Exam Nerves – and how to help
I wrote this post when I first started editing Help for Busy Mums. My girls are now well and truly done with school exams – but the following information I think is still as relevant today.
My girls are just beginning to sit their exams.
Daughter two is sitting her AS level exams and daughter three her GCSEs. The exam nerves are palpable.
Throughout the house are post it notes, charts and revision cards stuck on doors light switches and by mirrors. Anywhere they are likely to be loitering and can stop and take a look for a few minutes.
Sitting on the loo is now quite educational for me too. I can see at a glance through a very self-explanatory chart how Germany’s power developed during the 1920’s and 1930’s and am even beginning to remember dates of the Treaties that were signed.
Exams are a big thing these days it seems to be that kids are tested almost every year they are at school. For lots of kids exams are really scary. They see them as the difference between success and failure. This results in exam nerves that can result in kids not being able to concentrate or even sleep properly, as they are so worried about sitting the exam.
Tips to support your children through their exams
There are lots of times in life when we are facing big stressful events. Having exam nerves is no different. It is a big stressful event in their life. And a time when they are judged often totally just by their ability.
Try to get your kids to shift their thinking
Get your kids to approach exams the same way they would approach something which was fun and important to them. This could be a sporting fixture, a special party or a holiday.
Help them to focus on the “end game” e.g. the exams will be over in a couple of weeks and then they will be able to ……(do whatever it is they are missing out on…..) So that means preparation for the event.
Create a revision timetable and adopt a daily routine
Suggest they organise themselves a revision routine (like you may have a keep fit routine) – and then get them to read this post…..and try and take on some of these points. Or even put it up somewhere for them to read at their leisure, if you are not convinced they will read it or have a sensible conversation over it. You might also want to take a look at the following websites or suggest your kids visit them too: The Mix and NHS. Both websites provide excellent advice around exam stress.
Revision pointers to help concentration
- Avoid getting over-tired. No one can concentrate when they are tired.
- Work in short manageable bursts.
- Don’t start working very early in the morning (this can lead to anxiety) or late in the evenings (leads to becoming over tired and may lead to being unable to sleep).
- Take regular breaks and do something different. Ideally physical. Dance to music, take a walk.
- Try to avoid very late nights.
- Study in a well-lit room, or near a window.
- Make sure you get outside as often as you can for fresh air.
- Best times to study are 9:00am to 12am and 4.00 pm to 6:00 pm (although I have to say my kids do not stick to these times at all).
- Worst times: after lunch 1:00pm to 3:00pm as body clock is sluggish and at night.
- Keep in take of sugar down. Too much sugar lowers blood sugar level, makes you sleepy, and makes you need more! ‘Energy’ sweets are especially bad for this.
- Cut down on caffeine – in short-term caffeine makes you feel more alert, but large doses lead to insomnia and increased tension/anxiety.
- Avoid too many carbohydrates (from potatoes, pasta, rice, bread) just before busy revision spells or exams, as these food make you sleepy.
- Do not diet while doing exams. Being hungry may lead to lack of concentration.
Spoil them a bit
Not sure what the experts would make of this advice – but the following works for us in times of stress, upset or exhaustion. My kids love Horlicks and hot chocolate made with real dark chocolate. These comforting drinks and treats serve two purposes. Firstly, they pep them up a bit, and secondly they show them we care. Sometimes this can work a lot better than talking to stressed adolescents.