Ancient languages caused most stress for GCSE students

Design and technology ranks second in a report listing the subjects causing the highest levels of stress in the recent rounds of exams

Students taking GCSEs in ancient languages reported the highest levels of stress in the recent round of exams, according to a new report.

The finding comes from Access Education’s analysis of posts made in May on The Student Room, the UK’s largest online student community.

Research by the educational software specialists analysed which subjects were creating the most debate – such as exam sitters asking for help and guidance, or venting their frustrations with fellow students – and then ranked them per capita.

Design and technology – a subject renowned for being coursework heavy – was found to be the second most stressful subject, followed by computing.

The least anxiety-inducing courses were the more vocationally-based physical education and food preparation and nutrition.

At A-level, the most stressful subjects for exam takers were maths, economics and law.

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Higher than usual levels of stress had been reported across the board for this year’s GCSE and A-level exams.

More than four in five (82%) of headteachers said that this year’s students were reporting greater levels of anxiety than pre-pandemic cohorts, according to a survey in May by the Association of School and College Leaders.

Almost as many (78%) had received a higher number of requests from pupils to complete their papers away from the main exam hall.

“With pupils across the country sitting exams for the first time in three years this summer, monitoring stress and anxiety has been a key focus for schools,” said Emma Slater, Access Education publishing director, and a former English teacher.

“Following the disruption of the past two years, it’s not surprising that students were feeling the pressure, with reports of panic attacks, angry outbursts, self-harm and disengagement on the rise.

“Revision is equally as daunting, especially for students who are unfamiliar with sitting exams and it’s essential that students can work with teachers to effectively track and monitor their progress.”

The 10 GCSE subjects found to be causing the most stress were as follows:

Course Uptake Number of GCSE-specific posts on The Student Room Index
Ancient Languages 11,860 69 100
Design & Technology 82,505 457 95
Computing 77,245 232 52
Biology 171,835 427 43
Physics 164,330 254 27
Mathematics 758,755 1012 23
Music 35,400 44 21
Social Sciences Subjects 39,395 47 21
German 37,035 44 20
Statistics 17,950 21 20

At A-level, the top 10 list reads:

A-Level course Uptake Number of A-level specific posts on The Student Room Index
Mathematics 90,290 1523 100
Economics 32,700 535 97
Law 12,825 178 82
Physics 37,560 482 76
Chemistry 55,485 604 65
Drama 8,670 93 64
Biology 63,765 682 63
Psychology 68,315 664 58
Music 5,045 47 55
Computing 12,930 109 50
The findings have been published in a new reportHow has the return to the exam hall affected stress among students?, by Access Education, a software specialist for schools and academies.
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