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Children would have us believe that examinations are a torrid, medieval practice set forth by teachers for no other reason than to torture them. As adults we know that this just isn’t true. Exams and the word itself can quickly attribute negative connotations for most children. It may stem from a negative experience, a general dislike or the expectations put on them by their Teachers, their parents or even themselves. Examinations are an essential part of learning and love them or not they are essential for assessing a student’s understanding of a given subject area, topic or skill.

Exam Nerves – What to Look For

Exam nerves can set in quite early for some students. Simply knowing an exam will be the culmination of a term of work is enough to get them worked up and uneasy. For others, the nerves may not set in until the day of the exam. It is a sliding scale of emotions and knowing what to look for can help your child face their fears and ensure they get their best possible result.


Symptom: Some begin to switch off from the beginning, fearing that the act of practicing and trying will simply result in them failing. You may catch them throwing out important documents or hand-outs to claim they never got them and therefore aren’t prepared to sit the exam.

Cure: Liaise with the class teacher and swap emails to get a copy of all of the class handouts. Use homework time to work on this material with them and make them feel confident with it.

Shutting Down

Symptom: Shutting down in class or at home when it comes to homework or preparation work for an exam. They might lie or shy away from showing you their class work so you are confused about where the class is up to.

Cure: Be a part of their learning. Ask them on a regular basis about how they are coping. Encourage them to show you what they are working on in class. If your child is feeling particularly anxious you could seek a tutor to assist them with particular areas of concern.

Missing School

Symptom: Missing school on days when they have the subject they feel most nervous about.

Cure: Keep the lines of communication open with them. Having an assessment calendar or a timetable of their classes on the fridge will help you stay in the loop and also prompt the two of you to converse about how school and particular subjects are progressing.


Symptom: Anxious behaviour leading up to an exam even if your child has been preparing themselves properly. Your child may have taken the time to review, study and request additional help but they may suffer a more emotional or nervous response. This could include sleepless nights, decreased eating habits, a more melancholy outlook, or withdrawal from friends or yourself.

Cure: Let them know that you care. Talk to them about their studies and offer assistance if and when needed. Offer to give them relaxation breaks such as a walk or a treat or a short TV break. Give them encouragement and let them know that the most important thing is to just try their best.