Six steps to exam success: Motivating your students


This is the fifth part of our exam preparation series: 6 steps to exam success.

In this article, author Billie Jago looks at a number of ways in which you can help you students find the motivation they need to pass their exams – including course personalization, competition and collaboration, autonomy and more.

At the end, you’ll also find a link to watch a recording of her webinar which took place on 20th March, 2019.

The challenges of motivation

Motivating your students for upcoming exams can be difficult. Students have their own reasons for taking an exam – and self-doubt along with added external pressures can sometimes lead students off course and make them lose focus.

That’s why, as teachers, it is essential we constantly vary the way exam classes are taught and maintain a student-centred environment. This helps ensure learners feel continually encouraged and inspired.

So how can we go about delivering exam courses for students that keep them engaged and motivated?

Focusing on student interests

When first meeting students, the initial ‘get to know you’ discussion can act as a springboard for subsequent parts of the course.

By trying to group together similar interests that the students have, writing or speaking tasks can be given with those in mind. In this way, you’ll not only engage students’ enthusiasm but also provide the opportunity for better and more natural language to be produced.

Giving students some autonomy

It is important early on in a course for students to feel as though they are in control of their own learning. Simply by asking students what they would like to focus on in a class or for a written task allows for a more student-centred learning environment.

The role of the teacher is then a facilitator, encouraging learner autonomy, which enables students to work independently and in cooperation with others.

Encouraging collaboration and competition

When working in pairs or groups, learners may have to justify their ideas or articulate an answer. This fosters peer correction and more critical analysis of their own progression. By getting students to work together, we encourage them to learn from each other.

At the same time, we can make classes more dynamic by introducing a timed and competitive element to tasks to practise timings for the exam. This helps create a lighter class atmosphere and offers a more enjoyable way to practise common task types.

Taking the time to analyze previous exams

Watching previous speaking exams online and analysing them or looking at the marking criteria in groups can also be a way to combat the overuse of sometimes repetitive tasks. It may also students feel more confident about their own performances in the exam (or give them something concrete to aspire to).

Offering praise at the right time

A challenge during any exam course always seems to be finding the right time, or any time, to give praise or recognition. Identifying a moment when a student excels in something or has made an improvement is crucial in motivating students. They will feel as though they are being paid attention to as an individual, and it can boost wavering confidence levels as the exam draws nearer.

Following up on homework

Homework should always be followed up on. If a written task has been given, ensure that after checking the work, you are allowing the student to correct their own errors that you have identified. This avoids fossilisation of errors and encourages confidence in a student’s own ability.

Finally, it is important for us as teachers to remember that student motivation levels will be a continual challenge, particularly on exam courses. Not every student will feel demotivated or those who do, may not feel it at the same time.

Ultimately it is up to us to ensure that we provide a classroom environment that is conducive to successful learning. We should aim to offer words of encouragement when needed, and give practical advice to ensure that each student is reaching their full potential.  Our students should progress in the knowledge of the language and then be able to transfer that knowledge confidently and successfully into their future exams.

Want to learn more? Watch a recording of Billie’s webinar now.


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Discover our entire exam preparation webinar series and learn how to support your students as they prepare for exams.





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