Tons of research has been conducted around the impact stress has on young minds during exam time.
One study shows that exam stress negatively affects memory and attention, but according to the data, how stress is perceived is key to managing it.
"Research shows if we believe stress is a helpful response that will increase our performance in a challenging event, it can be a tool that works to our advantage."
Discovering the root of your teen's fears around exams may also be beneficial advises Megan Hosking, a social worker and psychiatric intake clinician at Akeso psychiatric hospitals.
"Stress around exam time often stems not only from the work to be learned and the actual taking of the exam but also from uncertainties about the results and possible consequences thereof," she says.
Hosking gives the following tips for managing exam stress:
For more tips like these, practice papers, study guides and more, check out the Parent24 School exams hub.
Preparation is key to managing exam stress
- Allow sufficient time to prepare for the exams by starting early
- Identify which study method suits you best and stick to it
- Identify any gaps in your knowledge by going through past exam papers or practice papers
- Make time for enjoyable, physical activities like a walk outside, yoga, time in the gym, or some other form of exercise
- Plan your time to allow for much-needed breaks
- Allow adequate time for rest and relaxation in the run-up to exams.
- Make sure you know the exam times, venues, procedures and requirements, and plan so that you will arrive well before the start time.
- Check which items you are permitted to take with you into the exam room.
Tips for parents and caregivers
It can be equally distressing for parents and caregivers to see their children going through the stress associated with exams.
And Hosking says "It is well worth having open conversations with your child about coping mechanisms for when they feel stressed or anxious, and this will help the child to feel supported."
Here's how you can take the pressure off both yourself and your studying teen:
- Chat with your child about how they are feeling
- Know the common signs of stress and anxiety; this includes irritability, difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, headaches, stomach aches and other physical pains, difficulty concentrating and mood change
- Remind your teen to take breaks from studying and provide supportive advice
- Avoid putting too much emphasis on the importance of exams
Hosking says that because stress tends to be associated with a specific event, such as exams, one, can expect stress levels to reduce when the event has passed.
But if stress continues or your child feels it unmanageable when faced with tests, exams or deadlines, Hosking recommends consulting a professional, such as a psychologist, to assist with developing coping mechanisms, time management skills and building resilience."
In the event of a psychological crisis, assistance is available, here are a few numbers you can contact in case of emergencies:
Akeso Psychiatric Response Unit 24 Hour
0861 435 787
SADAG Mental Health Line
011 234 4837
Dr Reddy's Help Line
0800 21 22 23
Cipla 24hr Mental Health Helpline
0800 456 789
Pharmadynamics Police & Trauma Line
0800 20 50 26
Adcock Ingram Depression and Anxiety Helpline
0800 70 80 90
0800 55 44 33
Suicide Crisis Line
0800 567 567
Contact list sourced from the South African Depression And Anxiety Group.