Exam Support

Help your child beat exam stress

At some point in our lives we will all have to sit an exam of some sort – at school, work, learning to drive etc. For some children the experience is an enjoyable one but for many it can be very stressful. Tests and exams can be a difficult time for many children and young people. It is a challenging aspect of school life which can affect not only your child but you too as parents. But stress doesn’t need to be a bad thing. It’s what drives us to sit down and study. Without the rush of adrenaline that stress creates we wouldn’t be motivated to work hard and face the challenges we do. However too much stress can do the opposite and cause anxiety and tension – so finding the balance is essential to ensure children can stay focused without panicking about the pressure.

Some signs your child may be experiencing stress could be:

  • Worry a lot
  • Feel tense
  • Get lots of headaches and stomach pains
  • Not sleep well
  • Be irritable
  • Lose interest in food or eat more than normal
  • Not enjoy activities they previously enjoyed
  • Seem negative and low in their mood
  • Seem hopeless about their future

Having someone to talk to can really help. Support from you as parents, an adult at school or a friend can help a child to share their worries and put them into perspective. It is important to encourage your child to talk about their feelings and involve them as much as possible in discussions about them. However if you feel they are not coping it may be better for you to make contact with the school on their behalf.

How can you help?

Provide a balanced diet

Too much food and drink that is high in sugar, caffeine and fat can lead to hyperactive, irritable and moody children. See healthy eating tips for teens: www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/healthy-eating-for-teens

Ensure they get enough sleep

Most teenagers need between 8-10 hours’ sleep a night. Good sleep will improve their concentration and thinking. Read more at www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/how-much-sleep-do-kids-need

Be more flexible

Around exam times, when your child is revising a lot in their spare time, try to be more flexible about household jobs and chores that haven’t been done or untidy bedrooms.

Help with studying

Try to support your child by making sure they have somewhere comfortable and quiet to study. They may need help to draw up a revision timetable or getting past exam papers to practice. Ask them how you can help.

Talk about exam nerves

Remind your child that feeling anxious during this time is normal. Nerves are a natural reaction to exams. If it helps, ask to show your child the exam hall, look at past exam papers to show them what to expect. Encouraging your child to face their fears as opposed to hiding from them will help them more in the future.

Encourage exercise

Exercise can boost energy levels, clear the mind and relieve stress. This could involve walking, cycling, swimming, dancing or team sports like football. Read about the benefits of physical activity: www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/free-fitness-ideas

Don’t make it worse

Many children report that the most pressure they feel is from home. Try to listen to your child and avoid criticism. Be reassuring and positive before an exam. After the exam talk through what went well rather than focusing on what didn’t. Start to look at the next test rather than dwell on the one that you cannot change. Remember failing an exam isn’t the end of the world. It’s a pain and it is frustrating but it’s only an exam and there is always an opportunity to re-sit it or other options available to children. Advice on exam stress and pressure visit childline: www.childline.org.uk/info-advice/school-college-and-work/school-college/exam-stress

Make time together

Decide on some rewards with your child for getting through each exam. These don’t need to be big or expensive, even simple things like watching a movie together or cooking their favourite meal. Maybe a larger treat could be chosen for when all their exams are over.

When should we seek help?

Not all young people feel better once the exams are over. If the anxiety and low mood continues and starts to interfere with everyday life it might be worth a visit to the GP. For further information on anxiety in children: www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/anxiety-in-children

Sites to support young people with exam stress:

The Mind Set


Young Minds

NHS Exam tips

Off the Record

SEND - Exam Advice

St Philomena’s Catholic High School for Girls

Pound Street

Carshalton Surrey


T: 020 8642 2025


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