Managing Mental Health when Preparing for Exams

As GCSE exams loom just months away it is important to help pupils manage their mental health as well as their revision.

In this blog, we consider ways to reinforce a positive mindset in order to manage the anxiety that builds in the minds of our pupils as GCSE exams approach.

Over the next few months, teachers will go above and beyond for their pupils in order to help them achieve exam success. Revision notes, early morning sessions, after-school sessions, holiday revision camps, the list is endless and in some cases, teachers work harder for GCSE exams than their pupils do!

However, academic support is not the only support mechanism pupils need and it is important that managing exam stress and pupils mental health forms part of a school’s revision strategy.

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Anxiety can be a real block to success because if a pupil feels anxious they often give themselves negative messages like: ‘I can’t do this’ and ‘I’m going to fail’. If you hear your pupils say these things help them replace these thoughts with a more positive approach, ‘this is just anxiety and it is going to be okay’.

Visualisation can help pupils feel more positive. Spend five mindful minutes at the end of your revision sessions asking pupils to imagine themselves applying the knowledge they have just learnt in the exam.

Ask them to picture themselves sitting at the exam desk, turning over the paper and answering a question on the topic you have just revised. This will help reinforce a positive message of, ‘I can do this’. I love the quote, ‘Just because something is hard, does not mean it is impossible’.

This can put the struggle into some perspective and turn a negative thought into another positive. Help your pupils believe anything is possible with the right attitude and hard work.

Most pupils will know what grades they require in order to progress onto their post-16 pathway, whether that’s A Levels, BTECs or an apprenticeship, however, this can place pressure on pupils who may worry, ‘what if I don’t get the grades I need?’

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In order to manage anxiety linked to their results ensure your pupils have a ‘Plan A’ and a ‘Plan B’ in place. Putting pressure on themselves to pursue one single pathway can add to exam stress, and whilst having an end goal is an excellent motivator, having a Plan B can help manage this stress.

Encourage all your pupils to put a Plan B in place which they would be happy to implement if there is a slight roadblock in their way on results day. It is also important for parents to be on board with this too, as often it is the parents who end up in tears because they can’t see a solution when emotions are high.

Exam results are clearly very important, however, young people can still be successful in life if their GCSEs don’t go quite to plan and it is vital teachers reinforce this message.

A silver lining can always be found if needed, but for the time being encourage pupils to reach for the stars now, rather than looking for the silver lining in the clouds in August.