Exams Got You Down? Just PAUSS

The following blog first appeared one year ago. It’s as relevant now as it was then. We all face challenges from time to time, and how we face them makes all the difference. That’s where the KCS Habits come in.

At KCS, it’s our mission to develop lifelong learners with the habits to face and embrace life’s challenges. Many of our students and parents have an extra one of those challenges on their plate right now.


Students in grades 6-8 write exams starting January 28th. Love them or dislike them (yes, we’ve had students say they love them!), learning to prepare for and take exams is a challenge we all have to face at some point. Starting them in grade six, with ample guidance and time learning how to prepare, is the best way to start. Though a big deal, exams at KCS are also a safe opportunity to face this challenge, ‘try your best’, and learn from mistakes.

Looking at our Habits poster in my office Friday morning, I wondered which of the habits students should focus on to be successful preparing for exams. Five stood out. When written down, it became clear they made for a nice little acronym – a beacon for calm in the storm of stress that often surrounds the ‘e’ word. The acronym is PAUSS. The habits are:

Persist – this is a marathon, not a sprint

Adapt – old patterns of studying and time management likely need to change

Use past learning – use notes and old tests; use strategies that you already know to work, and avoid those that you know don’t

Show self-control – stick to the study plan; focus on the task; remember to also rest, eat well and get exercise

Strive for accuracy – follow the study keys, test yourself, aim to understand any errors

Exams inherently stir up anxiety. PAUSS, happily, does not.

If your child is writing exams, encourage them to PAUSS. And watch with pride as your child develops habits that matter. Take heart. Dread will soon be replaced with delight, and doubt will be replaced by well-earned confidence. And the unknown challenges to come will face a tougher foe.