Is effective time management the key to student happiness and exam success?

Rising student anxiety levels

In 2018, Barnardos conducted a national survey of school-aged students, asking them what their greatest worry was. Of the students surveyed, 65% responded “school”, with 42% cited “their future”. This stress is evidently intrinsically linked to exams; while 48% of 12-year-olds are already stressed out about school, by age 16 that school-related stress increases to 83%, with 80% seriously worrying about their futures.

This survey prompted a response in our team, and we decided that we had to understand what would actually make students feel better. We gathered an online community of 30,000 students and we asked them, both through big-data quantitative surveys and in over 50 hours of qualitative interviews, what it was that they actually needed.

89% said that it was a plan– because when they made a plan, they felt far less overwhelmed by their studies. Despite that clarity of feeling, however, 81% said that they had never been able to make a plan that worked for them. Why was this? Well, because the way they plan- on paper, with pens and grids- is outdated. Inflexible. And they don’t know how to do it.

The “What Comes Next?” Feeling

We continued to dig into the problem, finding out more about the root causes of stress and uncertainty. We discovered that, alongside asking for help with planning exam revision, students also wanted help after exams- specifically, with how to pick the right University or post-school pathway. 

This anxiety ties in with the 42% of students who stated their biggest worry to be “their future”, and makes sense given that the same cuts which have caused teacher shortages have also led to the widespread axing of careers services.

We found that there was strong support for a tool which could point students towards appropriate post-school pathways, with 94% of students saying they needed this guidance. Further to this, 88% said that they would want to subscribe to a spectrum of Universities in order to receive messaging about open days, courses, and any other relevant information.

This is in line with the perspective of students we have spoken to previously, who say that they would consider a wide variety of Universities and courses but they don’t have enough time to investigate them all.

Although 75% of GCSE students say that they would still subscribe to Universities, there is an increasing trend in students considering alternate post-school pathways. A survey conducted by Pearson in May 2019 found that “Half of Gen Z in the US, UK and Australia say you can do OK in life without a degree”  and “68% of people globally agree that a degree or certificate from a vocational college or trade school is more likely to result in a good job with career prospects than a university degree.” This tallied with our data, Apprenticeships being the most requested addition, with Internships and Work Experience coming close behind.

An evidence-driven solution

It’s clear, therefore, that what students want most is guidance into what and when to study for their exams, and into what they can do with their qualifications after they leave school.

The solution that we proposed in response to these insights was a dynamic and adaptive revision timetable app that students could use to organise their academic work and University journey. The most important elements for students were that it was flexible- hence its adaptive nature- and that it had specialist guidance into both academic curricula and post-school pathways.

The academic requirement was met through the addition of subject breakdowns, written by current teachers to the specifications set by exam boards, while the appetite for post-school pathways was addressed through a designated “Opportunities” tab, featuring tailored university and alternate pathway recommendations.

We also hypothesised that students would appreciate the ability to track progress and so incorporated self-assessment, prompting students to RAG-rate their confidence on topics and modules and feeding that data into a clear, aesthetically pleasing progress visualisation. 

Having exhaustively tested all elements of our roadmap in over 150 hours of user interviews, we finally launched to a closed Beta of 10,000 students in September 2019 for live testing.


of students in our Beta told us that it made them feel more motivated


felt more organised


felt more in control of their revision


felt less stressed about revision


thought that it would improve their exam results

This article was provided by Adapt

Confident, at last, that we’d built something which could actually help students, we launched Adapt publicly as a free product on the App Store and Google Play Store on the 11th January 2020. We immediately hit No. 1 on the Education charts on the day of release with over 20,000 downloads, and we’ve grown consistently by several thousand every day since then; as of this week, we’re at 90,000 users and storming towards our big 100,000 milestone.

We’re proud to be working with GCSEPod to deliver a revision experience for students which helps them feel calm, motivated and productive. We intend to spend this exam cycle monitoring the effects of time management on student results and wellbeing, alongside running a research pilot with Oxford University into whether ongoing engagement with time-management tools leads to more students getting their grades. We’ll be publishing our findings after the exam results arrive in August 2020, but in the meantime, anyone wanting to find out more about Adapt (or to recommend it to students as a free revision resource!) can find us on our website or on Instagram.

Maud Millar, CEO & Co-founder, Adapt

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