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How to keep students motivated and confident about their exams

21 Oct 2020

How to keep students motivated and confident about their exams

By Mark Richards

The current Year 11 missed out on the chaos and confusion that the 2020 GCSEs became. Even so, this year’s exam cohort face a very challenging year ahead. Keeping students motivated and feeling confident about exams that we are still no sure will go ahead is going to be difficult.


Not only is there the uncertainty about the dates of next year’s exams, in some subjects the content of those exams has still not been clarified. Exam boards have been considering which units of assessment to ‘miss off’ to compensate for the fact that students have missed the best part of six months of normal school.


The motivation of students will have been impacted by recent events


The cancellation of the 2020 exams and the subsequent grading fiasco that followed are bound to play on the minds of the new Year 11s and 13s. Add to that the obvious concerns students will have about missing so much school, and it stands to reason that there are likely to be plenty of anxieties around. It wouldn’t be a surprise either if the motivation of students has been seriously undermined.


The exam year is a tough year for students at the best of times. Many already struggle with the pressures anyway. Recent events could make the year ahead seem all the more daunting.


The link between student motivation and confidence


In many ways it is much easier to improve students’ confidence than it is to boost motivation. Now that students are back in school, it is much easier to support them. There is also much to be said for the siege mentality/all in it together approach. Humans can do wonderful things in the face of adversity, after all. By creating the right culture and environment to support students through the year, their confidence should grow as the year progresses – for the majority.


Lack of motivation could be a tougher nut to crack. Surveys carried out about the impact of the lockdown on students’ learning show that the average time 11-15-year-olds spent on schoolwork during the 3 months out of school was just 16 hours. Over half of parents questioned said that children were struggling to continue with their education at home. Almost 80% of respondents named a lack of motivation as the main reason for this.


There are likely to be many students who now have a very negative mindset and a belief that they have simply missed too much to be able to do well in the exams. Some are likely to have a ‘what’s the point?’ attitude.


Lack of motivation, as with poor behaviour, is often linked to low self-esteem and lack confidence. This means that many students are likely to need lots of support and mentoring throughout the year.

Listening to the concerns and worries that students have will be crucial. However you look at this year, it is going to be a very tough and challenging one – for all concerned.




1- The grades crisis shows it was a mistake to scrap coursework

2- 7 Tips to Prepare Students for Exams

3- How to Prepare Students for Exams

4- 5 Ways to Keep Up Motivation

5- Do bad exam results mean you are a bad teacher?


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