This year exams might look a bit different, but our young people are still under the same stresses as ever before. They have worked hard and want to achieve the marks that they deserve. But, exam stress and anxiety can have a huge impact. It was only 4 years ago I sat my driving test—a different type of test but a test nonetheless. I was so wound up that I actually threw up before I even left the house. But, there are some straightforward things we can do to help manage that stress. So, let’s explore some.
For some young people, in-depth, minute by minute plans work. For others, more flexible plans where they need to know what they want to cover each day, and they can then create the day that suits them works better. We know if it is a gorgeous day, we never want to be stuck inside, and plans need to allow for this.
If someone tells you that you need to sit and do something for 4 hours, it will feel like a big task. But start small, set a timer for just twenty minutes. A great way to do this is to use the Forest app. As the timer ticks down, you grow a tree. If you click on something else, the app will ask you if you want to kill the growing tree. Most people do not want to kill the tree, so it keeps you focused and away from distractions. The chances are when the timer goes off, you will just be getting into the swing of things and will be quite happy to set another timer and keep going. Again, set it for just 20 minutes. I suggest only doing 2-3 cycles of this before we move onto
It would help if you had plenty of short breaks as they help you focus. A great way to have a break is to move away from technology altogether, your phone and laptop and get outdoors, or at least to a window. When we stare out a window, we use effortless attention. This has been shown to allow our brains a chance to reset and refocus. When you come back to the next study block, you can remember and recall it better in the future.
Numerous studies have been completed, focusing on the difference time outdoors can make before an exam or test. These have been completed in both rural and urban environments. In both, it was shown that 20 minutes outdoors before a test or exam had a positive impact on results and increase marks achieved. So, leave the notes in your bag (if you do not know it now, cramming won’t help) and enjoy 20 minutes outdoors immediately before your exam or as close as possible to it.
When you are outdoors and then again in the exam hall, remember to breathe. Take a long slow breath in through your nose, imaging you have a balloon in your belly that you need to fill; keep breathing in until you feel your ribs expand (this means you are using both lower and upper lungs). Hold that breath for a count of three. Slowly exhale through your lips, focusing on relaxing the muscles in your face, jaw, shoulders and stomach. Repeat this 3-7 times, and you will feel a difference. If you feel yourself becoming stressed during the exam, do it again. If you have time at the end of the exam, take 5 deep breaths and check your paper.
We wish everyone sitting exams the best of luck. We know how daunting they can breathe. Just remember, plan, start small with regular breaks, time outdoors, and breathe. Breathing is the most important thing. You have got this!
Love Outdoor Learning offers a range of support for curriculum-based outdoor learning within the nursery, primary and secondary. Our membership resource offers training and lesson ideas throughout the curriculum, and we regularly share blogs with new activity ideas and thoughts on outdoor learning. We can also offer on-site training and support.
We aim to help support as many educators as possible. We offer free support calls to help schools understand how we can support them in their learning journey. If you wish to book one, jump over to our diary.