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Linda Martin

Professional Assessment Ltd

Managing Director

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How to reduce ‘examiety’ amongst Gen Z apprentices

How can L&D build up young people's confidence ahead of apprenticeship end-point assessments (EPA)?
Exam stress woman in graphic design looks shocked

It’s no wonder that when it comes to education and exams – Gen Z is feeling anxious. The goal and grade-orientated focus of mainstream education can add a level of pressure that could be lessened if we looked at learning as an ongoing, holistic process.

A new study has even coined the term ‘examiety’ after discovering that today’s assessments are becoming an increasingly negative experience for Gen Z.

The results are astounding: 68% of students admitted that the apprehension and anxiousness that comes with test-taking negatively affect the social aspect of their school lives. Gen Z students feel that test anxiety can lead to poor exam performance (29%) and lower self-confidence (28%). And their outlook on potential prospects is equally glum, with nearly half of respondents (42%) consistently worrying that test anxiety will negatively impact their academic future.

We can help Gen Z overcome the negative feelings and connotations they may have associated with exams

Challenging expectations with the EPA 

End-point assessments (EPA) offer a chance to diverge from Gen Z’s usual experience of exams. Rather than looking at individual grades achieved in one single exam performance, they provide suitable assessment opportunities and formats that allow the apprentice to showcase the skills, knowledge, and behaviours they have acquired throughout their course.

In the end, the individual is left not simply with a pass or fail, but with the belief that they are job-ready and can hit the ground running on completion. 

As educators, we need to build confidence in every stage of the EPA. Through this, we can help Gen Z overcome the negative feelings and connotations they may have associated with exams.

Start from the beginning 

This effort should begin at the very start of an apprenticeship. If an individual is familiar with the relevant apprenticeship assessment plan and standards from the beginning, then they can prepare and ensure they meet the criteria from the get-go. 

The more the apprentice is bought on the journey toward their final assessment, the more they can feel confident that they have already accomplished the progress needed to pass their EPA with flying colours. To achieve this, employers, training providers and EPA organisations must work together to deliver and communicate an effective apprenticeship programme.

The outcome of an EPA is not the final determinant of someone's capabilities and learning does not stop there

Build up their strengths

The EPA, as prescribed by the appropriate assessment plan, incorporates a range of assessment methods, including knowledge tests, performance observations, professional discussions, projects, and presentations. 

The reason for such variety is that different assessment styles are better suited to evaluating certain competencies. For example, practical skills are often best judged through observations or real work projects rather than an exam, so both assessment content and style afford the apprentice the chance to demonstrate their abilities.

However, some individuals will naturally perform better in certain scenarios than others. To combat any ‘examiety’, incorporate practice assessments through the apprenticeship programme. This simultaneously builds confidence in the EPA format and content, as well as recognising their strengths and areas for further development. 

It is important that every apprentice believes they were able to give their best in EPA, so whilst practice might not make perfect, it will go a long way to calming any nerves, through stringent preparation.

Approaching the apprenticeship finale 

The outcome of an EPA is not the final determinant of someone's capabilities and learning does not stop there. Firstly, we should appreciate and communicate that sometimes things go wrong, and the EPA process allows for resits and retakes. An apprentice can do so once they have had appropriate support from their employer and training provider. No waiting months or a year to go through the whole process again, instead, there is an opportunity to be re-assessed in any referred assessments.

Apprenticeship learning and EPA are about developing and demonstrating occupational competence and professionalism

Secondly, if we can position the EPA as a positive challenge, a platform for career development and progression rather than simply being a conclusion to an apprentice's learning, the anxiety around the high-stakes assessment may lessen. EPA assessment methods reflect situations that most of us as employees will face in our work life, so the experience can help an apprentice better prepare for work appraisals or presentations to their colleagues.

Apprenticeship learning and EPA are about developing and demonstrating occupational competence and professionalism. Good learning programmes and good EPAs need to focus on both subject content, as well as nurturing the apprentice's confidence. 

The desire to learn can then become integral to their professional lives and Gen Z will be more likely to overcome any ‘examiety’ and embrace the benefits of the apprenticeship programmes and the EPA process.

Interested in this topic? Watch: Harnessing the power of apprenticeships.

Author Profile Picture
Linda Martin

Managing Director

Read more from Linda Martin

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