Exams & Stress

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Exam season is right around the corner. Students of all educational levels will take exams. Exams, as formal evaluation means, are necessary to show one’s knowledge or ability in a particular subject or to obtain qualification and it is no secret that exams are very stressful.

In his article below, Mr. Stephen-John Taylor, Consultant at Cambridge English Language Assessment, tackles the notions of exam stress management-familiarity.

Exam Stress Management – Familiarity

Most students in Greece now take at least a B2 English language examination, with a great many also sitting other examinations at levels further down the CEFR framework. However, the age of the Greek cohort is relatively young and, for most, it is their first time in a formal examination situation: an unfamiliar environment, suspicious invigilators, a strict protocol of precise timing and regulations. The whole experience can be daunting, and there are those in the world of education who campaign vociferously against their students taking any examinations or tests whatsoever. “Why put a teenager through this torture?” they insist. “Why traumatize them at so early an age?”

Now, torture and trauma are strong words, much in the same boat as terror or agony. These well-meaning souls are, of course, missing the point entirely. Proper preparation for an exam is of enormous benefit, helping candidates do well in whatever other qualifications or accreditation they might need to work towards in the future, not to mention being better able to cope with the pressure and deadlines they will surely meet when they enter the workforce. What’s more, challenges such as these help teenagers to grow into better people, encouraging them to aim just that little bit higher than they otherwise would, to ‘enter the zone’ as Vygotsky might have said, preparing them to meet the greater challenges of adulthood.

Yet, despite these motivational and practical benefits, studies such as those by Humphrey (1998) and Witkin (1999) reveal that all of us do indeed experience significant amounts of stress in our early lives, the magnitude of which is, however, often underestimated by parents and teachers alike. Examination stress is clearly part of this and affects a considerable number of candidates, in particular playing a major role in underperformance. Also, of interest here is the finding that the stress we as teachers feel when preparing candidates for examinations filters down to our students, adding to their distress. Nevertheless, while in all honesty our students may never actually look forward to sitting an exam, there are many things within our power as teachers we can do to change their approach and so improve their performance, at the same time boosting our own self-esteem and confidence in our teaching skills and subsequently reducing the damaging consequences of our own insecurities.

Initially, efficient examination stress management falls into three main categories, the first of which is ACADEMIC in nature. This requires, among other things, an adequate period of pre-preparation, a disciplined but realistic study schedule, advanced knowledge of the examination requirements, i.e., what the examiner expects from the candidate, a varied diet of challenging tasks, and practice in answering similar questions/tasks to those that should appear on the day.

Examples of this could include alerting students to the use of paraphrasing in Reading Paper tasks, efficient punctuation in Writing, being on the lookout for specific word forms in Listening and practicing turn-taking strategies in Speaking.

The second category deals with the PHYSICAL aspects of dealing with stress: good nutrition and exercise, and an adequate amount of sleep and relaxation, all of which prepare our students’ bodies for the often exhausting examination process.  Here, for instance, and naturally avoiding the word ‘stress’, we might highlight the highly beneficial effects of sipping water throughout the examination: the enhanced ability to remain focused, refreshed and alert, in general giving their brains a much-needed boost.

Thirdly, we have the PSYCHOLOGICAL category: this is where the teacher necessarily becomes the student’s comforter, putting the whole experience into perspective, helping the student – parents, too – evaluate the relative importance of the undertaking, the significance of passing and failing, and so on. Research into this aspect is now focusing on our perception of stress in certain situations – in our case, examinations – and ways in which we can change this perception so that they are not viewed as daunting but challenging. This protects our students from the destructive, negative effects of stress, such as ‘freezing’ or ‘going blank’, even fainting (as a Speaking Examiner, I have unhappily witnessed all three), while also enabling its positive effects – better attention focus and faster, more efficient information processing – and thereby enhancing performance in all four parts of the contemporary language examination. Here, too, come into play techniques such as visualization and the power of positive thinking.

Ultimately, however, throughout all three of these categories, there is a pervading condition which is often underappreciated or even ignored: FAMILIARITY.  For instance, being familiar with the rules and tasks required falls under the heading of Academic, being fully aware of the corporeal demands to which the candidate will be subjected during the process is grouped under the Physical, while familiarity with the consequences of failure – and success! – is clearly in the realm of the Psychological.

But familiarity extends to cover much, much more. It deals effectively with insecurity and the fear of the unknown. It also allows us to jump unexpected hurdles and provide for contingency. Let’s consider, for example, the exam day itself. Is the candidate familiar with the route to the venue? How much time will the candidate need to get to the venue? What means of transport will they use? How will they wake up in time? Who will wake them up? What do they need to take with them? What should they not take with them? Is somebody going to accompany them? What will the weather be like? Is any industrial action planned for that day? What do you, the teacher, need to arrange so that your students will be able to perform to the best of their ability? Frankly, you need a checklist.

Becoming familiar with all aspects of the examination experience is an essential part of the duties of any educator working in ELT and demonstrates our commitment to the profession. Familiarizing our students in turn is not only our responsibility but arguably their prerogative.

Author: Stephen John Taylor

exam stress: As exam season nears, students turn to doctors seeking help  for beating stress - Times of India

The Project Assess is now in the final stages, and the web platform (The Online Exam Creator), developed to be an innovative platform hosting a range of learning tools for young EFL learners. The project brings a new approach to assessment. Material such as flashcards with images and text, illustrated worksheets, exams, rubrics etc are available on the web portal, in the six partner languages, plus English and the Online Exam creator not only allows teachers have access to the material created by the partners, but they will be able to produce their own exams and downloadable content specific to their needs, and to better provide students their knowledge on the best way they can!

However, with this project we also intend to show that beyond a new era in teaching English language, there’s the need for both students and teachers to create links that allow a better and more productive system of teaching and learning. For this we know that the teacher’s well-being is crucial, so we decided to leave here on this Blog and at this stage of our project, also an extra motivation to help for the difficult times that teaching has always gone through and is still going through. For that, we leave here some tips that will surely help in the confidence needed to provide our students the best language educators ever.

Here are a few simple strategies for you to build your confidence as an educator. 

Be prepared: 

Try your best every week to be prepared for your team meetings, faculty meetings, professional development, and most importantly your classroom. This will require some planning and prep work beforehand. Once you get into a grove you will start to notice a boost in your confidence. In those meetings, you will start contributing more and more which will lead to more opportunities. 

Develop a growth mindset. Having a growth mindset of how you can grow as an educator is a must. This will encourage you to look at your areas of strength and pinpoint those areas of growth in your classroom. 

Create a positive space. This will require you to be intentional about who you surround yourself with at work. It will also require you to be mindful of your own words and actions. 

Surround yourself with positive people who have a similar mindset as you. 

Say Affirmations. This is one of our favorites and it is so simple. Every day before you get out the car, bus, or train say you are a confident educator.

Your next steps are simple… 

Start right now practicing these strategies. We promise that you will start to see results. If you start to get down or frustrated, that is okay. We are all human and that is natural. Just remember your why. From our side, we will provide you with the best tools and materials to help you! Follow our Project FB page and our website for more updatings and  The Online Exam Creator can be viewed here.

The project is financed by Erasmus+ KA2: 2019-1-PT01-KA201-061275

Communicative skill in English language

One of the most difficult parts of a foreign language is the pronunciation and at the same time is an essential part due to the fact that the pronunciation of a language is the basis of communication. 

English is a worldwide language that is taught in every part of the world, it is recognized as an official language in a total of 67 countries. The best age to start learning a new language is as soon as possible. Toddlers assimilate languages easier than teenagers and adults, they learn from what they hear and imitate sounds. This is the reason why the teaching of languages at schools must start soon and focus on speaking first. 

To improve the acquisition of the communicative skill of a language it is important to teach the speaking and interaction part during all the school years of the children. During primary school, children learn to produce simple sentences and they acquire new vocabulary to use it logically. 

The ASSESS project gives importance to speaking skill. Teachers have more than 100 speaking exams divided into 24 topics to use in level A1 and A2. Moreover, they also have a great variety of flashcards that can be used for teaching speaking.This material can be downloaded from our Online Exam Creator Platform. 


Learning, Teaching and Training Activities for teachers: an asset for educational system

The arrival of information and communication technologies to the educational field, accelerated by the pandemic, has led to the need of development of digital competences of teachers, which is one of the educational challenges teacher training has to face now. One of the main aims of the Learning, Teaching and Training Activities that ran from 14th to 16th December in Athens, was sharing good practices and strategies among participants using digital tools. A range of teaching and learning activities and methodologies was suggested in order to provide engaging learning environments: creation and use of flashcards in the classroom, workshops about online tools and resources for EFL teachers, creative teaching and learning strategies using props and through theatre, etc.

Throughout these three-day training, teachers also had the opportunity to reflect together on the assessment process of different language skills (common problems and challenges) and received training on assessment strategies. The emphasis was led in particular on assessing writing and speaking skills with the guidance of easy-to-use rubrics helping out young learners do great at communicative skills, giving them really efficient specific feedback.

The consortium partners also took the opportunity to introduce the main output of the project: the Online Exam Creator, a digital platform that aims to support EFL teachers in their professional practice. After the presentation of the OEC, a workshop was conducted and participants could interact with the platform creating customized exams with the Exam Creator and creating teaching packs based on the material provided in the resource bank. 

To conclude, the Learning, Teaching and Training Activities that took place in Greece, in the scope of ASSESS project, opened new paths of inspiration and fostered good practices among participants. Professional development and lifelong learning of teachers will always be an asset for the success and quality of learning.

To provide leadership, direction, and assistance to governments, educational institutions, and individuals across the world in order to promote excellence in language education, there are some non-profit organisations now, giving certificate about a world level standard of language teaching if your organisation can meet the necessary criteria. 

These organisations like “Eaquals” and “Pearson” aim to provide language education providers with accreditation based on some requirements, develop practical materials for people working in the field of modern languages, as well as provide training and assistance.

On Language Learning for European Citizenship, above mentioned organisations aim to improve mutual knowledge and understanding, increase the quantity and quality of international cooperation, and combat prejudice and intolerance toward people of different languages and cultures.

Day by day, these organisations are growing to become professional organisations for language instruction in more and more countries including Turkey with a dozen of instutions, private or state schools, universities and so on.

In order to be one of these accredited members, the appying institution has to meet some requirements which are delivered after the application process. In a pre-determined time period, your institution is expected to fit in to certain standards of language education. The applying institution gets an advisory visit before the main inspection to assist the process. These aforesaid criteria are concerned with administrative and management quality assurance, the quality of learning environment, student and staff services and academic quality (including teaching and assessment processes)

In case of being entitled to the certificate, your institution and your students are regarded to have a higher standard of language education worldwide. 

To be able to catch the zeitgeist, and to minimize the unexpected drawbacks of a non-centralized and more subjective methods of teaching and assessment, these organizations offer a more adaptable approach of language education to civil rights and one that respects more on equal opportunity for each student of your institution.

Here are the links for these organizations:



Learning a Foreign Language through Language Learning Apps

Mobile apps have been changing the way we communicate, shop, work, learn and entertain ourselves. Especially since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic their influence in our lives have been multiplied: We use communication and team-work apps for remote work almost everyday; we can do our grocery shopping through our mobile phones without going to the “crowded” supermarkets; we can practice our “daily workout” from home; and we can develop our knowledge and skills on various subjects, including a foregin language, while sitting on our sofa. 

Indeed, language learning apps appear to be one of the most popular apps today; but how effective are they in making the learner gain necessary skills to understand, write and communicate in a foreign language? According to a research conducted by Shawn Loewen, a professor of second language studies, the apps are helpful in learning the basics of a language, but it remains to be difficult to use what is learnt in real life: “If you teach people explicitly to memorize vocabulary and grammar rules, most people will learn that. (…) But it’s much harder to take that knowledge and translate it into the ability to use language — to speak it, understand what you’re hearing, and respond in an appropriate way” [Read More].

Considering their user-friendliness and impact to a certain extent, such apps and other digital solutions can also be used as complementary tools in traditional language training and education at schools. In our project, ASSESS, we have been developing a tool as such, the Online Exam Creator (OEC), which aims at supporting EFL teachers with a pool of various teaching and assessment materials. The OEC tool is expected to be finalized by the end of 2021. Follow our website for more information.

English Teaching and Learning & Online Assessment during the Covid-19 crisis

It is almost 2 years that all aspects of human life, worldwide, have been affected and severely impacted because of the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic not only affected the health systems and the economy across the globe but also had a great impact on education systems. Because of Covid-19, schools, colleges and universities were closed and face-to-face education was suspended for certain periods of time, whereas a shift to online teaching was instituted. 

English language teaching and learning took its share in this transition. Following the pandemic outbreak several studies were conducted to investigate the effects of the pandemic on online teaching/learning and assessment of English. Findings show that the online teaching and learning of English created challenges because of the internet connection problems and students’ access to computers or smartphones. On the other hand, this situation enhanced the educators’ digital literacy skills and highlighted the significance of online teaching and learning in case of emergency situations. 

Study: https://dergipark.org.tr/tr/download/article-file/1677427

Meanwhile, English teachers need to evaluate the achievements of their students and assess the knowledge they gained on a regular basis.   According to a study, the teachers had a negative perception about online assessment during the Covid-19 pandemic. This is due to the fact that they faced some obstacles during the online assessment, some of which include:
        –     the internet connection;

  • the validity of the assessment; 
  • and   the   low   level of   students’ enthusiasm. 

However, in practice the use of online assessment helps the teachers in distributing the   material   and assessing students’ achievement.

Study: http://ejournal.uki.ac.id/index.php/jet/article/view/2770/1912

Premium Vector | Girl studying online education at home cartoon vector  illustration. student workplace desktop computer doing homework surfing  internet e-learning school lesson concept. pupil kid learning process

How Can Children Learn English Online?

Start off with exploring websites together and learning how to use the games or activities together. The more you’re involved with the learning process, the more your child or student will eventually be motivated to explore independently.

Make sure you spend time with your children or students to figure out what they’re personally interested in the most and cater website resources to what they like, as well as to what they need to work on the most.  

Find a way to make websites as interactive as possible. Try turning games into friendly competitions between adults and kids, and you might see that this can help revive interest in learning English.

Sometimes all it takes is a change in scenery to motivate children. Take a mobile device or your laptop to places like a park or even your back porch, and watch children get excited about practising their English.

Children have shorter attention spans than adults. If you’re doing lessons, limit activities to 10 minutes or less. For activities where they’re reinforcing skills already learned, spend no more than 20 to 30 minutes a day doing these, depending on their age.

Discover our Online Exam Creator!

As the main result of the project ASSESS, Inercia Digital has developed an Online Exam Creator platform.  It consists of a virtual place where teachers have access to 4 spaces.

Firstly, teachers can obtain ready- made exams divided into 2 levels, A1 and A2, and into 24 topics, among them we can find animals, countries, school, routines…etc. These exams include reading, writing, listening, speaking and vocabulary exercises.

Secondly, on this platform, there are materials useful for English lessons, teachers have flashcards, images, worksheets and coloring pages to download in a click. 

In third place, we find the main tool of this platform, the exam creator. Teachers can use this tool to create their own customized exams modifying questions, answers and images.

Finally, the section “tools” presents different sites where teachers can create different activities such as crosswords and word search.

If you want to know more about the Online Exam Creator you can contact us in our social networks:

ASSessing EFL StudentS


Assess project

Assessment of learning and Assessment for learning

Assessment is an integral part of instruction, as it allows to determine whether or not the educational goals or standards are being met and it provides data for instructional planning and decision making. 

There are two main types of assessment, each occurring at different points in the teaching and learning process: assessment of learning and assessment for learning. The current trend in education is the presence of both assessment systems in order to provide valid and reliable information about pupils’ achievement.

Assessment of learning involves looking at assessment information at the end of key segments in a teaching and learning cycle or at the end of the teaching and learning process to rank students’ achievement levels against a standard. It is summative and it involves standardized tests.

Assessment for learning embeds assessment processes throughout the teaching and learning process in order to readjust strategies and methodologies to enhance and guide learning. It is formative and it can include test data as well as other quantitative and even qualitative or descriptive data. Basically, in the assessment for learning, the test data is just one data element among others and the assessment process is constant rather than a single point in time.

To support teachers in the evaluation process, the six partners of Project ASSESS continue to work on the Online Exam Creator Platform in order to improve its potential and make it a valuable resource for EFL teachers. Exams covering the different linguistic skills, audio files, rubrics, worksheets, images, flashcards will be soon available to be used as formative or summative assessment and our Online Exam Creator will allow to create exams easily and quickly according to the learners’ level.

As part of the project activities, our partner from Greece, with experience in the training in the field of language education, is organizing a five-day training course whose main aim is to present the platform to EFL teachers from the partner countries but also, addressing the common problems and challenges in the assessment in EFL, in particular as regards speaking and writing assessment. The training will take place in Athens in the beginning of September.