The Thistle - An E-Newsletter of Scotch College, Perth, Western Australia

Managing Examination Stress 

With examinations fast approaching for our Year 11 and 12 boys, I thought it would be timely to write about ways in which we as parents, can assist our sons through this challenging, stressful but important period. It would be wonderful to reduce their stress by simply suggesting that examinations don’t matter in the scheme of life but, to be fair, this would be diminishing what has likely been a great deal of work to get them to this point. For those boys who are studying the International Baccalaureate, some examinations carry an 80% weighting toward their final grade, representing two years of work. For WACE students, the external examinations are used to moderate their school assessments and contribute 50% towards their final course score. In both cases, examination performance is very important and likely  symbolises  the concept of finishing strong. Most boys have a desire to do well, not only for themselves, but for all those who have been involved in their education to this point; parents, teachers, grandparents, peers, it seems everyone is watching this journey. As such, we know it is not often the workload of the examination period that is most stressful, it is the perception of its importance that causes them to worry.   

Since we can’t devalue the significance of this experience, how do we instead help our sons to manage these emotions? Like any stress, there are some obvious  go to  strategies that help support our mental health. Namely, eating, sleeping and exercising. We have all read about the numerous benefits of holding a routine during stressful periods that includes these important elements, however, when we feel we have greater priorities, it is often the simple but influential measures that go by the wayside. Speaking with your son about maintaining a healthy routine throughout this period is critically important. Discussing this routine with him will be one way to monitor his stress levels and provide opportunities to remind him that the most effective study will occur when he feels calm, positive and in control. The late-night revising, the four hours of back-to-back study without a break or the fast food that made him feel better for the next 30 minutes, may feel right at the time but are in fact decreasing his effectiveness.  

So, what about the more specific strategies, those that hold high relevance during the examination period? One of the most effective ways to reduce stress is to have a realistic plan to follow. Working towards small, measurable goals which can be achieved and rewarded at regular intervals can have a very powerful impact on motivation and keep those engaged with study on track. By having a plan, you don’t need to second guess the pathway to success, you simply need to follow it one step at a time. No doubt the preparation, resources and support he has been provided to date, combined with his hard work will pay dividends. Therefore, reminding him to trust in this process that so many before him have walked, placing one foot in front of the other, will make this journey seem a lot less daunting. We wish our Year 11 and 12 students every success.