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Exam Results Looming – Do parents underestimate the stress of GCSEs?

Mums and Dads struggle to make the grade in GCSE science quiz.

Parents often say “exams were harder in my day”, but do they really appreciate how hard GCSEs are? And could they do better than their children? When it comes to GCSE science, it looks like the answer is a resounding no!

When online learning company Tassomai asked parents to put their science knowledge to the test, they didn’t compare to their children who scored significantly higher marks.

The results of the quiz may bring some satisfaction to thousands of stressed out teenagers sitting GCSE science exams today. On average, parents only got 6 out of 15 questions right, compared to 9 out of 15 for the students studying for their GCSEs.

Whilst the parents remembered some key facts like pH values and the difference between exothermic and endothermic reactions, they struggled to recall Newton’s Laws or the meaning of terms like “Oxygen debt”.

Vic Goddard, Principal at Passmores Academy in Harlow and known to many from TVs Educating Essex thinks a lot of us underestimate just how hard GCSEs are, as well as the stress they can cause some students:

“Mental health issues and anxiety around exams is a serious problem and one that we’re coming across more and more in our schools. GCSEs are the first exams that really matter to their chances of employment etc. and a lot of students feel under immense pressure to get good grades. They’re studying 8 or more different subjects at the same time, so it’s important we don’t underestimate the challenge and the impact of exam stress.”

Murray Morrison, a former private tutor and the brains behind Tassomai believes that technology can reduce exam stress by helping us approach learning in new ways:

“Parents often underestimate the stress caused by cramming for exams. It doesn’t help us retain information in the long term – and like many of the popular methods students use to revise, it’s been shown to be ineffective. The most powerful way to learn is through repeated, targeted practice over as long a period as possible and technology can make that process more efficient. ‘Little and often’ is one of the key principles behind Tassomai which uses an algorithm to adapt learning quizzes to each individual student so that they really practise the content they need. By the time the exams come around, students who’ve completed the program are confident that they’ve got the knowledge in their heads and this hopefully makes the exam process a great deal less stressful”

A DfE spokesperson said:

“We are clear that in order for pupils to be successful, rigorous examinations are vital. They are not, however, intended to cause significant anxiety. We have taken action to reduce examination burdens for young people which is why at GCSE level we have removed the incentives for multiple resits and at A level have made the exams linear with no January assessment window.

“Making sure children and young people get the right support when they need it is imperative, which is why we have allocated £300 million of funding to transform mental health services.

“The best schools create a happy, safe and supportive environment, so that pupils can fulfil their potential. We trust teachers and leaders to work with their students and promote positive mental wellbeing.

“The department wishes everyone taking exams all the best.”

Can you do better than a GCSE science student? Try the Tassomai quiz for yourself.

About Tassomai: A quiz based, adaptive, online learning program, now used in over 450 schools where it’s had a significant impact on GCSE science grades (50% A/A star grades for regular users). 

About the quiz: Tassomai invited parents of students using its GCSE science program to answer 15 multiple choice questions (5 biology, 5 chemistry and 5 physics). The parents’ responses were compared to those of Tassomai users (primarily year 10 and 11 students using the program in 450+ schools across England and Wales). 181 parents took part in the quiz and they scored an average of 6 correct questions (compared to a student average of 9) out of 15.

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