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NOTICE: We cannot currently offer Educational Psychology services. We can provide - Cognitive Assessments, SpLD Assessments, and Dyslexia Assessments.

What can parents do at home to help their child prepare for exams?

Maisie Willmoth-Allsop

Exam stress has a huge impact on not just children and young people, but also those around them. Stress makes people act out of character, be more angry, more irritable, more emotional overall. When your child is going through this stressful period, it is vital that you are there for support. Each person responds differently during exam period.

Stress vs. pressure

These two words are often used interchangeably, but mean very different things. A feeling of pressure is often challenging, but is positive and motivating overall. Stress feels negative and can get in the way of a child’s performance both academically and in their daily life.

What causes exam stress?

Exam stress is caused by a feeling of failure, feeling unprepared, disorganised, feeling stressed due to unrealistic expectations, performance anxiety, and pessimism.

When exam stress hits

Your child may not talk openly about it, and instead choose to keep it all bottled up and deal with it themselves. Do not let this happen. Show and tell your child that you are a strong support system for them before exam time to help them prepare.

Signs to look out for:

  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Increased smoking/drug use/ alcohol consumption
  • Feeling or thinking negatively about the future
  • Cranky
  • Irritable
  • More yelling and screaming than usual

Even if you don’t think your child is experiencing stress, still show them that you are there for them if they feel they want, or need someone to talk to in the build up to and during exams.

How can you help your child manage their exam stress?

Parents, you cannot be with your child when they sit their exams, this is frustrating as you may feel that this is, realistically, the only way to help. However, there are many other ways to help your child including;

  1. Not pushing your child too hard and providing a quiet space where they can study
  2. Encouraging and teaching the importance of study breaks
  3. Showing that you’re there and want to help by reading out questions 
  4. Not keeping your child cooped up in the house, and encouraging good sleeping patterns
  5. Encouraging a good diet – after all this is brain food
  6. Remaining calm – they’ll stress even more if they see you stressing
Fed up child due to exam
Exhausted child around SATs time

Due to exam-stress, your child might not want to revise, so a great technique to get your child to sit down and do revision is by rewarding them. One way to do this is to get them to sit down and revise for 30 minutes at a time, with 5 minute breaks in between. This can be done by making post-it-notes, mind-maps, whichever way they learn best. Every hour, test your child on what they have learnt in the two previous 30 minutes of revision, if they try hard reward them. It is more important for their self-esteem and resilience to reward them for trying hard, rather than their results. Not everyone can get top marks, but everyone can try their best. Even if it is just a small reward it will still work.

The timings can be changed, if you feel your child isn’t working well with these time frames, however do not let your child work for over an hour without a break, the human brain cannot physically take in all that information in one sitting.

Not everyone can get top marks, but everyone can try their best.

More tips for assisting with revision:

There are other ways you can help with revision, such as:

  • Working out a revision timetable for each subject
  • Helping your child work out which revision technique works best for them
  • Condensing notes

Two of the most important things to remember is to make sure your child knows that you’re interested in their revision, and also, make sure you keep calm. Negative emotions are contagious.

If you feel your child needs help, contact us.

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About the author

Maisie Willmoth-Allsop

I chose to study Psychology with Criminology at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). Taking Criminology alongside psychology was due to an interest in criminals, and how their minds function. I chose to take Psychology as I really wanted to be able to help people. I am most passionate about mental health, making more people aware of it, helping those with it and looking into how severe mental health difficulties, such as psychosis, has an effect on their decisions.

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