HUNDREDS of students across Gwent are sitting exams over the next few months.

School pupils, college students and university students will sit down at desks or computers across the country for numerous qualifications, including GCSEs, A-levels and other exams.

Stress is one of the most common themes that comes with studying; and with the high number of pupils applying for higher education and the job field being limited, students are striving for the best grades they can get.

But how do educational institutions handle stress and how is support offered to pupils?

With the internet being one of the most major influences on today’s students, many schools are offering advice and support online.

Head teacher John Kendall, of Risca Community Comprehensive, writes a blog which the students can view on the school website. Each blog post offers advice, support and general comments about the school’s activities that week or month.

One of the latest posts on the blog that Mr Kendall has published is top ten examination tips.

These are the tips that Mr Kendall gives to his pupils during the exam period:


1. It’s obvious, but follow the rules. You’re not going to break them deliberately, but don’t get caught out by accident. Unfortunately it’s not an excuse to say you didn’t know. Wearing that nice new smart watch could end up costing you a qualification.

2. Check the instructions. Even if your teacher has told you, double check just in case, things like how many questions or sections you need to do, if rough notes or working needs to be shown, equipment you’re allowed, such as a calculator, even the colour of pen you need to use.

3. Check the timing. Especially important if there are different papers being sat in the exam room, make sure you know when yours ends.

4. Look over the whole paper. Get an idea what’s on there and make sure you’re aware of how much you need to do in the given time.

5. Check the marks per question. This will give you a fair idea of how much time you’ll need to spend on each question.

6. Read the question carefully. Read it at least twice and refer to it as you answer. It’s amazing how many people just scan a question and rush into a pre-prepared answer which fails to answer the actual question on the paper.

7. Don’t let one tough question put you off. It’s usually sensible to leave a question you find really difficult and then come back to it. But do come back to it!

8. Try not to leave a question blank. There’s usually something you can write down, as a last resort have an educated guess.

9. Make sure your writing can be read. Again, it’s obvious but if the examiner can’t read it you won’t get any marks.

10. Read over your work. Unless you are really pushed for time, try to read over what you’ve written.

In the post, Mr Kendall also says: “It is a stressful time for everyone, but the best way of reducing stress is to be well prepared. As well as knowing what to expect on the paper and being sure of what and how to revise, it always helps to know how to tackle the exam itself on the day.”

Mr Kendall said he also believes that schools should make sure that support is on offer during the exam period.

He said: “I think schools are more aware than ever of the pressure their exam candidates are under at this time of year, and it’s important we acknowledge this and try to do something to help. Of course it’s natural to be nervous. The best way of combatting exam stress is to be well prepared, and that means being really clear about what it is you’re being tested on, and also how to tackle the exam itself. “We put out lots of information about this to help our pupils, and we also have a guide for parents and carers. The supportive role they play at this time of year can make all the difference.”

With exams and mental health and wellbeing coming hand-in-hand, many organisations believe it is important for pupils to know there is help out there.

YoungMinds – a UK charity which says it aims to “champion the wellbeing and mental health of young people” – said there is not enough focus on wellbeing in the classroom. They commissioned a YouGov survey which found 82 per cent of the teachers they polled agree that the focus on exams has become disproportionate to the overall wellbeing of students, while 70 per cent think that the government should rebalance the education system to focus more on student wellbeing.

A separate YouGov survey of 1,003 parents across Britain showed that:

l Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of parents would choose a school where children are happy even if previous exam results have not been good.

l 92 per cent of parents think that schools have a duty to support the wellbeing and mental health of students, while more than half (53 per cent) want more information about what their child’s school is doing to promote it.

The results suggest that the current education system is “fundamentally unbalanced”, according to YoungMinds, with an over-emphasis on exams and too little focus on student mental health.

The charity has launched its Wise Up campaign, alongside the National Children’s Bureau, and is calling called on teachers, parents and pupils to sign an open letter to Theresa May, urging her to rebalance the system so that wellbeing can be a priority for all schools.

The letter to the prime minister was sent last month and was signed by more than 2,500 teachers, 1,000 mental health professionals, 4,500 parents and 1,200 young people, urging Mrs May to rebalance the education system.

Sarah Brennan, the chief executive of YoungMinds, said that something has to be done to tackle the “mental health crisis in our classrooms”.

She said: “Children and young people today face a huge range of pressures, from exam stress to cyberbullying, to finding a job when they finish education, and all the evidence suggests that the situation is getting worse.

“Schools are critical in helping prevent mental health problems escalating, in building wellbeing and resilience and helping young people learn the skills they need to cope in today’s world.

“Many schools are already doing excellent work, but too often they are hampered by competing pressures and a lack of resources. If the government is serious about tackling the crisis, it must rebalance the whole education system.”

As well as focussing on young people’s mental health and wellbeing, the YoungMinds charity website also offers advice for pupils who have upcoming exams.

YoungMinds activist Rose said: “We all know that exams are extremely challenging, not only because of what we have to learn, but also because they can affect our mental health. We’re told to take regular breaks, but I find it hard to know how best to use them.

“There’s plenty of advice out there on study techniques, but I find that what I do when I’m not revising is just as important as what I do when I am.”

One of the main techniques Rose offers to students is to ensure that they have regular breaks and vary the times and amount of breaks. She also says believes that grounding exercises are a good way to help pupils relax and stay calm while studying. Another part of her advice is that She said those who are or may think they are struggling with their mental health should reach out to friends or family. However, the main thing Rose wants students to know is that exams do not define the person taking them.

She said: “Above all, remember that exams aren’t everything. There are many options that don’t rely on getting the top grades and in ten years’ time, most people won’t care or notice what grades you got when you were younger. You are not defined by your exam results - you are so much more than the letters that appear on a sheet of paper.”

For more information on exam advice visit

And anyone who thinks they may be struggling with their mental health during the exam period can visit for a list of useful sources to speak to.