The Stress-Free Way to Prepare Students for Key for Schools

Sarah Mortimer

In this week’s webinar, Joanna Kosta, co-author of levels 1, 2 and 3 of Cambridge English Prepare!, looks at a variety of ways of building confidence and maximising chances of success at Key for Schools. Joanna focuses particularly on the context of enjoyable general English classes, where exam preparation is introduced subtly and gradually.

She begins by asking us to consider how stress can affect learning. To answer this, Joanna looks at Senninger’s three learning zones:

  • the Comfort Zone
  • the Stretch Zone
  • the Panic Zone


It has been suggested that some countries’ exam-orientated cultures can lead to high stress in their students. Students can consequently find themselves in the panic zone, experiencing feelings of frustration, and may often be tense and fearful. The zone that has been shown to produce the most learning is the Stretch Zone, in which our students feel excited and are alert and awake during class.

To ensure that our learners stay within the stretch zone, Joanna suggests a number of tips to combat exam stress:

1) Keep lessons challenging but enjoyable.

2) Expose students gradually to task types.

3) Avoid talking about the exam all the time.

4) Concentrate on the language and skills needed.

5) Don’t lose sight of the end goal – language proficiency.

Joanna goes on to discuss her top ten tips for building students exam confidence which include:

Use EVP and the Cambridge English website

Use the resources available to you such as English Vocabulary Profile, which offers reliable information about which words (and importantly, which meanings of those words) and phrases are known and used by learners at each level of the Common European Framework (CEF). You can also use the Cambridge English website to answer any exam admin questions students might have so they know what to expect and what to do during the exam e.g. ‘What do I bring with me on my exam day?’

Give tips and strategies

Discussing tips and coping strategies prior to the exams, ask your students to create posters that can hang in the classroom. Students can then use these as reference points if they start to feel the pressure.

For more tips from Joanna and to listen to the full webinar please click on the recording below.

To find out more about our new schools course Cambridge English Prepare, the only official course for schools with exam content validated by Cambridge English Language Assessment, please click here.

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