Exam Stress

How Parents can help with exam revision:

Assisting with revision

The secret to doing well in exams lies in planning. You can help your child to create a clear revision plan and method of studying that will make them feel in control of their work.

Tips for revision planning:

  • work out a revision timetable for each subject
  • break revision time into small chunks - hour-long sessions with short breaks at the end of each session often work well
  • make sure your child has all the essential books and materials
  • condense notes onto postcards to act as revision prompts
  • buy new stationery, highlighters and pens to make revision more interesting
  • go through school notes with your child or listen while they revise a topic
  • time your child's attempts at practice papers

Providing all-round support

The best way to support your child during the stress of revision and exams is to make home life as calm and pleasant as possible. It helps if other members of the household are aware that your child may be under pressure and that allowances should be made for this.

If your child is given study leave in the run-up to exams, try to be at home as much as possible so that you can share a break and a chat together.

Make sure there are plenty of healthy snacks in the fridge and try to provide good, nutritious food at regular intervals. Encourage your child to join family meals, even if it's a busy revision day - it's important to have a change of scene and get away from the books and computer for a while. Also encourage your child to take regular exercise. A brisk walk around the block can help clear the mind before the next revision session.

Try not to nag or make too many demands on your child during exam time. Arguments are counter-productive and will only add unnecessary stress and distract from revision.

It's important to get a good night's sleep before an exam, so discourage your child from staying up late to cram. And make sure he or she eats a good breakfast on the morning of the exam

Bribes, treats and rewards

Some children are 'bribed' to do well in exams and are offered cash or gifts to achieve good grades. But bribery is not a good idea as it implies that the only worthwhile reward for hard work is money and that you don’t trust your child to work hard. Negative messages like these will affect your child’s sense of self-worth.

Encourage your child to do well for his or her own sake rather than for money or to please you. Explain that exams aren't an end in themselves but a gateway to the next stage of life - to another Key Stage or to GCSEs, A levels, university, college or work. Good results are themselves the best reward for hard work and will make your child proud of his or her achievements.

Make sure your child knows you're interested in their work and that you'll be proud if they do well. Although bribery isn't advisable, it's fine to provide small treats by way of encouragement - perhaps a piece of cake or some biscuits after a chunk of revision has been completed. The end of exams can be celebrated with a treat that everyone can look forward to, such as a meal out or a trip to the cinema.

Help make time for exercise during exam preparation

Parents during exams want their kids to do as well as they can. By definition that entails a commitment to revision, past papers and the like. A regime of eat-sleep-study-repeat is however counter-productive.



Make sure they make time for exercise

Physical exercise releases endorphins – the body’s natural mood lifter. This helps to clear their mind and take them out of the exam pressure cooker. Parents can play a vital role in encouraging and making exercise possible. For example by offering to take them to and from a sports venue or paying for them to take a night off studying to hit the gym. Help them put together a study schedule that includes regular breaks for exercise and encourage them to maintain attendance at sporting clubs or groups.

What are you expecting from them during their exams?

Parents naturally want their children to do well in exams through school and further education. That is completely natural. Most kids place enough pressure upon themselves during study and exam preparation to make that outcome a reality. Additional expectations, demands or pressure from mum and dad can end up being more damaging than useful.

The application of additional pressure by mum and dad may be explicit, like telling them you want them to achieve certain grades. Or it can be more implicit, like how you talk about your expectations for exam success in front of their friends/parents of their friends.

Reassure them of your love and support no matter what the outcome of exams and emphasise that this is not the be all and end all for them.

Advice for students

How to keep motivated during your GCSE’s and A-level’s

  • Don’t stop going to, or working in, lessons you find hard or dislike – talk to someone about any difficulties you are having – there is always a solution
  • Revise your revision schedule if necessary and stick to it – even when you don’t feel like it.   Don’t wait until you are in the mood – the further behind you get the less you will be in the mood (agree the schedule with your parents for a hassle-free life)
  • Resist the temptation to bury your head in the sand if things are getting out of hand – talk to your parents/tutor/teachers/Head of House
  • Ignore what friends and others are doing or saying – you are working for an easy life for YOU now and later – let your friends have the hassle of redoing coursework or even the full GCS



  • Start revision early.   The sooner you start the less you will have to do each day and the less stressed out you will be
  • The most important thing is to make a realistic revision timetable that you will stick to
  • Get one good revision book or aid for every subject.   They do much of the initial work for you by breaking the subject down into ‘do-able’ chunks



  • Go to all lessons and make them work for you – especially the ones you don’t like or find hard
  • When your teachers tell you about exam technique – try them all out to see which one will work for you best (it might even be the one you thought wouldn’t work).   The key thing is to reduce the notes you work from to a single A4 by the night before the exam
  • Match the revision notes you make to the sort of questions you will be asked.   Get hold of old papers (ask teachers which websites to look at.
  • Have a clear goal for each revision period.   For example – ‘at the end of these 2 hours I will be able to label a diagram of the heart and answer a question on how the heart works.’
  • Have a start and finish time – and stick to it!
  • Get into the routine of following your revision plan – if you really don’t feel like it, tell yourself you will do 15 minutes and then decide whether to carry on.   At least you will have done fifteen minutes.   Set your aim for the session and get right on with it – ignore the impulse to suddenly tidy your room for the first time in 3 years!
  • STOP and take a break if you are becoming frustrated, angry or overwhelmed. Put aside the problem
  • Don’t waste time struggling – note down anything you are finding hard and take it to your next lesson or if on study leave, phone friends or your teachers
  • DO NOT BE INFLUENCED BY FRIENDS WHO TALK ABOUT HOW LITTLE WORK THEY ARE DOING Get you head down – your results don’t matter to your friends – but they are crucial to your future.               
  • Tell yourself it’s not for long and think about that long summer holiday
  • Make yourself start however much you don’t want to – the hardest bit is over with then.



There are a number of factors that cause students to lose marks in the exams.The factors below are often reported by examiners.   You will also find them in revision books.   Here is a list of factors that you need to be aware of and concentrate on – 

  • Start in good time – leave it too late and you will start panicking
  • Plan for half hour or, at most, one hour slots.   Nothing extra is likely to sink in if one subject is revised for much longer
  • When revising during the evenings plan 1 or 2 subjects only.   Leave some time for relaxation
  • Allow some days off, but not in the few weeks just before the exams
  • Plan to revise specific topics or aspects of a subject – for example, not just science, but human systems, or waves, or chemical reactions or electricity
  • Read through a topic and then make brief notes on cards which can be used for further revision later
  • Use colours to highlight key works
  • Work in small groups to discuss a topic