A Boarding School’s Top Tips on Preparing for the Exam Period

It’s that time of the year again: the time when revision timetables are law, and panic, dread and stress seem to become as routine as breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, this needn’t be the case. As a leading Somerset boarding school, at Downside, we are very well versed in the best tips and tricks to help make the exam periods as easy as possible.

Read on to find out – especially if you are a day pupil or a parent of a day pupil – the best ways to prepare for a stress-free exam period.

“Exams stress parents out too”

A recent survey carried out by ComRes on behalf of BBC 5 Live has shown that almost a quarter of British parents’ mental health is affected by pressures of their children’s exams. This has only been exacerbated where 42% of these parents didn’t know how best to help their children. To counteract this, a huge 51% admit to offering monetary rewards for specific grades in hope of an alternative motivator. Thus it seems to be no surprise that over half of all parents would like to see more help and advice on how to best support their children through their revision, exams and ensuing results. Read full BBC News article here.

As an answer to this, at Downside School we have decided to provide an essential guide for parents looking for advice on helping children through exams, regardless of what stage of the school system they are in.

How Can Parents Help Pupils Prepare for Exams?

We’ve all been there as a pupil – frantically trying to revise, recall, and digest all information that you have ever read in every class. Then your parents come in, see you stressed, stress themselves that it could be because you haven’t done enough work, which then stresses you more because you have! Exams really can end up being a vicious cycle of never ending stress! By following the advice below, as a parent, you can break this cycle and make way for a productive and encouraging atmosphere to allow your child to focus on what really matters.

Keep a calm environment

Although exams, whether these be internal, GCSEs, A-levels or other, may seem like the most important thing that your child has done in their school career, it is important to keep some perspective. In the grand scheme of things, exams are just small hurdles that require jumping to reach the next leg of an educational journey. In the same way, this perspective should not be overly relaxed. Instead, it should be used to implement a calm and positive environment that focuses on “I will do my best” and the “I can do this.” By actively challenging your perspective on school exams and focusing on how to help your child manage revision, say via a timetable, will naturally allow a calm environment to take a hold and one where a positivity and productivity are central. This is key to keep exam anxiety at bay.

Keep a routine

One thing that most people struggle with when it comes to revision is what to revise when. This is especially the case at GCSE level where some pupils in the UK can be studying for up to 24 exams! In these situations, focus is key. One way to beat unnecessary exam stress is by keep to a realistic timetable. By helping your child to draw up an achievable revision plan with allocated time slots for each topic, breaks and refreshments, you can allow them to ensure enough time is being spent on everything – and not just their favourite subjects!

Another important thing to remember is to schedule into this plan time out and exercise. Both of which can be crucial. They allow pupils the time to breathe and space to let all they have learnt sink in. Exercise also can help bust stress by releasing endorphins.

Belief and trust

When it comes to helping your child prepare for an exam, one of the most important things to do is not only believe in them but to also trust them to do their best. This sounds overly simple, but at a boarding school like Downside, we ensure that all our pupils are motivated to achieve their targets and are equipped with the necessary skills to manage their studies. This means that as a parent, sometimes the best thing to do is to trust your child to put the work in and believe that they will succeed. The independence, encouragement and will to excel that this can give your child is second to none.


Lastly, breathe! Exams are just part and parcel of any school journey and should the worst happen? It’s anything but the end of the world! You can rest assured knowing that at Downside School we prepare every pupil for their exams and give them the necessary support needed, whether this is academically, pastorally and spiritually.

We are a Full Boarding School for Reason!

A final way that you can help your child prepare for the upcoming exam period is by letting them board. With over 85% of our pupils being boarders, at Downside we are a traditional full-boarding school for a reason; what boarding offers our pupils is a special sort of focus.

Prepare for exams

If a younger pupil asked me about (boarding at) Downside School, I would recommend it. You don’t realise how much support you’ll get – you have 70 people living with you, coaxing you along the way.”  Elsa, Sixth Form

By staying at school throughout the week and weekend during exam periods, especially when compared to distracting home environments, pupils are able to study in a completely settled environment. This is often central to success and means they are free to fully concentrate on their work. Not to mention by being at school for all of their revision, all necessary resources are on hand; our library, teachers, pastoral staff and even classmates who really do make the best study buddies!

Every year, our boarding pupils go on to achieve hugely impressive A-Level and GCSE results. Indeed, this year, Downside School came out top trumps in the area and topped the Somerset Schools’ League Table. We know for a fact that these successes have a lot to thank for our wonderful boarding community here and the support and encouragement it offers to our young adults.

Contact Us

If you think that your child would like to try boarding at Downside School or you would more information, please visit our website or contact us today. We would love to arrange a trial night, open day visit or a taster day to help you with your decision.