Every couple of weeks I go to a local school and talk to the students about what I do. They get to ask me questions about my role as a coach and find out about the profession. I love it. It is a real highlight for me.
I love finding out about how kids think, what their priorities are and what they worry about. So far this year, I have only met year 11 students (15/16 year olds) and their biggest focus is their GCSE exams and how to prepare for them.
I tell each group that I meet the same exact thing, and it occurred to me that maybe a blog post about it might help others too.
The advice I give is pretty simple – there is no science behind it. But sometimes, the most important messages are the simplest ones.
So here it is – my guide to managing stress as you work towards your GCSE’s.
Understand the Scale of the Task
Know what it is you need to cover. Think about the subjects you are studying, the topics you have to cover within those subjects. Understanding exactly what you need to revise means you won’t miss anything.
Create a Plan
Draw up a timetable. Look at your week and work out what time you have to study. Make a timetable that picks up all of that time and then break your subjects down over that timetable so that every subject gets some time every week, or two weeks if you prefer. Some kids prefer to learn in small (say 60 minute) blocks. Others might prefer a detailed 2 hour block on one subject. There is no right or wrong way.
All Work No Play – No Way!
Make sure that within that timetable you leave some time for you to relax and enjoy yourself. There is no benefit to you or your chances of success if you spend every spare waking moment with your face in a text book. Making some time each week to do something nice gives your mind a chance to relax and gives you something to look forward to.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Work with friends and family. If you have friends that are studying the same subjects as you, get a group together and pool your resources. Make flash cards, test each other, make it fun. And don’t forget to include family! Mum’s, Dad’s, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles etc – can all test you, talk to you about your subjects and help out.
Learn from the Past
Get your hands on as many past papers as you can and use them. You can even get your family to help you do them in pretend exams conditions (at a table, no interruptions, timed, etc) if that helps to get you “in the zone”. And you can also swap with friends or even take the exams with friends and mark them together. The more past papers you can do, the less unexpected your actual GCSE exams will feel when the time comes.
Don’t Mock your Mocks
Take your Mock GCSE Exams seriously. They are a great chance for you to practice the focus and timing that you need to master for your actual exams.
Take One Day at a Time
Don’t allow the prospect of the exams to overwhelm you. If you can focus on what you are doing today, and do it well, all of those “todays” will add together and you will be ready for your exams. If you spend time thinking about what might happen in those exams, you are wasting time and positive energy that you could be spending on studying in the here and now. The exams will come, whether you worry about them or not. You can’t predict anything more than that, so don’t try. Live in the present moment. It will serve you well, I promise.
Do Your Very Best
Remember that as long as you do your best between now and when the exams start, there is nothing more you can do. All any parent can reasonably expect from their child is that they give the exams the best that they can. If you knuckle down, get organised and make a plan, you will be able to work through your revision and show your parents, family etc that you have done your very best.
And for all those adults out there who are reading this and feeling edgy and nervous about the prospect of supporting their teenager through the exams process, fear not. You’ve got this.
Remember to make sure that your son / daughter / etc understands that their best is going to be good enough for you. But make it clear that their best is only possible if they put the work in. Too much pressure can be detrimental to success – anxiety is rife in this age group sadly. So you have a difficult balance to strike.
As do I. My son is taking his GCSE exams next summer too. So I type every word of this with acute awareness of the reality of the situation.
We can do this together. Feel free to use this post to comment if you need some words of support from me or others who may drop by.
Equally, I am able to offer Skype support for any children of 15/16 to help them manage their anxiety through the build-up or even through the GCSE exams themselves. If this interests you (Parents / Guardians), please get in touch. If you are interested in this support and you are 15/16, please speak to your parent or guardian.
I will close with a quote which for most of my 43 years, I have credited to my Dad. However, on recent investigation it seems he may have pinched it from an American President. It’s still awesome though!
“Failure to prepare, is to prepare for failure.”