Exams 2021: how to stay calm
Exams cause stress in every student's life, no matter if you are top of the class or struggling. Knowing that these results will help map out your future doesn't help, neither does being in the unknown territory of what's expected post-lockdown. If you're feeling stressed, here's what you need to know and do to stay calm.
How will my grades be assessed?
Grades will be based on what students have been taught, not what they've missed. Teachers will use a range of evidence, including mock exams, coursework and other work completed such as essays or in-class tests.
Exam boards will also provide optional sets of questions for teachers to use to help them gather evidence. Before grades are submitted, you will be told what evidence is being used to assess them. Students can see this evidence and tell their teachers about any mitigating circumstances they think might affect their grade.
Will there be any exams?
This year's GCSE and A-levels may be cancelled, but as students return to school for the summer term, many are now being faced with exams and tests to back up teacher assessments. These tests will be used if there's a discrepancy between the grade your school gives you and the grade you feel you should have received. To make this process as fair as possible many tests will have a unique student number on them and no name so that the marking will be seen as acceptable.
How should I revise?
Firstly, make sure you know what you will be tested on. The focus will be on what you have been taught, so make sure you have a list and fill in knowledge gaps. You won't just be tested on memory but how you use the facts to understand the content. Your next step should be to invest in a revision guide. This will help you develop your exam skills and for each topic and give you exam-style sample questions with fully worked answers.
Look at the examiners' reports on past papers
These may not be your actual GCSEs, but do read the examiner's report for each subject for assessment tests. Every year the exam boards make public a document written by examiners. Here they tell you what they like to read in papers and give you examples of what not to do. With each one, go through the answer afterwards and ensure you understand everything you are being asked. This gives you a clear idea of how to answer questions with the right amount of detail in your tests. Understanding what's expected will help manage your stress and alleviate your anxiety.
Take action if you are feeling panic and stress
If you are feeling very stressed and worried, talk to your teachers. This is a very stressful time for all students, and not understanding how you will be marked can lead to a sense of helplessness, making anxiety worse. To help manage these feelings, talk to teachers and ask what proactive things you can do to help your grades. What areas do you need to work at, what elements will benefit you from now until they submit marks? When you have a breakdown, seek the help of a subject specialist tutor to get up to speed quickly and increase your confidence in areas you feel weak in.
Talk about how you feel
Stress and anxiety around exam time are normal; what isn't normal is to feel consumed by fear all the time. If you feel scared and anxious to the point it's affecting your life and or are stuck in a cycle of worst-case scenarios, talk to someone. Talk to your friends, your parents, teachers and tutors, even a confidential helpline. Let others reassure you and help you find ways to cope. You don't have to go through this all alone.
When will I get my results?
Teachers will submit grades to exam boards by Friday, 18 June 2021. Results days for GCSE, AS, and A level will then occur in the week of Monday 9 August 2021. This will give extra time for any appeals to be assessed.
What if I need to appeal?
All students will have the right to appeal their grade at school if they believe their grade is wrong. If they still aren't happy, then the exam board will confirm whether the grade is reasonable based on the evidence. If not, they will determine the alternative grade.