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Dealing With Exam Stress

Exams can be a stressful time for your child, and for you.  However the following useful tips should help reduce some of this stress.

Revision Books with alarm clock

1. The more your child prepares for the exam the calmer they will be on the day. They should give themselves more time than they think they will need.

2. Encourage your child to take breaks.  Studying when tired means that they will take in much less information and will not be able to recall facts accurately.

3. Advise your child to limit their caffeine intake.  Caffeine does not help people think straight. In fact, it has a negative effect. Remind them to drink plenty of water, as keeping hydrated helps the brain function more efficiently.

4. Recommend to your child that they eat ‘Super-foods’.  Berries, bananas, oily fish, broccoli and nuts have valuable nutrients in them which help the brain. Avoid foods with high amounts of sugar and fat.

5. Suggest to your child that they are creative with their revision, rather than just sitting in a room buried in books. They could try drawing what they are learning and sticking it on the wall; writing stories, songs and rhymes about it; asking somebody to read an important passage to them in a funny voice; building a model. Encourage them to use their imagination!

6. Suggest to your child that they exercise their body as well as their mind.  Physical exercise is one of the most important factors in staying healthy and it has been scientifically proven to have a huge impact on brainpower. Active body, active mind!

Before and during exams

1. Make sure your child has checked the dates, times and locations of the exams they will be sitting.  It is not unknown for pupils to turn up a day late for an exam and miss out altogether.

2. Remind your child to get everything ready the night before so that panicking and rushing around in the morning can be avoided.  In the morning, make sure there is plenty of time to get ready, have breakfast and gather thoughts. 

3. Encourage your child to imagine the exam going well.  Explain that imagining the worst possible outcome will only serve to add to their stress levels. Successful athletes, musicians and artists mentally rehearse a performance before they go and do it. But of course they always imagine the BEST possible outcome. Why not try the same technique in preparation for exams?

4. If your child starts to feel a bit panicked during the exam, they can do a quick body check. How slow is their breathing? How comfortably are they sitting? How relaxed are the muscles in their shoulders and arms?

5. Advise your child to sit as comfortably as possible with good posture: feet flat on the floor, back straight, but relaxed, and shoulders feeling loose.

6. Tell your child to take a bottle of water into the exam. Keeping hydrated helps the brain to work at its best.

7. Suggest that your child wears something comfortable that they can easily adjust to suit the room temperature. Some schools may require your child to wear full school uniform; this should be checked in advance.

8. Finally, if your child is unwell on the day of the exam, it is important that you phone the school at the earliest possible opportunity as it may be necessary to provide the school with a doctor’s certificate.  When you contact the school, you should ask to speak to someone who is responsible for dealing with exams and explain the situation.  They will be able to provide advice and information.

Positive Messages you can give your child

1. Believe in yourself! You would not have been put forward for exams if you did not have the ability to do well.

2. It takes a lot of energy to worry - channel all that energy into doing something more productive, like some extra revision or a revitalising swim.

3. You are in the ‘exam boat’ and so are THOUSANDS of other people. Hundreds of thousands of other people have been in that very boat before you and they survived!

4. Talk to someone, friends, family, teacher, LIFT OFF – somebody you trust who will not tell you to “stop moaning”.

5. Don’t put yourself under unnecessary pressure.  If something is not within your control, there is no point in worrying about it.  Just aim to do your best.