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The challenges of separate room invigilation

01 Sep 2023

This year at the NAEO Conference a number of Exam Officers talked to me, worried about the increase in requests for separate room invigilation.  They were concerned about meeting this need in Summer 2024.  I share that concern,  but am not surprised.

So many of our students are still struggling with being in crowds and managing their fears at exam time.

Providing a separate room only meets part of the challenge. Fear stops your students performing at their best.  There has to be a better long-term solution to this on-going problem. 

I believe there is – and that’s Mindfulness.  But it needs a long ‘run in’ to be of lasting, daily value.

There are though, quick or more immediate things you can do to help your students through their panic.

Let us start with approaches that would benefit from lengthier practice and go on to short term fixes.

  • Thinking Skills
    Run thinking skills sessions for students covering how fear arises, our subconscious mind and self talk. Decide who best could share these topics, and when
  • Affirmations
    Suggest Neutral Self Talk as a halfway point when talking about Affirmations. Start from where their thinking gets blocked and agree a statement that takes them someway to feeling more in control
  • Visualisation exercises
    Show them the exam room and let them sit at their assigned ‘place’ before the exams so that they can imagine it in distanced visualisations
  • If possible, organise a group visualisation session in situ or use a photo of the exam room and walk them through preparing for the exam itself
  • Practice the technique regularly focussing on whatever aspect of the exam process gives them most stress

Please Note: JCQ do not allow mental preparation in a designation exam room prior to an exam (see ICE document).

  • Tapping
    Share Group Tapping sessions with your students to help them uncover the real problem behind their fears
  • Meditation
    Hold regular Meditation sessions during the lead-in to exams. Encourage students to be still and quieten the noise
  • Include frequent Mindful Five periods where you gather everyone together to join their energies, let go and breathe. Combine with student scripts
  • Being Present
    Teach students the benefits of Being Present and Being In the Moment to increase self awareness. Show them the benefits of Noticing how they are responding moment by moment to outside influences
  • Choices
    Talk about the choices we make and ‘Mind the Gap’ – the moment when we can choose the path we go down next. Show students the options they have when they understand how to choose well and the outcomes of making poor decisions
  • Body Scan
    Show your students how to do a Body Scan. This can be a quick exercise or more lengthy. Imagination is a powerful tool in Mindfulness
  • Breathing
    Share standard Mindful Breathing techniques to still the Mind, Body and Spirit. Run group sessions to slow down the energies and focus on the breath

Combine as many of these Mindful practices as you can in your Exam Preparation sessions to give students the longest run up to exams so that they get comfortable using them. Working together in groups will lessen embarrassment and get everyone on the same ‘page’.

Plan how you might help your students with Mindfulness before they need it.  The sooner you build in solutions, the more chance students will have to manage their anxieties.

And as students find better ways to manage their anxiety, it could lessen the pressure on you to provide separate room invigilation.  Mindful practice for exams helps everyone in the long run.

When we have better control on how we respond to our feelings we are equipped to make better choices. These will all help ease their fears. 

We panic when we feel out of control. When we have options, we have more power over our future.

Breathing into stress, turning down the noise and improving our decision making will have a positive impact on how your students handle every aspect of the exam process.

Love and Light,



Join me Autumn 2023 for the release of Developing the Exam Mindset – a Mindful Course for Teachers to help students with their exam anxiety.
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