Summer term might bring us closer to the Summer holidays, but they also mean exams for most kids. Tests, mocks, practicals, GCSEs and A levels. It’s not the way most of us would choose to spend the warmer days, and for some students this time is one of heightened anxiety. It’s natural to be concerned about exams, that shows you care about how you do, but anxiety isn’t healthy for anyone.
The worries around exams represent more than simply whether you pass or fail. Issues around exams include procrastination – not being able to get started on studying and revision; perfection – it’s not ‘good enough’; not disappointing parents and teachers, as well as yourself; and the future – ‘If I don’t get a good mark, I will ruin my future’.
And of course the irony is that worrying can have an impact on just how you do. So gaining some perspective around exams can be the first step to improving your performance.
As a parent of a teenager about to take exams, it’s also useful to reflect on your values around exams and success. We might say ‘Exams aren’t the be all and end all in life’, but we really don’t want our kids to fail, do we? And they know we don’t.
So there’s the catch – to believe in our children’s aspirations and abilities without having our foot jammed hard on the pressure pedal.
There is a lot of help around for exam revision (like BBC Bitesize) and Bounceability pulls this advice together. But a first Bounceability step is to think about your attitude to exams and their role in life. It’s very easy to combine a fear of the future, a perfectionist trait and a competitive streak and you have a perfect storm – anxiety, reduced sleep and a weaker immune system. No wonder we need holidays to recover – but then we worry about the results in August.
So the concepts of ‘Good enough’ and Plan B are important. Even if you could define Perfection, would you know when you’ve reached it? And what does ‘Doing my Best’ look like?
In Bounceability we say have your dreams and aspirations, aim high, but be aware that failure and disappointments will happen along the way. Failing an exam really won’t be the end of the world even if it means you don’t get on to that cherished course. Tons of successful people didn’t do well in exams, opportunity is often something you make yourself. Be flexible and once you have got over the disappointment ask yourself ‘What can I do from here?’
And if you are a parent, know your child. How much encouragement and monitoring of revision do they need; or are they becoming anxious? Tell them you love them and are proud of them whatever they do in their exams. The last thing you would want to overhear is your child saying, ‘I know I’m a disappointment to my parents’.