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5 tips to help your child manage test anxiety

tips to manage test anxiety.

For many of us, school exams are the first events in life where we experience test anxiety (also referred to as performance anxiety).

It's natural to feel some level of stress and feeling nervous isn't always a bad thing (adrenaline can aid test performance!), but it's easy for school children to become overwhelmed and develop symptoms of anxiety.

Physical symptoms of test anxiety

  • Rapid heartbeat and rapid breathing

  • Excessive sweating

  • Dry mouth

  • Panic attacks

  • Lightheadedness and feeling faint

  • Headache

  • Nausea

Cognitive symptoms of test anxiety

  • Difficulty concentrating (lack of focus)

  • Difficulty memorising information

  • Negative thoughts and self-talk (self-doubt)

  • Negative comparison with other students

  • Racing thoughts

Emotional symptoms of test anxiety

  • Low self-worth/low self-esteem

  • Angry outbursts

  • Tearfulness

  • Hopelessness

  • Depression

If your child is experiencing test anxiety, read our five tips for stress management. Help your child focus and feel calm, confident and well-prepared for their next exam.

Learn and practise together

Preparing for exams can be an isolating experience, but research shows that children whose parents are involved in their schoolwork reap benefits such as improved well-being and better academic performance.

Meanwhile, learning exam content together and working on test-taking strategies is an opportunity for you to bond with your child in a shared activity while demonstrating that parents don’t know everything (which is perfectly okay!).

Establish the right environment

“Tidy desk, tidy mind”. We’ve all heard it - for a reason. Revising for exams involves absorbing lots of information and too many external stimuli can cause difficulty concentrating. Help your child set up the right environment by establishing a dedicated study space free from distraction.

Consider somewhere with plenty of natural light, far away from TV screens and ‘out of bounds’ for noisy siblings.

Reinforce healthy routines

Whether your child is sporty or not, there’s no denying that exercise has a hugely positive impact on brain health - notably by aiding memory. Ensure your child gets daily activity, such as walking, cycling, dancing or playing team sports, to sharpen their brain and alleviate stress while improving physical health. Implementing a well-balanced diet to boost energy also helps.

A good night's sleep is underrated when it comes to reducing test anxiety and setting a firm bedtime can improve concentration. Ensure your child is getting enough sleep for their age. Research shows that children aged between 6 and 12 should be sleeping for nine to twelve hours a night, while teenagers need at least eight hours.

Try calming strategies

While some children are blessed with natural confidence, others may find themselves overcome with panic in the exam room. Teach your child techniques for deep breathing, such as Box Breathing, to help them manage the physical symptoms of test anxiety.

It may also be worth helping your child develop a strategy for difficult questions, such as marking the question to return to later.

Maintain perspective

We all want our children to succeed, but too many young people worry about disappointing their parents and develop a fear of failure.

Children don’t yet have the ability to maintain perspective, so make sure to remind your child that not performing as expected is not the end of the world. Don't add to your child's stress – stay calm and reassure your child that trying their best is the most you ask.

Kids' guide to test anxiety

For more ideas, take a look at coping with test anxiety for kids. We've designed this guide so you can share it with your child.

Or download and share the infographic below:

5 tips for managing test anxiety infographic

Atom Learning can help

Familiarisation with the style and format of test questions can help reduce your child's stress level in the exam.

Atom Learning has unlimited practice materials that mirror the style and format of all Key Stage 2 exams. We also have over 90,000 teacher-written questions, fun Live Lessons and help tutorials.

Start your 5-day free trial of Atom Nucleus today to help your child overcome test anxiety and prepare for their first school exams.

Free parent webinar

Watch Atom's free parent webinar on supporting your child through exam season. You'll learn strategies for taking a positive approach to exam prep and ensuring your child does not feel overwhelmed during this period.

Supporting your child through exam season



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