Exam taking skills: A Resource for Guidance Counsellors

This resource page for guidance counsellors is accompanied by two others: 
one for students and one for parents.

The purpose of this resource is to help guidance counsellors to deal with many of the issues presented by students who wish to improve their approach to examinations. Clearly, while it lists many issues, it provides only a framework on which to explore some of the concerns of students. It does not provide any details or underlying theory about the issues.

A version of this resource page for guidance counsellors has also been adapted for students and for parents. The resource page summarises what is involved in preparing for examinations. It is linked to another resource which summarises study skills, available HERE.

Guidance counsellors will be familiar with the many resources in book form, on the internet and in the form of assessment instruments that are available, such as Study - Learning to Learn: A Parents’ Guide by Brian Wall (2013) and published by The Institute of Guidance Counsellors.*

These should be used to underpin normal guidance practice. Similarly, and importantly, academic research and evidence on areas related to examinations, such as stress management, memory, learning and assessment, are in constant development and such evidence should be the basis of informed practice.

It is clearly stated in the student resource sheet that, in accordance with the concept of appropriate guidance, the guidance counsellor is there to help those who, having tried to study effectively, wish for affirmation, guidance and help in seeking improvement.

The student resource sheet includes a number of underlying assumptions, such that students will:

  • be self-directing and will have made some progress in their studies
  • consult important people in their lives when in need of help and encouragement
  • have access to a competent guidance counsellor

Some students find it easy to study effectively and to prepare for examinations. They are the fortunate ones. They have found ways of learning more in the limited time available.

Other students, however, find it more difficult. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes the reasons are quite complicated, and students will need the help of guidance counsellors and teachers to seek solutions.

The PDF Preparing for Exams can be accessed for download below and HERE. It can be presented as a quick reference guide to help you, as guidance counsellor, and your students to think about examinations and to encourage them to deal with any of the issues that might arise. In the context of classroom guidance, for example, it is suggested that any of the topics could be used in the context of a series of classroom guidance as part of the area of learning:  Developing my Learning (NCGE: A Whole School Guidance Framework, 2017) for lessons on exam preparation. It is clear that the involvement of subject teachers in the planning and delivery of such content would provide opportunities for whole-school participation in the delivery of the Guidance programme.

The information in the student resource sheet is designed to help students in reviewing their preparation for the exam. They summarise the essentials of exam preparation and fall under the following headings;

  • Mind yourself
  • Be prepared
  • Revise
  • The exam

When to ask for help?

While the student resource sheet is intended to help students to devise their own approaches to examinations, some will want to improve their methods or to seek affirmation and encouragement about their current work. The guidance counsellor is suggested as a person to approach if a student, for example,

  • Has tried to use some of the ideas listed and they don’t seem to work
  • Is confused by the number of possible things that can go wrong
  • Needs further information about any of the ideas listed
  • Needs help in making a start.
  • Needs someone to check that what is being done is effective.

Students are encouraged to speak to the guidance counsellor and to subject teachers individually or in class groups. It is suggested that the guidance counsellor would welcome in advance some of the questions that students have in mind, in order to help in preparing answers to their particular concerns.

Furthermore, it is suggested that while much information exists about exam preparation, stress management, memory, reading, note taking, etc. in books, such as Study—Learning to Learn: A Parents’ Guide by Brian Wall (2013) and published by the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, and on websites such as https://www.wikihow.com/Prepare-for-an-Examhttps://www.how-to-study.com/ and on the Student Resources section of http://careersnews.ie/ , students should turn to the guidance counsellor for help in resolving any issues they might encounter.*

* Disclaimer: Links to external  resources developed by individuals or other organisations are being provided as a convenience and are for informational purposes only.They do not constitute an endorsement or an approval by NCGE, of the content the organisation or individual. NCGE  bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality or content of external resources or for that of subsequent links. It is up to Guidance Counsellors to review whether these resources are appropriate and contact the resource owners directly for answers to questions regarding their content.

NCGE acknowledges the contribution of Colum Layton in the development of this resource page.


Tuesday, December 4, 2018
Date for Review: 
Friday, December 4, 2020

NCGE and Colum Layton

Practice Area: