Headmaster of Pocklington School

Pocklington School headteacher Mark Ronan.
Pocklington School headteacher Mark Ronan.

This may be the time of year when spirits lift at the prospect of summer, but for those taking their GCSE and A Level exams, those carefree days seem a long time away indeed.

The challenge for them, and for many parents, is getting through the next few weeks.

Applying knowledge and rehearsing the exam process is as valuable as revising. Also, tackle the topics or subjects you find the hardest.

Applying knowledge and rehearsing the exam process is as valuable as revising. Also, tackle the topics or subjects you find the hardest.

I think the first point to stress here is that they will get through it; this time will pass and, no matter how they perform, exams are just one of many opportunities youngsters will have to make their mark in life.

Exams assess only one aspect of a young person’s talent. Their creative or sporting prowess, or their positive, can-do attitude, might well take them further in life.

How you treat other people matters more than your exam results.

That’s not to say GCSEs and A Levels are not important. Of course, the ideal is to get as many high grades as possible, and a raft of good exam results undoubtedly opens many doors.

As adults, the best way we can help youngsters during exam time is to remind them it is “OK not to be the best”, as long as we do our personal best. Also, make time to listen.

Whether they want to use you as a sounding board - or just to sound off – remaining calm and supportive is the best approach.

Don’t add to the pressure. You’ll be more useful if you make yourself available to test (although some students don’t welcome this!), and provide healthy drinks and snacks. Remember the way you revised might not work for them.

Give them the space to work out their own preferred method. Encourage some down time, too!

For students taking exams over the next few weeks, my advice to is to stay calm and be realistic about what you can achieve. And that’s a lot, incidentally: the amount of effort it takes to get from a fail to a pass is often far less than to move from a pass to outstanding, so don’t ever give up.

You cannot revise what you do not understand! It’s never too late to remedy this so if there’s a topic or concept you haven’t grasped, ask someone to explain it.

Applying knowledge and rehearsing the exam process is as valuable as revising.

Do lots of practice papers, and either mark them yourself or ask someone to mark them and give feedback.

You’ll become familiar with the type of questions, the answers they’re looking for, and the best pace to work your way through the exam paper.

Tackle the topics or subjects you find the hardest, rather than gravitating towards safe ground.

Don’t be afraid to revise your exam timetable – or even start one.

Work out what you need to do, then work backwards from the exam date, breaking each subject down into bite-sized chunks.

Remember to be realistic and factor in breaks.

Check your exam timetable is accurate and make sure you arrive in plenty of time.

Don’t talk about what you have revised/not revised with friends outside exam room because this causes unnecessary stress.

Remember a certain amount of anxiety is necessary if we are to perform well in exams: it creates the adrenalin which sharpens our senses and drives us on. Simple, short Mindfulness exercises (try Google) can be very calming. Good luck – and do you best!