Supporting assessment stress in key stage 4 students

D. Putwain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Research has indicated that 13% of students in the UK experience a high degree of assessment‐related stress/anxiety, which may have debilitating health, emotional and educational effects. Recent policy initiatives have attempted to encourage a responsibility for promoting well‐being in schools; however, at present there is little known about what, if any, support is provided for students over assessment stress/anxiety. The purpose of this exploratory study was to gather data on the conceptualisation and understanding of assessment stress/anxiety in key stage 4 students, and what current policy and practice are adopted to support students experiencing a high degree of assessment stress/anxiety. Data were collected from semi‐structured interviews conducted with 34 students and nine members of staff from six schools in the north of England and analysed using an abbreviated form of grounded theory according to the principles, as described by Strauss and Corbin. Teachers conceptualised assessment stress/anxiety as resulting from KS4 assessment demands requiring skills and knowledge beyond the current capabilities of students. Support was mostly structured along academic lines, theorised as reducing stress by increasing the students’ ability to cope with assessment demands. Students who experienced a strong degree of manifest anxiety during examinations were moved to alternative venues, but students were not routinely identified in all schools prior to their final GCSE examinations. Staff and students also emphasised the importance of a “good” relationship in receiving both emotional and academic forms of support. These strategies were theorised as “bolt‐on” policies. Schools had few specific strategies for dealing with assessment stress/anxiety directly but used existing policies related to behaviour management and the promotion of achievement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-95
JournalEducational Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2008


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