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Despite the digital age, students rely on teachers’ advice the most to get them through exams, new national survey finds

14th June 2018

A new national survey has revealed that teachers are the most valuable support for students during exam preparations.

As students across the country are sitting their final A Level exams, new research carried out on behalf of Northumbria University, in Newcastle, found that 83% of students turn to their teachers for advice during revision and exams, despite the dominance of digital influences on young people.

Online platforms are also an important resource for students with half (50%) of current A Level and BTEC students saying they turn to Google for exam and revision advice and 32% relying on YouTubers for tips and support.

However, the study also showed that online resources can prove to be a distractor with the internet being the worst offender for 43% of students, followed by YouTube videos (35%) and Snapchatting friends (34%).

The pressure felt by students was also highlighted in the results, with one in two (53%) students saying they put themselves under the most pressure to do well. This was followed by parents at 26% and teachers at 13%.

The research, carried out in the run-up to A Level exams, shines a spotlight on students’ approach to revision and the techniques they use to help guide them through what can be an extremely stressful time.

The study also challenges the stereotype of young people relying on sugary drinks as they prepare for their exams. It found that water was the revision snack of choice for 41% of students, whilst fizzy drinks and energy drinks were far less popular with just 10% and 6%, respectively, reaching for the drinks to help them through study sessions.

Students appear to take a similarly healthy approach when it comes to managing their stress levels during busy revision and exam periods with almost a quarter (23%) choosing to exercise regularly.

The most popular de-stressing method was listening to music (47%), followed by taking regular breaks (36%), while 27% said spending time with family and friends helped them let off steam.

The survey also found that just over a quarter of students revised ’when they felt like it’ (28%), whilst 26% chose to ‘start early and plan ahead’ and a further 26% revised doing ‘little and often’. Just under one in five (18%) students admitted to ‘cramming’ at the last minute.

The most popular revision techniques for students are practicing past exam papers (65%) and students making their own notes (44%).

The survey also showed some significant gender differences:

  • Girls were more likely to turn to social media for revision advice than the boys (20% v 10%)
  • 31% of girls enjoyed spending time with family and friends to cope with stress compared to 23% of boys.
  • 26% of boys played on a games console to relax compared to just 3% of girls.
  • Boys were more likely to prefer practicing past exam papers (72% v 59%) and reading textbooks (21% v 10%).
  • In contrast girls were more likely to prefer making their own notes (47% v 41%), flash cards (25% v 16%), mind maps (17% v 8%) and being quizzed by someone else (11% v 8%).

There were also variations in results between UK regions:

  • Students in the South West and East Anglia are more likely to rely on their teachers for exam advice than other parts of the UK.
  • In Scotland, students were more likely to turn to social media for exam support and less likely to rely on their teachers.
  • Those in the West Midlands were more likely to look to YouTube for revision advice.
  • In Northern Ireland, Wales and the North East, students put more pressure on themselves to do well than in other parts of the UK.
  • London students felt most pressure to succeed from their parents.
  • Yorkshire students felt most pressure to succeed from their teachers.
  • Students in the East Midlands are amongst the best prepared, most likely to start early with revision and plan ahead.
  • Those in the South East are the least likely to cram.
  • In the North West students were more likely to use social media to cope with exam stress.

Stephen Welsh, Undergraduate Marketing Manager at Northumbria University, Newcastle, said: “It’s really interesting to see who students turn to during revision and exam periods. The role of teachers is so important as they can offer face-to-face support, advice and encouragement to students during what can be a very stressful time.

“It’s not surprising to see the survey results highlighting the pressure students put on themselves to do well. This can be for many different reasons, including the pressure students feel to achieve the grades they need to be accepted onto their chosen university course. But it’s important for them not to panic. There are a range of options and possibilities open to students once they receive their results and it’s vital to try and keep perspective when going into exams.

“Now more than ever, students who want to go to university have the flexibility to explore alternative options after receiving their results. They can ‘trade up’ using Adjustment if they do better than expected and there are many opportunities available through Clearing should things not go to plan.”

The survey involved a sample of A Level and A Level equivalent students (a total of 1,016 respondents) and was carried out in May 2018 by independent market research agency, Public Knowledge.

There are a few simple steps students can take to help relieve exam stress, such as getting enough sleep, keeping hydrated and taking regular breaks. Further hints and tips are available at www.northumbria.ac.uk/managingstress.

Northumbria University, Newcastle, has a limited number of places available for high quality students through Clearing this summer. For more information, visit www.northumbria.ac.uk/Clearing or call the Clearing Hotline on 0800 085 1085. You can download the iOS NU Clearing Guide app from the Apple Store, or call the Clearing Hotline on 0800 085 1085. The NU Clearing Guide Android app will be available later this month.

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