How to Help Your Child Overcome Exam Stress for Good

Getting through exams can be challenging, but try not to panic. There are ways to beat exam stress and ensure that you get the best possible results.

Good planning and a realistic revision (*study) schedule can turn a heavy workload into something manageable. And knowing you have a schedule can help you manage your nerves.

It’s Wise to Revise

overcoming exam stress

It sounds obvious, but revision (*studying) really is the key to exam success. Being fully prepared for your exams is the most effective way to overcome stress and anxiety, and gives you the best chance of getting the best grades you can.

Before you start revising, the amount of work you have to do might seem overwhelming. Many exam timetables require you to study for lots of different subjects at once, and it’s easy to feel daunted.

Deal with this by making a revision (*study) schedule you can stick to. Work out how much you have to do and the time you have to do it in, then break it down into chunks. Allocate yourself a few hours of revision a day, and mix up your subjects so that you don’t get bored.

It’s also important to find a revision style that suits you. Studying alone in a quiet room suits many people, but not everyone likes working in silence. Try playing music quietly in the background, or revising (*studying) with a friend (but don’t let them distract you).

You could customise your notes to make them more personal. Experiment with colour coding, note cards, diagrams or whatever helps you learn your topic.

If you come across something you don’t understand, try to find a new source of information rather than just memorising it, as this won’t help you in your exam. Don’t be afraid to ask your teacher or a friend for help if you need it.

Looking at past exam papers can also be useful, as you can familiarise yourself with the layout and type of questions you’ll be asked. Practise completing the exam paper in the set time limit so you know what you need to do to improve your exam technique.

Rest and Relaxation

Revision (*studying) is an essential part of exam success, but it’s also important that you don’t overdo it. Studying for hours and hours without a break will only make you tired and ruin your concentration, which may make you even more anxious.

Stress is a natural feeling that’s designed to help us cope in difficult situations. In small amounts, it’s good for you because it pushes you to work hard and do your very best.

However, too much stress can cause problems such as headaches and loss of appetite, and can make you bad tempered. Avoid excess stress by taking frequent short breaks while you’re working. A break every 45-60 minutes is about right.

During your breaks, do something relaxing, such as reading a book or going for a short walk. Taking your mind off your work will help you come back to it feeling refreshed. It can also help if you reward yourself after each revision (*study) session. For example, with a long bath or a good DVD.

When you’re not revising (*studying), use your spare time to get away from your books and do something physical. Exercise is good for taking your mind off stress and keeping you positive, and it will help you sleep better.

If you’re still feeling stressed, it’s important to talk to someone you trust, such as a family member, teacher or a friend. Many people find exams difficult to deal with, so don’t be embarrassed to ask for support.

On the Day

It’s natural to be nervous on the day of your exam, but don’t let your nerves take over. Start the day with a good breakfast, and give yourself plenty of time to get to the exam hall. Remember to take everything you need, including pencils, pens and a calculator. A bottle of water and some tissues are also useful.

Once the exam has started, take a few minutes to read the instructions and questions so you know exactly what’s expected of you. Ask an exam supervisor if anything is unclear; they’re there to help you.

Plan how much time you’ll need for each question. Don’t panic if you get stuck on a question, but try to leave yourself enough time at the end to come back to it. Even if you’re really stumped, an educated guess is better than leaving it blank.

When the exam is over, don’t spend too much time going over it in your head or worrying about it. Resist the temptation to compare your answers with those of your friends. If you have more exams to come, focus on the next one instead.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

About the Author

NHS Choices ( is the UK’s biggest health website. It provides a comprehensive health information service to help put you in control of your healthcare.


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