Guiding your learners through exam revision

Monday 25 February 2019

exam pressure innovation@ncfe.org.uk

The pressure of exams can get the best of even the most prepared learners, and with no single approach to suit everyone, it can often feel hard to support your learners effectively in preparation for their exams. We’ve collated a selection of options you can integrate into your teaching that you can dip in and out of over the academic year to help support your learners through their exam revision.

Embed Revision Practice Early

When you create your scheme of work at the start of the academic year ensure that time is put aside for revision in the classroom. Having revision embedded as ‘the norm’ can make exam preparations seem less daunting and help learners become well practised in different revision techniques. Schedule a variety of revision activities to takes place each week from the start of the year so learners are more prepared and are less likely to feel overwhelmed.

Help Them Plan

Create a realistic revision timetable that your learners can use as an example. This should include a suggested revision plan for your subject and space for other subjects, breaks and leisure activities, showing that there needs to be a mix of work and leisure to ensure well-being. If you have contact with learners who have taken exams previously, ask them for their top tips for revision and getting through the exam period. 

Introduce Effective Relaxation Techniques

Utilise our Mindfulness and Thought Field Therapy videos as a way to introduce learners to simple relaxation activities that they can use at home and at the start of revision sessions in the classroom. Encourage individual and group relaxation exercises that can be carried out while sitting in classroom chairs as would be the case in an exam situation. Learners may find it reassuring to have a variety of exercises that they can fall back on when they may need it the most.

Share Your Experiences

Talk to your learners about stress you have experienced yourself and how you managed it successfully, particularly where this has relevance to sitting exams. Explain that it is normal to feel under stress on occasion, that you can learn to deal with it and that the correct amount of stress can improve performance. Opening up about your own experiences may help learners be kinder to themselves as it will help them recognise that we’re all human when it comes to performing under pressure.

Encourage Appropriate Study Groups

Ensure that your school or college offers appropriate locations for private revision to take place and bases for group revision sessions to supplement the revision sessions that you yourself offer. Explain to the learners that group revision sessions might involve questioning each other, discussing or debating a specific topic or explaining a topic to each other. The content of each session might be decided by the group but, initially at least, you might decide to give the group or groups clear instructions about the activities that should be included each week. Study groups work best if the numbers of learners taking part are restricted to six or less and you may have to carefully consider which members should make up each group if there are several.  Learner facilitators of the group could be changed weekly or carefully selected permanent facilitators might be appointed.

Create a “Questions and Concerns” wall

An alternative way to identifying where learners needs support is a “Questions and Concerns” wall. Invite learners to use sticky notes to post a question or concern they may have around revision and exams. You can take the opportunity to speak to each learner individually about their revision plans and their concerns, checking that plans are realistic and balanced and to identify any specific issues that need to be resolved. This also provides an opportunity to identifying any underlying challenges which your learners may be facing. This could include medical conditions or upsetting life events that mean that reasonable adjustments and special considerations might be possible under exam regulations.

Use Your Teaching Space

Classroom walls should also include posters that relate to revision topics and motivational posters. These can and do inspire! Ask your learners what negative thoughts they tend to have in their minds that interfere with the revision process by increasing anxiety or taking away their motivation. Can these thoughts be replaced by different phrases that decrease anxiety and create a feeling that success is possible?

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