Preparation is everything Across the country this month, exam halls will be packed with GCSE and A-level pupils poring over the exam papers which could shape their future. Undoubtedly, this can be a hugely stressful period for young people. Typical worries for students include not living up to their own or other’s expectations; what will happen if they don’t get the grades they want; not being able to cope with revision; not knowing how to revise; and not doing as well as their friends. Worrying about workload only increases stress hormones, such as cortisol, impairing your concentration and learning abilities. It’s important for students to keep things in perspective. Good nutrition is also key: late nights, stress, missed meals and quick food fixes will all play havoc with concentration. Students should make breakfast the most important meal of the day,
filling up on energy foods such as oats, and eggs – which contain a nutrient called choline which aids cognitive performance. Also foods with a low glycemic index are ideal to keep blood sugar levels steady and aid focus. While revision is certainly important, studying around the clock and not getting enough sleep will ultimately affect students’ performance on exam day. Warm milk and herbal teas before bed have a sedative effect, while carb-rich snacks clear the way for sleep-inducing amino acids to reach the brain.
GOOD NUTRITION IS KEY: LATE NIGHTS, STRESS, MISSED MEALS AND “QUICK FOOD FIXES WILL ALL PLAY HAVOC WITH CONCENTRATION. ” Knowing how and when to revise and what works for the individual is vital. Some students study better in a quiet space alone, whereas others enjoy more success by studying in groups. Stress isn’t always a bad thing – small amounts can boost productivity. But if students are struggling to cope, there’s plenty of help available from charities such as Mind or Young Minds, who run free telephone helplines.
Students facing exams need support in three main areas: • Practical revision tips and structuring learning: Help with timetables, syllabus content, and how to split time between subjects and methods of learning. • Tips on dealing with difficult emotions and worries: Support could include information about mindfulness, being aware of worries and problem solving, as well as being kind to yourself and talking to others for support at an early stage. • Tips to encourage and maintain physical and mental wellbeing: Encouraging young people to take regular exercise, and stressing the importance of a healthy diet, regular and good quality sleep and socialising.
The BBC has also recently launched a new campaign to help teenagers face their exam fears with the help of other teens who’ve just been through the exam experience themselves. The Mind Set is the UK’s first national peer-topeer coaching network for GCSE and National students, and it aims to explore the vagaries of exam stress through 12 student coaches who’ve been there and done it, and tell it as it is in individual films about their own exam experiences. Find out more at www.bbc.co.uk/education