Student Tips for GCSE Exams

Uni Compare  · Feb 16th 2022

Students who think positively about their performance and academic ability are more likely to perform better during GCSE exam season.


Negative thoughts can have a negative impact on performance, as a vicious cycle where you think you will perform badly, so you end up doing so. Students need to understand how to get the most of GCSE study leave; your time off is for an important reason, so use this time wisely! Individuals who are in a relaxed state are able to perform under pressure or if they begin to feel stressed as their starting point is a relaxed state. Levels of concentration are at their best and students can work through their GCSE exams with their full attention. Some students will get a job whilst doing their GCSE’, which is great as extra money for the summer, but it’s important to find the right balance for working and studying at the same time.

If students are able to get in the zone when exam days finally arrive, they’ll be able to flow through the exam and enable themselves to work to the best of their ability. You are studying to remember the information that will be on the exam – simple as that – and once you feel that you can recite as much information that you can, then you are working at your best. Students should focus on demonstrating their knowledge and skills learned prior to the exam, which is why setting up study goals is very helpful. Students shouldn’t worry about the result they will receive, and ensure their focus stays on the questions and answers in front of them.

How to stay calm during GCSE exams

If students feel that they cannot fully immerse themselves into the exam and that the feeling of anxiety is too overwhelming, they should put their pen down and close their eyes and allow themselves a minute to calm down. Give yourself 60 seconds to breathe deeply and gather your thoughts into a concise point. Don’t let your mind wander or get too distracted to continue and remember the exam revision tips you revised, yet allowing your mind to have a breather so that you can continue with the exam.

If any students feel that they cannot breathe properly, lightheaded or unwell at any point in the exam should inform an invigilator immediately so that they can leave the exam room.

If you are extremely worried that the GCSE exam will be too hard to complete then adjust how you think about the test. The exam will cover everything that you have learned and revised in the past months; therefore there won’t be any nasty surprises unless you failed to revise effectively.

Students taking an exam

Train your mind

A few days before the exam begins to think about what the GCSE exam day will feel like. Imagine waking up in the morning, walking into the exam, and if you have been completing past exam papers as part of your revision, then you will be able to imagine the exam conditions as well. When you begin to get a feel of what the day will feel like, you shouldn’t feel unprepared when the day does arrive.

It is also helpful to sit in exam conditions at your school if you can, and use these past GCSE exam papers to practice how you will perform in the exam. Whether you prefer to read the entire paper first, or to read each section on its own, it is entirely up to you, but if you can get the practice, then it will prepare you more so. Learning how to stop procrastinating during GCSE revision and reading GCSE revision tips will result in a direct revising method, allowing you more time to rest, as this is just as important as revising.

If something unexpected happens

A list of unexpected things that could happen in your exam include: your pen running out or breaking, a question you weren’t expecting comes up, you feel unprepared for the exam, the exam hall changing at the last minute or if some things happen in the morning that makes you feel stressed – like running late, etc. There are ways for you to prepare for unexpected events, such as bringing in a clear pencil case with several pens that you know all work, revising all areas or being able to attempt to answer questions you are unsure of, or understanding that it doesn’t matter where you are sitting an exam, it will still have the same conditions and feel.

Staying positive during GCSE exams

One effective way to stay positive during exams is to analyse what your stress triggers are and what makes you feel anxious when studying. It’s important to know how to deal with GCSE exam stress, learning to be calm will make you more confident. Once you understand these negative aspects are the cause of your anxiety you can begin to address and avoid them on exam day. If you are scared of feeling unprepared, practice waking up the week before exams start and getting ready as if you were taking your test that day. If writing under exam conditions, such as silence and feeling alone, then start adjusting your revision settings. If you prefer noise when studying, like music, start turning the volume down each day so that you can work towards studying in pure silence to help you prepare for the exam and begin to analyse your thoughts.

When you begin to understand how you feel stressed you can then change how you feel and perform during the exam, and eventually:

Be able to get into your zone during the exam

  • Feel more confident about your academic ability and skills
  • Feel positive about the result of the exam
  • Feel less stressed about taking the exams
  • Understand how to deal with exam stress and worrying
  • Manage your emotions during and before the exam
  • Have confidence in your ability to access the information that you have studied
  • Feel focused and ready when you start the test

The morning of the GCSE exam

On the morning of the GCSE exam, wake up early, ensure you give yourself adequate time to get ready, have a healthy breakfast to fuel your brain and body and feel awake before you leave for school. You wouldn’t want to feel hungry, tired or unprepared when you sit down. Plan how you are getting to school and what time you will arrive before the day comes. That way you won’t worry about missing the bus, or running late as you already know how you are going to get to school. Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast, something that will keep you sustained and something that will keep you focused in the exam.

A student fills out a multiple choice Maths exam

Before the GCSE exam

When you meet your friends before the exam, or line up outside the exam hall, try not to talk about what you have revised too much with your friends. It can be a natural thought to want to discuss how nervous you are, or what you revised last minute the night before, because it could put you off when you arrive in the hall. Especially as each student will have their own way of revising and what areas they needed to focus on, therefore, if you listen to what your friends are telling you in regards to what they studied you may worry that you didn’t cover the same topics, for the same amount of time. However, there is no need to do this! Feel confident in your ability and your revision tips and put them to practise.

What can you take into a GCSE exam?

Students are allowed to take a bottle of water, pencil case and school uniform with them into the exam hall. The pencil case and water bottle need to be clear so that no words or information can be seen to be attempted to be hidden or concealed inside or underneath them. Most water bottles are clear, and you can purchase clear pencil cases from many stationery stores. Food and electronic items are prohibited within the exam hall, incase information is stored on them which would imply cheating. Most schools have students empty their pockets and belongings into their school bag prior to the exam and have them stored in a classroom or outside the exam hall.

Exam behaviour

The examining boards, your school and fellow students will expect you to act in a certain way, and if you don’t behave in this way there may be a chance that you will be asked to leave the exam hall and forfeit your chance to take the exam, meaning you will receive a fail for that test. Students should not talk as soon as they walk into the exam hall and until they leave the hall at the end of the test, unless they need to speak to an invigilator. If a student needs to speak to an invigilator, they should put their hand up and wait for them to come over and whisper their request or concern as to not distract fellow students.

Students should also avoid distracting or annoying other individuals in the exam hall, such as tapping their foot, pen or making lots of noise. Consider how you want to feel relaxed and prepared during the test and act accordingly as you expect others should do.

After the GCSE exam

As people like to talk about their experiences, it is also normal for students to want to talk about the exam they had just taken as soon as they come out of the exam. This also can make you feel stressed or worried about the answers you wrote down. When you discuss the questions with your friends they may talk about how they answer the question that differs from your answers, so don’t think about it too much. There is nothing you can do now, and you should feel confident in yourself and wait for your results. Don’t dwell on your exams too long, enjoy the long summer break, get a job, enjoy time with friends or go on a summer holiday, just make sure you attend your GCSE results day!

There we have it, tips for students for GCSE exams, now it’s time to think whether you will continue studies into A Levels at school or college. It could be that you find yourself onto a more hands-on role and studying a BTEC or a learning an apprenticeship. For some of you, it could be travelling that really interests you, so perhaps a gap year or even studying abroad?!

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