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Teens Becoming an Adult : Testing Times? The pressure of final exams (part 2) - Coping with exam stress Top 10 tips

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Coping with exam stress Top 10 tips

Signs that your teenager may be experiencing significant levels of stress include: Negative thoughts and self-statements (“If I fail this my life is over”); physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, and trembling; and changes in study behavior such as avoiding or putting off work (more than usual).

All teenagers experience some degree of exam stress due to fear of the consequences of failing, judgments by parents, and repeated messages from others about the importance of final grades. Too much stress will hinder your teenager in study and exams. Discussing the following tips with him should help to keep his stress levels down.

  • Plan a sensible study schedule in advance, allowing plenty of time to cover all subjects, and try to stick to it.

  • Take regular breaks when studying: a 10-minute break every 40 minutes gives the brain a chance to process information and keeps attention and concentration levels up.

  • Eat regular, healthy meals, get plenty of sleep (late night, last-minute cramming sessions are not usually helpful), and get some exercise—even if it is just a walk around the block.

  • Get to the exam in plenty of time and pick a good spot: Sitting at the front means it may be easier to get the teacher’s attention; sitting at the back means a good view of how others are doing and who is leaving early (not necessarily a good thing); and sitting by the exits may lead to disruption during the exam if others leave before you.

  • Take a few relaxing deep breaths, read the instructions carefully, and jot down any key points. Read each question thoroughly and try to write down exactly what it is asking you.

  • Answer easy questions first to settle into the exam, build confidence, and help with the recall of all the information that is bursting to get out.

  • Resist the temptation to leave the examination room as soon as possible. Review work carefully, check that all questions have been answered, and proofread for spelling, grammar, punctuation (which may cost you points), and other simple mistakes.

  • A postmortem analysis with friends is inevitable, and sharing the experience can be a good way to relieve the tension. Try not to engage in too many question-by-question comparisons, though, as it’s a surefire way to raise stress levels and undermine confidence. There are bound to be differences in how questions are answered, but try to leave the grading to the professionals.

Tips for parents
  • Try not to crack the whip too hard along the way. Promote a healthy work/leisure balance and reward efforts rather than performance to keep motivation levels high.

  • Keep things in perspective—exams can feel like the most important thing in the world at the time, but soon enough they will be a distant memory. If one has gone especially badly, remember your child may be able to retake it or submit extra work as a substitute.

Excess stress will hinder study and exam performance, so try to help your teen plan sensible strategies. Ask if she wants your help and discuss what form this could take, for example quizzing her or just providing snacks.

At the start of the exam, writing down key points for each question before answering it in full can help.

Engaging in an analysis after the exam may be inevitable, but try not to get too worried about how others answered the questions.

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