5 Tips to Help Teens Deal with Uncertainty at Exam Time

As exam season rolls around again, for the second year in a row, things will be very different for students. GCSE and A-Levels will not be assessed by exams as they normally would be due to the pandemic. It is down to schools and their teachers to assess these students, providing evidence to support their grades.

For the students, even if they are thrilled not to be taking exams, it is still likely to be causing some anxiety. Here are my top tips to help you and your child prepare for “exam season”:

  1. Organise their time
  2. Plan and prepare
  3. Make time to recharge
  4. Identify what is and isn’t in their control
  5. Validate their feeling

Help them organise their time

It is likely that your child will be having some kind of assessment over the next few weeks when returning to school. The teachers will also have probably made clear which topics they need to prepare to be tested on. I know that the past few months have meant that school has been disrupted and maybe your child feels that they have missed out on important teaching. So please help them organise their time to revise and to identify where they may need additional help. Once they have identified the areas where their knowledge is a little hazy, they can reach out to school, friends, family or online. Time will allow them to be as prepared as possible.

Plan and prepare

The concept of preparation takes me to my next point, and this is to plan and prepare. Introverts like to be prepared and your child can use this to their advantage right now. Having a study plan and clear list of objectives will make it much easier to know where to focus their energy. Make sure they also include time to rest, recharge and have fun as well as the hard work.

Knowing that there is downtime and not just wall-to-wall study will hopefully help to motivate them to get the studying done so they can then relax.

Your teenager will know how they study most effectively, so ensure that preparation allows them to do their best. Do they work better in short chunks of time on one particular topic and then switch it up? Maybe they prefer to go deep and really concentrate on one subject at a time. Do they find it easier to learn by reading, writing, listening, watching or a mix? Help them to remember what works best for them.

Also remind them that everything will be easier with enough sleep both while preparing for and sitting their assessments. I know teenagers are often unhappy about set bedtimes, which is understandable; their brains actively encourage them to be night owls at this time. But finding a balance is important.

One of the best tips is to remove any form of digital distraction from their bedroom and stay away from screens for an hour before bed. It would also really help if you could model the same behaviour!

Make time to recharge

Introverts are drained by social interaction, even when they’re having fun. Now it is particularly important that your teenager is firing on all cylinders. This means not just prioritising time to work and sleep, but also to recharge their introvert batteries.

This may be spending time alone resting, reading, playing games, listening to music or going for a walk. They know what will work for them. Encourage them to prioritise time to look after themselves. This will help your child be able to create boundaries to protect their energy and their needs, which is a hugely important life skill.  Even if they don’t right now, they will (probably!) thank you for it later.

Identify what is and isn’t in your control

Being able to distinguish between what is and isn’t in their control is key to help your child deal with the anxiety that uncertainty can cause. Once they can identify which elements are in the control pile and the out-of-control pile, your child can focus their energies and efforts on where they can make a difference.

For example, In their control: how much work they can do for their assessments. Out of their control: government policies on this year’s exams.

Validate their feelings

Remind your child that it is understandable to feel anxious or unsettled around exam time. This will help to validate their experience and remind them they are not alone. Allowing your child to experience their feelings and not try to bury them will also help them build resilience and self-awareness.

It can be hard to feel your emotions all the time, but your child will learn that they are like waves that they can surf – and then the wave will ebb and flow away. Help them to focus on the positive and not just the negative. However, a quick tip, please avoid toxic positivity where only the positive is allowed and any other experience is pushed away. Life is not all positive and being a realistic optimist is far more healthy way to approach life.

I hope that your children have a good experience of the upcoming assessments and that they are able find ways to manage any anxiety and stress. Good luck to them all!