Tackling exam anxiety

A coaching project funded by SLN Uni Connect has resulted in a significant increase in students’ confidence and ability to cope with their anxieties about GCSE resits and improved their performance and attendance.

The Confidence Coaching project, run between February and May this year in collaboration with East Sussex College and life and mindset coach Zoe Carroll, provided 128 online and in-person workshops for 16- to 19-year-olds taking both GCSE Maths and English at the college. During the sessions, students learned a series of mindfulness and breathing techniques that could be used before and during exams. Answers to before-and-after questionnaires showed that:

  • at the beginning of the coaching, 76% of students were either ‘very or pretty much’ worried about not doing well in assessments, with 30% experiencing physical symptoms such as upset stomachs or tense muscles during the exam.
  • after the workshops, almost 25% of students felt more confident about their exams and 30% said they felt better able to concentrate and focus.

Despite this boost in confidence, however, many students still showed high levels of anxiety, indicating that more could be done earlier to support their wellbeing and performance worries.

Vicky Speirs, SLN Uni Connect Programme Coordinator at the college said: ‘Stress and anxiety can prevent students attending school and impair their cognitive performance during assessments, resulting in poor results, resits and more stress. Targeted interventions boosting confidence and concentration should be considered essential to improving student exam performance and their longer-term progression, and should be integrated into the curriculum throughout the academic year.’

For more information on the project, please contact Lucy Jenks