Exams, assessments and school work

Starting secondary school can be a difficult time for students, as they have to negotiate and learn to manage new structures around school work, exams and assessments. They may feel overwhelmed by the size of the school or by their new subjects, and feel pressure to meet the expectations of their teachers, parents or carers, and themselves. Things they may have found manageable in primary school could start to feel more challenging, which can impact on their confidence, self-efficacy, motivation, and levels of stress and anxiety.

Teachers and parents have an important role to play in supporting students with their school work, exam and assessment stress. Check out our top tips and helpful classroom resources for teachers, and resources to share with your parent/carer and student communities.

Top tips for supporting your students

  • Help students get organised and manage their time by encouraging them to use a diary or a calendar app. When assessment dates are set, check that they have recorded them.

  • Set clear and realistic expectations for class work, exams and assessments. To do this, ensure that scaffolds and criteria are in simple language and easy to follow.

  • Share help-seeking strategies students can use if they feel overwhelmed, such as who to go to for academic support, where to locate student services, and how to access the school psychologist.

  • Use a range of learning tasks and experiences during class work and assessments that allow your students to show you what they know and can do.

  • Remind your students that a growth mindset, where failure is seen as an opportunity for growth and learning, is a key aspect of success in secondary school.

  • Develop a growth mindset in your students by providing opportunities for them to set short-, medium- and long-term learning goals.

  • Support students’ goal setting by sharing with them practical self-management strategies they can use to manage stress and anxiety, such as breathing and mindfulness exercises, positive self-talk and practising gratitude.

Classroom activities

5 steps to study success

Developing positive study habits early can help students when academic demands increase. These tips can be taught to students and revisited when needed.

Check-in line

Sometimes students can’t explain how they are feeling. This standard continuum enables students to convey their feelings visually.

Setting goals

Goal setting is a great way for students to focus and be motivated. Setting clear and achievable goals helps them to remember what they would like to achieve.

‘How are you going?’ quiz

This survey will help your students to develop a sense of how they are currently feeling, recognise times when they may require help, and examine practical ways to manage their emotions.

Flexible thinking

This activity aims to build students’ ability to use flexible thinking, which will help them to handle disappointment and cope with study demands.

Resources for students

ReachOut works with young people across Australia to develop content. You could share some of these resources with your students.

5 steps to successful study habits

We’ve done the homework on studying so that you don’t have to. These are your scientifically proven steps to study success. They include embracing a small amount of stress, studying in 20-minute blocks, talking with a friend or family member about what you’ve learnt, taking breaks (but not to the point of distraction!) and getting enough sleep.

Practical ideas for managing time more effectively

Studying means managing a bunch of competing deadlines. It can be overwhelming and sometimes may feel impossible. Figuring out the best ways to study means developing ways to plan your time so that you can stay calm, organised and on top of everything.

Ways to think differently about school stress

It’s normal to stress out about school, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore stressful feelings. Check out this comic to find out how to live with stress.

Helpful hints for managing study stress

If you're feeling stressed, there's some simple swaps you can make to help you deal. And yep, Netflix is still included.

Practical tips for a growth mindset

Find out about mindsets, and learn how to change a fixed mindset to a growth one.

Resources for parents and carers

ReachOut works with parents across Australia to develop content that helps them to support their young person. You could share some of these resources with your parent and carer community.

Understanding stress in teenagers

It’s very common for young people to feel stressed out from time to time. Stress is a normal part of life and can even be beneficial in some situations. However, if you’re worried that your child is under a lot of stress and it’s been going on for a while or is affecting their daily life, there are things you can do to help them.

Practical coping skills to support your child with managing stress

You can do some simple things to teach your child coping skills and help them to put them into action. It’s never too early or too late to learn how to do this. It’s a good skill for life.

7 tips for helping your child manage exam stress

Stress around exam time can impact not only a teenager's mental health, but also their physical health and general wellbeing. Having a stressed teenager in the house can also be difficult for the whole family. Helping your teenager deal with stress in the lead-up to exams can benefit their study and also reduce the tension at home during the exam period.

Practical tips for parents to support their child in managing distractions with school work

If you or your teenager are struggling to manage all of the social media, gaming and other study distractions they have to deal with every day, this article offers some ideas for how you can help them to help themselves.

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