Exams can be stressful for young people, but feeling nervous or anxious in the lead up is normal…

Here we are again – the season when thousands of young people face the ordeal of exams. For some, the stress is particularly hard to handle. Exams can be scary for kids and teens who are generally anxious. Whether you’re in the hot seat or cheering from the side lines, check out these tips to manage the next few weeks.


Be prepared

Allow yourself plenty of time to get there.  Don’t add to the stress by worrying if you’re going to be on time.

Make sure you know what you need to bring.  Get everything ready in advance, the night before.

Talk to yourself positively. Try to think “I’ll do my best”.

Don’t talk about the exam before the exam. Before going into the exam, don’t talk about it with your classmates, as this will make you more anxious.

Read over the test paper and plan your approach. Spend a few minutes figuring out how to distribute the marks for each question.

If your mind goes blank and you can’t think of anything to write, move on to another question or part of the exam. Jot down anything you can recall on your scratch paper. This will jog your memory and get your brain working.

Don’t forget the basics

Get enough sleep, nutritious food, exercise, and relaxation.

What’s important for general health is vital during periods when we’re most tested. A good sleep routine helps.  Going to bed and getting up at the same time every night is a good place to start.

Try to eat well.  Some people overeat when they’re anxious, while others may not be able to eat at all. Eating balanced, healthy meals will give you the energy you need. It will help you perform at your best. Healthy snacks will help you to keep going as well as the odd treat!

Reduce stress.  It’s easy to say, but reducing stress levels will help you to study, sleep, and perform on the day. Busting stress is different for everyone. It might mean breathing exercises, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or music. Or, it might mean dancing in the kitchen during a tea break.

Get some exercise. Doing activities like running, cycling, swimming, or playing footie can help. Even taking a walk can help to recharge your batteries, give you more energy and reduce stress.

Don’t forget to fit in times to socialise, meet up with friends and have some fun!

What parents say  

Parents are able to offer much needed perspective.  They can remind a child that an exam isn’t a reflection of who they are as a person. The more a person ties their self-worth to passing exams, the greater the anxiety. Sam is a mother of two teenagers. She said: “Exams are just part of your journey. Your efforts, growth, and development matter more than any exam result.”

Recalling her own experience, Laura said: “Remember that not getting the grade you need isn’t the end of the world. There are lots of options for re-taking exams or subjects, which means you can still achieve what you want.”

Being around is sometimes the best support you can offer. Mother of two, Hollie, has a few hints for parents, she said: “Remember how important it is to listen. My daughter came in from school very ranty yesterday. I tried to ‘help’ but she wanted me to listen. She didn’t need an answer. But I’ll check in.  They might be cracking on but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worrying.”

Practical support is important too, Hollie adds. “Don’t underestimate the value of providing drinks and snacks. Make sure they take breaks and do something different. Even if they don’t want to, it will help their focus.”

Further help

If your child needs further help with their mental health.