Stop exam stress from blocking your teenager’s potential.
During April, teenagers in the UK are preparing for exams. They may sit various exams, including Sats, Mock exams, GCSEs and A levels. This can be a stressful time for them and their families. But there are ways to get through this together.
This blog pulls together years of learning and helping others manage stress and anxiety related to many exams. Unfortunately, there isn’t one thing to help everyone, so here are five things to consider. So communicate with your teenager and provide them with these tips to help them.
1. Learning and revision
Help them to learn and revise better.
There are so many revision books and resources out there, but the most essential thing about revision is that it helps your teenager recall information they already have and add to it to help retain and expand on the subject. This is all about learning.
We pick up information through our senses when we learn a subject. So we see things, hear things, and feel things. This becomes our experience.
Learning can be from reading, writing, listening to podcasts, watching videos or visiting places of interest.
A good way to memorise information is to use a mnemonic where the information is associated with a story or word, or phrase.
Another way to develop creative thinking and put things into order is to use a mind map. They help people to make associations and build new ideas. Mind maps are visual records of information Tony Busand developed them. Mind maps have a central theme. The connections or branches that connect to the themes can be drawn onto paper, or you can make digital copies with apps.
Some people find it easier to remember things by chunking them down. This idea comes from cognitive psychology. The idea is to code and decode then recode information in the brain. With this method, people group sections of a book or other information to a coherent central theme. However, chunking usually only involves two to six items.
Finally, to help to learn, do it in blocks of time and add a reward when learning and revision are effective.
2. Understand what is required to reduce exam stress
Help them to understand what is required.
This point is about learning the study skills to pass the exam. This means that the teenager taking the exam must think like an examiner.
If the paper uses verbs like discuss something, the examiner doesn’t want someone to describe or list the answer. If an essay is expected, lots of bullet point lists will detract from the flow of the essay.
Adding other information when answering a question might be exciting and show the examiner that one knows much about a subject, but the examiner only wants what is asked for. Furthermore, an examiner wants concise answers because reading lots of irrelevant information is challenging. Imagine if you were an examiner marking hundreds of papers. You would want to see answers that show that the person knows the answer.
Parents should also communicate to them what they expect from behaviour during exam time.
3. Learn the skills of how to complete an exam
Help them to grasp the skills needed to complete an exam.
Completing exams needs specific skills that start before the exam and continue into the exam time. Teenagers often don’t realise how many skills are involved. These skills include:
- Effective reading. This means the person needs to read, understand and critically evaluate their reading. This helps with revision.
- Effective writing and note-taking. Writing needs to be concise and focused on what is being asked. Note-taking must be relevant rather than just writing down what has been read.
- Practical strategies for answering different types of questions. For example, if the paper has multiple choice and long answer questions, the person must know how to answer both.
- Reflective skills to understand one’s self and strengths and weaknesses.
- Organisational skills.
- Good time management skills.
- Listening skills. Some English exams have a speaking and listening part, so people need to learn to listen actively.
- Practice tests.
4. Test, check and test again
Help them to practice before the exam.
Practising the exam before the final exam is a good idea as it prepares your teenager and highlights areas lacking knowledge. But testing can be done in many ways.
There can be self-testing after each revision subject or topic.
Testing can be between teenagers or parents, and others could also be involved.
Mock exams are a good way of testing and completing previous papers.
Testing helps recall.
5. Learn to relax
Help them to get a work-life balance. They should revise but also relax as it will increase their productivity.
One of the most essential things teenagers can do when revising is to balance revision and relaxation. Relaxation is different for different people. It reduces stress and helps with studying.
There are also many ways to relax. Sports and exercise are excellent for teenagers. But reading a novel or watching a comedy on television can also be beneficial.
One simple technique that works for most people is practising deep breathing. My favourite method is called the 7/11 breathing pattern. So anyone who feels stressed should sit down and breathe in for the count of seven and then breathe out slowly for the count of eleven.
Finally, sometimes if teenagers get too stressed and anxious, they need more than the usual academic help. Sometimes they need professional help as exam time can drive up negative emotions. They may get angry, upset or demotivated easily as the exam approaches. They may also get negative thoughts, feel like giving up or cause arguments in the family. If you are worried about a teenager during exams, speak to your doctor and your child’s teacher. Some teenagers also need help with their emotions from a counsellor or psychotherapist.
Hi, I’m Linda from Awaken the Change. I provide counselling, hypnotherapy and coaching to help stressed and anxious people. I love to help people with exam stress, including teenagers.
Contact me for a free initial consultation or read my book called Teenager Exam Stress: A Parents’ Survival Guide.’ It’s available on Amazon.