Pre-Exam Stress Season

Here we are again. Once more into the breach dear parents! With the half-term at an end, academic focus will be on GCSE and A Level exam revision. With it comes hitherto unimagined levels of angst for many households. If this is your first time, it will certainly be memorable! And if you’ve been through the GCSE exam mill and you’re now facing the build up to A Levels, you have past experience to draw from and you’ll know what awaits. This week we’re going to take a brief look at what we can do to alleviate pre-exam stress for both the children and the family.

It’s worth accepting that over the next few months, lots of our teens are going to become split-personalities. One minute they’re going to be their usual cheerful selves (hopefully!), and the next they’re going to be short-tempered, withdrawn, or just lacking in verve.

You can probably remember the build up to exam season yourself. It’s a very unsettling time. The students that are on track are terrified they’ll underperform on the day, and the wrong type of preparation can make that feeling worse.

Then there are the last-minute revisers who haven’t put the necessary work in and are now frantically trying to catch up. For them it will be as much about the learning as it is revision. This is less than an ideal exam preparation strategy!

It’s worth making the point that left unchecked, pre-exam stress can wreck the chances of all but the most thoroughly prepared student come exam day. In a state of angst and full of adrenaline-fuelled panic, the ability to recall facts and figures, to apply logic and to conjure up convincing statements goes somewhat awry.

The best weapons against pre-exam stress is time and structure. With the learning phase over (for most), it’s never too early to begin structured revision. You can’t replace time and I firmly believe that down to the wire cramming, as any of my regular readers will know, simply doesn’t produce the most favourable results.

As a parent, it may often feel you can’t do right for doing wrong! If you ask how they’re doing or feeling, you’ll get ‘fine’ in response. Either that or you’ll be accused of being on their back and putting them under pressure. And of course, if you don’t ask, it’ll be because you don’t even care!

The reality is that while for some students it will be relatively plain sailing towards successful exams, others are going to realise that some topics haven’t been fully grasped. There is no need to panic. There’s a multitude of resources to turn to, friends, study groups and of course the teachers in school. Even parents may know a thing or two. Stranger things have happened!

There are no stupid questions and pride must be put aside at this stage. It’s case of if you don’t know, you don’t know. So, ask the question. It probably made sense at the time and there’s probably just a small element that’s causing momentary confusion.

In pre-exam stress season, it’s all too easy to be consumed by exam fever and to be carried along by the fretting of others. Perspective is crucial, in my opinion. Exams are simply a test of what you know and whether you can give answers and explanations in accordance with the teaching. Just remember that while top grades make for an easier path forward, they are not the end of the world. Many, including me, needed a second bite of the cherry to get back on track.

I’ll soon be publishing some tips on how to get the most from revision and in the meantime, if I can offer any assistance or pointers, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.