situations that magnify stress, e.g. not arriving at the exam too early ahead of time, as well as certain people, e.g. renowned ‘worry-wart’ classmates!

Debrief and move on! – Most students will naturally mull over their perceived performance post each exam. Sometimes perceptions will be overly positive, and other times, more regretful. However, spending too long in the ‘rear-view mirror’ can rob valuable time, energy and focus for the next exam. Instead, we encourage students to talk through their feelings and debrief with a trusted confidant (e.g. teacher, parent or sibling) post exam. This will act as a cathartic release as well as encourage lessons learned for the next exam. However, post this debrief, we encourage students to make a conscious effort to quickly move on and refocus.

Hope you find this article useful.

*MindScholar Online Learning has been created to enhance students learning, mindset and performance as well as reduce stress and anxiety.

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