Exam Angst- A Parent’s Perspective.

Feeling stressed about impending GCSEs ? Sweating over grades and wondering how you will ever calm down? And you’re not even sitting any exams…

Sales of protractors and see-through pencil cases are no doubt on the up, as is my blood pressure, because this year my precious first born is venturing out into the world of public examinations.

We are midway through the exam season and as my teen seemingly takes it all in his stride, I am left floundering and anxious, habitually biting my nails and staring worriedly into the middle distance

A month ago, I vowed not to get caught up in the anxiety and hand-wringing related to revising and exam preparation. Alas, all my promises are broken.

It’s the powerlessness that creates this feeling of panic; it’s so difficult letting your fledgling fly from the nest, free to make mistakes.  Of course, there have been other firsts, from the first tooth to the first shave, but this somehow is the most serious and scary. He’s nearly an adult, but each time I drop him off at school he seems to shrink to the size of a three-year old.

As I drive away, I am compelled to call out to him about reading the paper through first and checking his answers thoroughly. He humours me with a wave of the hand as he disappears from view, free from the shackles of parental angst.

The harsh truth of exams is that every child is truly on their own once they set foot in the exam hall and no amount of input from me will make any difference at all.

The urge to meddle and interfere is strong, but it has to be resisted. It’s a tough realisation to accept but perhaps I should take heed of the few lessons that I have learned recently about exams and teenagers.  How do you fare on the following points?

Mother doesn’t always know best  (10 marks)

How true this is. My son and I rarely fight, but boy have we over the last few weeks. I just can’t stop telling him what to do.  If you have a child who methodically approaches their revision, my advice would be to leave them to it. I have a son like this and yet I have been unable to resist asking leading questions, flicking through his notebooks, or angrily looking at the clock with pursed lips.  What I should have been doing is quietly letting him get on with it and allowing him to do it his way.

Exams are different these days  (5 marks)

Again this is true. Back in 1987 when I sat my O levels, cramming seemed the only way to handle revision. Intense blasts of English followed by glaciation was  the way I tackled the piles of books.  Perhaps I wasn’t methodical enough, (see above), or maybe there was far more subject matter to get through. Whichever is true, my son has had controlled assessments, some coursework and so many practice papers he must be more prepared than I ever was.
Different people revise in different ways  (5 marks)

Back in 1987, my walls weren’t only covered in pictures of Duran Duran, but Post-it notes and pieces of brightly coloured paper. The words of Lady Macbeth leapt out at me as I turned out the bedroom light and spider diagrams were pinned to my headboard.  I worked on the premise that repeatedly seeing something would lodge it in my memory. I have not seen a single Post-it note come over the threshold and spider diagrams seem in short supply, but I’m sure that, holed up in the dining room, my son is getting on with something.
However, don’t be fooled (2 marks)

Just because a child is positioned in the designated revision zone, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are actually revising. What’s that in their hand? Be it a tablet or phone, they’re probably talking to someone and not actually concentrating, which leads me to my next point.
Shorter bursts of meaningful revision are better than marathons (2 marks)

Quality is better than quantity and there’s nothing wrong with a bit of down time if they tell you they are making progress.


Aside from these  pearls of wisdom, my other newly realised truths are as follows, for (50 marks): Bribes can be useful, especially if a child is struggling with motivation. Don’t nag. It’s totally counterproductive and may make a child stop revising. Also, don’t be surprised if your child refuses your kind offer of testing them.
Try to remain cheerful and optimistic, even if you don’t feel it; a negative attitude can quickly rub off on your busily revising student.
Lastly, make sure that they know that whatever happens – if something goes wrong – there are always ways of resitting and trying again. At this highly pressured time our teens need to know this more than anything else.
However, my favourite method of demystifying exams – and alleviating a bit of the pressure – is confessing that I didn’t get an A grade in a single subject, which always makes my son feel better. Now where’s that lucky gonk I kept for posterity?


This article was first published by The Telegraph, to see the original follow the link below: