Coping with Exam Time Stress

Friday, 09 Jun 2023


Reaching the end of week 8 may be providing mixed feelings for parents and students; on one hand the school holidays are fast approaching but on the other, the end of term means that assessments and exams are in full swing. Whilst each student is different and has their own ability to tolerate the anxiousness that comes with this time, it is still a difficult point in the school calendar.

Stress and pressure are important to differentiate as part of the student experience. Pressure is associated with the build-up of expectations that for some students is a positive motivator to get organised and get things done. For others though, this pressure can build up to feelings of stress that become overwhelming and counterproductive.

KidsHelpline (2023) have ascertained from their work with many teenagers that key causes of exam stress include:

  • Fear of failure
  • Self-deprecating thoughts
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Feeling unprepared
  • Performance anxiety

KidsHelpline (2023) also report that the supportive adults around the teenager might be able to see warning signs of stress levels building through:

  • Increased levels of frustration or lashing out
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Complaints of stomach pains or nausea
  • Self-isolation
  • Skin breakouts or nail-biting
  • Difficulty with decision-making
  • Negative talk of self, others, or the future

There are lots of ways to work alongside young people as they manage pressure and potential stress of exams, assessment, and other worries they may have as they journey through high school. Teaching young people positive and helpful strategies now can be key in how they continue to navigate tricky times in their future. Helpful strategies from KidsHelpline (2023) can include:

  • Breaking study into manageable chunks of time
  • Encouraging consistent and positive sleep and eating routines
  • Encourage help-seeking behaviours, such as reaching out to teachers or other supportive adults
  • Listening to their worries without criticism

KidsHelpline is an incredibly comprehensive website with an abundance of useful resources for children, young people and parents navigating life’s complexities. KidsHelpline also have a free, private, and confidential phone and online counselling services for children aged 5 to 25.

Their website is: Kids Helpline | Phone Counselling Service | 1800 55 1800

Leah Moffett 
Guidance Counsellor