Exam Stress

Exams are looming and my teenage daughter saunters into the lounge and turns on the TV.

“Shouldn’t you be revising?” I snap.

“Don’t go on!”

“Why don’t I test you on that Chemistry?” I say, remembering I should try and be constructive.

“The more you nag, the less I want to do it.” Daughter stomps back upstairs, slams bedroom door and turns on loud music.

Another situation handled badly.


Today’s teenagers are under immense stress to succeed academically. Competition for university places is high, apprenticeships take only the best and jobs for school leavers are hard to find. So it’s no wonder that we parents are just as anxious as our offspring when the external GCSE, AS and A’ level exams loom.

My daughter seems to have been doing these important exams every year (and sometimes twice a year in subjects with January modules) since she was 14. In common with many other schools, she took a couple of GCSEs early, followed by the main crop 12 months later and now she’s taking the first of her AS modules – which will be followed by A2 exams next year.

Is it any wonder that she gets fed up with me nagging her? But, despite these occasional outbursts, we usually get through the exam period unscathed.

The important thing for parents is to maintain a normal routine whilst taking into account the extra stress on the youngster. The following points are worth bearing in mind:

  • Don’t make any other demands on the child, such as requesting a bedroom be tidied or help with the chores
  • Make sure he or she joins the rest of the family for regular meals
  • Encourage them to eat breakfast – especially on exam day
  • Don’t offer bribes for good results – this implies it’s only worth doing one’s best for a tangible reward. Instead make sure your child knows that he is working hard for his own future and not just to please his parents or to get a new mobile phone.
  • Do offer treats after a period of sustained revision, for example a TV break or a chocolate bar.
  • Buy revision books in the relevant subjects (check the exam board and syllabus first) – these usually break topics down into easy to learn facts.
  • Provide highlighter pens and index cards so that the youngster can jot down important points on the cards or mark up bits for re-reading in their school notes.
  • Be available to test them from the revision notes that they’ve made
  • If the school is offering extra revision sessions, encourage your child to attend

And once they’re all over – celebrate!

Finally, if the exams mark a turning point in your child’s life, for example final GCSE or A2 papers, talk to your child about a ‘Plan B’ – what are the options if they don’t get the grades for university or sixth form? This will put you a step ahead on results day if things don’t turn out as hoped.


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