Coping with Exam stress

The Child Protection Team at Phoenix Child Welfare strives to ensure the best interest and well-being of children. With the Matric exams here and the final school exams drawing closer, we know that learners and parents are starting to feel the pressure. High expectations are placed on learners to perform to an extent that many suffer from severe stress during the examination period and this could lead to them producing poor results in the end. The combination of stress, lack of sleep and cramming of information can interfere not only with a child’s performance and final marks, but can also lead to poor health and nutrition.

If children suffer from bouts of anxiety during the examination period, then these tips could help reduce stress and improve preparation and results:

  • Manage your time Draw up a weekly timetable, including everything you need to do – such as revision, classes, eating, sleeping and relaxation.
  • Take regular breaks while studying. Allow yourself time for relaxation as it will decrease your stress levels. This is not wasting time as it will help you to work more effectively.


  • Keep hydrated by drinking cool water regularly throughout the day. Keep tea and coffee to no more than 2 cups per day. Avoid energy drinks as high caffeine intakes can leave you feeling jittery, and may lead to an ‘energy crash’ later.
  • Avoid eating large meals at one sitting as this can make you feel lethargic and sleepy.
  • Good snack choices include: raw vegetable sticks, popcorn, biltong, fresh fruit, raw nuts, yoghurt, cheese wedges, whole grain crackers with a spread.
  • Keep a positive attitude.
  • Avoid cramming in the last 2 hours before the exam.
  • Try relaxation techniques like deep breathing to calm your nerves.
  • When you receive your question paper, stay calm and read all the instructions carefully.
  • Answer the questions you are most confident of first. This will boost your confidence levels and give you the courage to attempt the more difficult questions.
  • Stay for the whole exam. Use the extra time to check your answers.
  • It is natural to worry after an exam, however it is important to remember that you were well prepared and you gave your best!

Parents can help their children by following these helpful tips:

  • Ensure that a proper study timetable is drawn.
  • Ensure that they are having regular meals, times of relaxation and emotional support.
  • Encourage them to take short breaks.
  • Give positive feedback.
  • Keep distractions to a minimum.

But, above all else, it is important to be there for your child emotionally as they go through this examination period. Talk to your child. Find out what is stressing them, what their most difficult subjects are, and let them know that, no matter what happens, you are always going to be there for them.

Children, think positively! Instead of saying, “I can’t do this”, tell yourself, “I will give it a go and try my best”. Remember, no matter what results you receive, it is not the end. There are always other options for you. Be kind to yourself, take care of your body and talk to someone if you are feeling too overwhelmed and stressed.