Picture this, you’ve been studying hard for your exams but as soon as you walk into the exam hall, your mind goes blank. Your palms start to sweat, your heart rate quickens and you feel a deep pit in your stomach. These are classic signs of exam anxiety and sadly may mean you child’s scores don’t reflect the hard work they’ve put into preparing for the exam.
However, do not fear as there are some simple strategies to help! Sara Boomsma from Gabbitas Middle East shares some top tips for parents to help students manage anxiety during exams.
This may seem obvious but the more prepared your child is, the more confident they will be walking into that exam hall. Encourage them to utilise practice papers with exam conditions leading up to the real thing. This will help ensure they have practiced managing their anxiety during timed conditions.
Normalise exam stress
Talk to your child about exam stress being a perfectly normal thing. Share your experiences of sitting exams and how you felt leading up to and during them. Helping your child realise they are not alone and that feeling like this isn’t unusual will really help. Plus, mention that a bit of nerves can often be a good thing!
Remember, physical wellbeing helps mental wellbeing
One of the most important aspects of mental health is physical health. If you want your child to remain focused and resilient throughout the revision and exam season, make sure they are also prioritising their physical health too.
Early nights, eating healthy and exercise are all key aspects to this. Make sure as a parent you are rigorous with these as your child will often give up playing in their regular sports teams or going to bed at the usual time in order to make more time for study. But this will certainly not help in the long run!
There is nothing worse that feeling rushed when you are on the way to an exam. Make sure your child is packed and ready to go the night before and leave yourself plenty of time to get to the location. Don’t allow your child another reason to be anxious in the morning!
Read and read again!
Stress to your child to take their time and read through the questions carefully. There is nothing worse than getting halfway through a question and realising you are not on target. They have plenty of time so advise them to slow down and take their time when reading through the questions.
Don’t pay attention to others
Try to ensure your child resists the urge to look around the exam hall at what everyone else is doing – trust us, it won’t help! Encourage them to stay focused on their own timings and pace.
Watch the clock
Your child’s teachers would have talked through allocating a certain amount of time to each question to make sure they can get through everything on time. Often the longest essay questions which are worth the most marks will be at the end of the paper, don’t forget to leave time for these!
Talk to your child about replacing unhelpful, negative thoughts with more encouraging self-talk by challenging worried and negative thoughts. Get a mantra going with your child on the morning of the exam with affirmations like “I have done my best” and “I will be OK, whatever happens” and “I can do this, I am confident”. Try utilising mindfulness techniques with your child to focus on the present task in hand rather than the “what if?”
A helpful strategy to share with your child is as follows: as soon as they sit down in the exam hall, take in five slow, deep breaths and imagine that you are breathing in warm, calming air and breathing out self-doubt.
Don’t talk about it afterwards
As soon as your child leaves the exam hall it can be so tempting to talk through each question in detail with their friends. Ensure you say to your child not to dwell on it and move on, they have their next exam to focus on after all!
We wish all students sitting exams over the next few months the very best of luck!