COPING WITH EXAM STRESS
EXAM results season is here and it can be a stressful time. Childline wants to remind people that no matter what grades they get, the future is full of possibilities.
The counsellors at Childline, a free helpline for children and teenagers, understand that exam results season can be a stressful time for many young people. Some worry about not achieving the grades needed for university or college, while others feel anxious that they will let their family down.
This year, this feeling of anxiety for many has been heightened as exams across the UK have not taken place due to the coronavirus pandemic. Between April and July 2020, Childline delivered 1,121 counselling sessions to young people who were concerned about their exam results. Of that number, 751 sessions were delivered to girls, 176 to boys, and for 194 of the sessions the gender of the child was not given.
Some of the young people in these counselling sessions spoke about how they were concerned their coursework and predicted grades would not be good enough. Others said they didn’t feel in control of their grades and some also said they were worried about their future.
One girl, aged 16 from England, who contacted Childline said: “Since the GCSE exams got cancelled I have been feeling really overwhelmed and stressed. I am so annoyed because I wish I had done more revision for my mock exams – I really messed up on some of them. I just feel like everything is pointless now and don’t really know what to do. If I don’t get decent GCSE grades then I won’t get into my school for A levels, won’t be able to go to university and won’t be able to get a job”.
GRADES DON’T DEFINE YOU
Childline wants to remind all teenagers receiving exam results this year that your grades, no matter what they are, do not define you. If you don’t get what you want, there are other options. Firstly, Childline advises you to speak with a trusted adult, such as a parent, teacher or careers advisor. Tell them how you are feeling, as they can go through the options available to you. These options may include re-sitting the exam, going to another university or college through clearing, changing to a similar course or taking a year out to go travelling or do some volunteer work. Childline also advises you to not compare yourself to your friends and take time to remind yourself of what you have done well, whether that’s your coursework, revision or other parts of your life. If you are worried about sharing your grades with your parents or carer, it is important to remember they are there to support you and help you make decisions. If you’re finding it hard to put your feelings into words, Childline suggests that you write a letter to your parents or carers, or you could practise what you want to say beforehand, or tell them while you’re with a teacher or friend.
Wendy Robinson, Service Head of Childline, said: ”We understand that teenagers can sometimes feel that their whole future will be determined by the exam results they get, but we want to reassure them that’s not the case. I encourage any young person who is worried about their results or doesn’t know what to do or who to talk to if they don’t receive the grades they want, to get in touch with Childline. Our trained counsellors are here to support you and no problem is ever too small.”
“Ever since they cancelled exams, I’ve been worrying about what my final results might be. Tonight my worrying got worse and I ended up crying and can’t sleep. I didn’t do very well in my preliminaries and I’m so worried about applying to university because I don’t think my grades will get me in. I have been trying to calm myself down for a while now but it just seems to make me even more worried. I don’t really know what to do. It’s not helping that I’m stuck inside for most of the day and I am struggling to cope.” Girl, 16, Scotland
“I am extremely anxious after hearing the news of not being able to do exams. I’m panicking about my A levels as I really want to go to university. I was just finally starting to understand my topics before we went into lockdown, so I feel robbed. I know I can always repeat the year but I would feel embarrassed to do it, even though I know there is nothing to be embarrassed about. I am starting to think I should see my GP about anxiety, as I feel I would benefit from seeing and talking to someone.” Girl, 17, Northern Ireland
“I am feeling really anxious at the moment. I am worried about what is going to happen in terms of my AS exam results. Our exam board has said we are not going to be doing exams and we will be given our AS grade based on other things we have done in school. Nobody knows what that is yet and it is so frustrating. Very little has been communicated about this and I have asked for some clarity, but none of my teachers are replying. I do understand they have a lot of pressures but all the attention seems to be going on younger pupils who don’t have exams. I try to talk to my parents, but they don’t really understand the situation. I have tried everything to relax, but nothing really distracts me from feeling anxious.” Girl, 17, Wales