UAE students risk clashing exam schedules over next month, still stay optimistic

The GCSE, A Levels, and AS Levels tests are currently underway; educators share ways in which they support pupils, help them de-stress


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Sun 28 May 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 28 May 2023, 11:23 PM

As GCSE, A Levels, and AS Levels exams are currently underway, headteachers note that the majority of students are expressing optimism about their exams so far, albeit there being a few challenges to navigate.

The primary concern is to manage and overcome any hurdles, with clashes of exam schedules being a chief concern.

Numerous students opt for courses offered by different exam boards such as Pearson, Edexcel or Cambridge, which encompass the English national curriculum and hold approval from the Department of Education.

Principals explain that given that each exam board functions as an independent entity, certain students encounter a situation where their exams overlap.

However, educational institutions are making concerted efforts to mitigate any potential disadvantages to students. They do this by implementing measures like ensuring that pupils refrain from communicating with peers who have already completed the exams before they do.

They highlight that solutions are being devised to successfully manage this situation.

Craig Halsall, Principal, Reach British School, Abu Dhabi says, “So far, the exams held at Reach British School have gone extremely well! Our students have been well prepared, well organised and thoroughly prepared for their examinations. We have not faced any (major) hurdles that have caused our students anxiety or concern.”

Some pupils have had clashes, as the exam timetable is set for the entire country to avoid the possibility of sharing questions and answers online.

“There were only one or two small issues regarding examination clashes which were beyond the school’s control and have been flagged with the exam board for the future,” adds Halsall.

GCSE, AS level and A level exams started on May 15, 2023 with the final exam due to take place on June 27, 2023.

He adds, “As a school, we have supported our students in many ways, which included holding revision sessions that helped students to improve their knowledge and examination techniques. We also worked closely with them to hone their time management skills, as we know this is an important exam skill.”

A few principals reiterate that they have also calendared school prize day for the week just before the exam period, so that students can see that not all their achievements need to come from exam results.

Nicole Haynes, Principal/CEO, GEMS Westminster School, Ras Al Khaimah says, “Every exam season may have unexpected challenges; students sit exams from a range of different exam boards, which has the potential of resulting in a clash, where a student sits three exams on the same day. Other potential challenges include managing multiples exams at the same time, ensuring students arrive on time and don’t forget to bring the correct equipment. Occasionally students have accidents, family emergencies or fall sick, and we must then apply for special considerations through the exam board to request that the students can still be awarded an exam grade. Otherwise, they would have to sit the exam during the next exam series.”

Meanwhile, schools have amplified their mental health support services and are ensuring that students feel emotionally supported and have an outlet to alleviate exam-related stress.

Counsellors, mentors, and wellbeing coordinators are especially being made available to provide guidance, emotional support, and stress management techniques.

Alan Forbes, Head of Secondary, Star International School, Mirdif opines, “Students have also been busy practising and revising at home. All subject areas have specific intervention strategies to encourage all students of all abilities to achieve their personal best. In our school, lessons will continue for each subject until the final examination for that subject is taken.”

Principals explain the GCSE and A-level exams have been an exhilarating journey thus far, filled with both challenges and triumphs.

James McDonald Principal/CEO of GEMS Wesgreen International School – Sharjah says, “We have provided specialised support to aid students during this crucial period. We have organised extra study sessions, revision workshops, and one-on-one tutoring to cater to each student’s individual needs.”

Schools are embracing innovative technologies to effectively monitor student progress. Data analytics tools are used to identify areas of strength and development for each student, enabling targeted intervention and personalised feedback.

Academicians underline this has empowered students to focus on specific areas that require improvement and optimise their study strategies accordingly.

Emmanuel Keteku, Principal/CEO, GEMS Winchester School – Fujairah says, “We have a committed school counsellor and wellbeing team, who have set up a quiet room for students that works like a chill-out zone. Students can head there to decompress or to study. It is filled with comfy chairs and cushions and quiet music so they can relax into their day. We also attended a GEMS wellbeing conference where our students learnt how to pot plants, do mindful colouring, meditate and many other activities to aid children in managing their emotions and their examination stresses.”


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