Getting your SEND learners ready for GCSE – part 3

Don't panic!

Now that you have your access arrangements in place and your students are starting to feel a little more prepared for the exam questions it’s time to think about the actual exams.

Routines – what to expect

A mock exam is extremely useful for SEND learners because it prepares them for what to expect in a real exam. I build up towards the GCSE exams with a set of classroom rules that we use for Entry level tests (which aren’t as strict as GCSE exams).  This prepares them for the conditions they will face but a mock exam is the best way to experience what the final exam will be like. If you have applied for access arrangements you will need these for your mock exam too.

Exam anxiety

Exam anxiety isn’t just a problem for students with SEND – I know countless adults that worry about exams. How you tackle anxiety will probably depend on your setting – all year 11 students would benefit but if this isn’t offered as standard you might want to do something as a department/science teacher/form tutor.

Where to start?  MIND produce an excellent booklet for students, intended to cover learners in all phases of education.  You can access their student landing page here.  They have a useful downloadable guide from which you can extract some useful tips to share with your learners (the intended audience appears to be university students).

Feeling anxious about exams is normal and students need to hear this message. Your job is to take away as many of the anxieties as possible that they might have – for example:

  • Overthinking about the exam
  • Putting too much pressure on yourself
  • Being un-organised for the exam
  • Not revising for that subject
  • Not planning in advance

Get students to plan out their routine when the exams are on – perhaps they can leave the breakfast things out the night before so they are good to go (some students might appreciate a checklist or visual timetable to help).  This should include making sure students have the appropriate equipment for the exam.

One of my colleagues at our sister school used to suggest worry baskets in which students are asked to write down the things that worry them, then to categorise them as things they need to act on straight away, things they can leave for now and things they have no control over (so they don’t need to worry about them).

Students can also be shown breathing exercises (there are many examples of these on YouTube, they can find one that works for them). Mindfulness exercises might also be appropriate for some learners with some useful resources here.

I hope after reading part 1, part 2 and now this post that you have a better idea of how you can make sure students are well prepared for their exams. Keep an eye out for more exam related posts coming soon.