With exams coming up soon, the Senior School at Tanglin is gearing kids up to achieve their best while ensuring their mental and physical wellbeing through what can be a highly stressful period – even for the most prepared student.
Read on for some top tips and exam advice from Tanglin’s in-house experts on how to prepare as well as some useful strategies for coping with emotional challenges.
Tips for students
Top Tips On How To Look After Yourself During The Exam Period
Clare Butler, Head of PSHCE (Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship Education)
- Relaxation is key: When you write a revision plan, put the fun things and the relaxation in first and then arrange your subjects around them. If the plan is realistic you’re more likely to stick to it.
- Involve your parents: They really want to help so let them! Put your revision plan on the fridge or somewhere else visible and then encourage them to remind you if you are not sticking to it.
- Think about when you work best: Are you a night owl or a morning person?
- Use your teachers: They are there to help, book times to see them, and be clear about what you want to achieve in the time with them. Really listen to what they have to say.
- Complete practice papers: The more practice papers you do, the higher your grade is likely to be. Using the exam board mark scheme to mark the papers yourself can also really help you understand what the examiner is looking for.
Tips for parents
Here are some useful pointers to help parents prepare and support their child through the exam period.
Sarah Le Grice, Lead Nurse
Sarah is part of CWS (Coordinated Wellbeing Services), which includes the Health team, Counsellors and Education Psychology.
- Brain food: Stock up the cupboards with healthy snacks. Sugary sweets and drinks cause energy levels to peak and trough, so minimise these. Water is essential; even mild dehydration can lead to tiredness, headaches and reduced concentration.
- Sleep: Teenagers need more than eight hours of sleep at night. Encourage a regular bedtime that allows enough time to relax and fall into a natural sleep and encourage your child to keep screens and devices away from their bed.
- Time out: Get out those old board games your child used to play. It’s important to encourage time away from studying, with friends or family, to clear their heads. Spending some time with you, will give your child opportunities to talk about how studying is going, ask for support or put your mind at rest that they are doing well.
- Don’t fuss: It’s important that as parents we are present, but fussing can add extra pressure and stress to an already difficult time. Letting them know you are there for them and allowing them to come and find you will keep your relationship far more open than if you knock on their door every 10 minutes to ask what they’ve done.
- Ask for help: If your child is struggling, encourage them to speak to their tutor or subject teacher to talk through any academic problems. The school Nursing Team and Counsellors can also provide that extra bit of emotional support.
Peter Derby-Crook, Tanglin Parent and CEO
“Whilst it is impossible to anticipate all the challenges that young people are going to face in the future, we can be thankful for the fact that schools nowadays offer many opportunities for students to learn lifeskills, which include strategies they can draw on in the face of emotional challenges.
At Tanglin, this is the shared goal of our CWS (Coordinated Wellbeing Services) team and our PSHCE (Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship Education) teams. The public examinations are a set of challenges that we can anticipate and we aim to prepare students for these well in advance, with key skills being covered and practised in Y10 and Y12 for students who will sit exams in Y11 and Y13.
However, even the most prepared students can feel anxiety as the exams draw near – and especially on the day itself. Do read on to find out more about how to combat emotional stress from our Educational Psychologist, Clare Lancaster. Her tips are helpful for students and parents alike! This time can be just as worrying for parents so my list below is about how we can put our own hopes and fears into perspective.”
- See your child for who they are, not who you want them to be.
- Treat each day of a child’s life as important in itself, not just a preparation for something else.
- Create a relationship with them that allows them to say exactly how they feel without fearing your response. Listen, note and if appropriate act upon what you hear.
- Their minds live in a different world to ours… always remember that!
- When in doubt as to what to do, simply love them more.
Combatting emotional stress
Clare Lancaster, Chartered Educational Psychologist
“Our brains are amazing things. They are ever-changing and adapting, taking in new information and telling us how to respond, feel and behave. Sometimes though, especially when we are stressed, our brains do things that aren’t all that helpful, such as switching into automatic thinking patterns.
Here are five unhelpful thinking patterns that are common around exam time, and how to combat them:”
#1. Comparing and Despairing:
What we do: Focus on just the positives in other people and compare them against the negatives in ourselves (e.g. my friend was revising last night and I wasn’t).
To combat it: Ask yourself, “Am I focusing only on their positives and comparing them against things I feel bad about? Is there a more balanced way to look at it? Does it even matter how much they are studying, if the only outcome I can control is my own result?”
#2. Mental Filter:
What we do: Only see the things that the filter allows us to see. At times of stress, we often filter for negatives, and sift out all the good. We only think of questions we got wrong, or when we didn’t do as well as someone else, which makes us feel more stressed and negative, strengthening the filter even more.
To combat it: Ask yourself, “Am I only noticing the negatives? What would I see if I took off my filter? Are there positives I am missing? Is there a more balanced way of looking at it?”
What we do: Assume the worst will happen, even when we have no idea of an outcome yet. “I’m going to fail this. I won’t get into Uni. I’ll never have a job!”
To combat it: Ask yourself, “Am I thinking of only the worst possible outcome? What other possibilities are there? Even if the worst did happen, does it necessarily mean all the rest of these bad things would too? Is there a more realistic way of looking at this situation?”
#4. All or Nothing Thinking:
What we do: Think that there are only two options; good or bad, perfect or useless. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking that if we don’t get an A* it’s all pointless.
To combat it: Ask yourself, “Am I dismissing all the other outcomes between perfection and failure? Is it really a failure if it’s not absolutely perfect? Is there a more realistic way of thinking about this?”
#5. Should and Musts:
What we do: Hold ourselves to unrealistic expectations and put extra, unnecessary pressure on ourselves, thinking, “I must study every waking moment” or while you’re having some down time, thinking, “I should be studying”.
To combat it: Ask yourself, “Am I giving myself impossible expectations to live up to? What can I realistically achieve?” Value your rest and relaxation time, prioritise sleep, and feel confident that a break from studying can sometimes be just as useful as more study!
To find out more about the exceptional care, guidance and support given to students at Tanglin, visit the website or attend one of the upcoming Open House Events.
- Perez-Chada et al. (2007) ‘Sleep disordered breathing and daytime sleepiness are associated with poor academic performance in teenagers. A study using the paediatric daytime sleepiness scale (PDSS)’. Sleep Vol 30 No 12
- Richardson A (2018) ‘Can food improve your exam performance?’ http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/z3xdq6f
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