Soccer stress may boot up exam grades

5th June 1998 at 01:00
World Cup fever could push up grades in this year's GCSE and A-level exams, according to a leading psychologist.

An expert specialising in the effects of exam stress believes that candidates who worry more about England or Scotland's soccer performances than about which questions will come up could score higher marks than they expected.

By diverting their stress, they become more relaxed in the examination room, according to Nicky Hayes, a visiting fellow at the University of Surrey.

Dr Hayes said that watching matches also offered useful recreation time to students who might be spending too long with their heads in their books.

She said: "Most of the problem with examinations is anxiety. If some of that can be focused on to something else then that can only be a good thing.

"We have a very puritan attitude in this country that students taking exams should do nothing but revise, but this is not constructive."

Pauline Reeve, a chartered psychologist from Worcester, who counsels young people experiencing examination stress, said many teenagers had specific concerns about World Cup matches clashing with exams.

"Students can always find things to divert them from studying, but in the case of the World Cup they could video the matches as a form of reward for their hard work."

Schools across the country, meanwhile, have taken pains to ensure that pupils keep their revision and interest in football in proportion.

Dave Stapylton, deputy head of St Cuthbert's RC School for Boys in Newcastle upon-Tyne, said: "Our pupils tend to be obsessed with football and we have introduced a mentoring scheme with time management as a key point. We are stressing self-discipline and the fact it is OK to watch England games, but not all games."

Roger Perks, head of Baverstock GM School, in Birmingham, said: "There is a huge interest among girls and boys, and they have promised to limit their viewing to England and possibly Brazil games. Some have offered to revise at half-time, or when Jimmy Hill offers his opinions."

Which is just as well. The examining boards have warned candidates that the stress of seeing their team lose or concern over players' injuries will not be accepted as reasons for leniency.

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