Exam stress – what’s it like for our young people?

Exams place our young people under tremendous stress

Panic! That’s the feeling that fills your head when thinking about exams. Remember the big, cold halls filed with hard wooden chairs and uncomfortable desks that wobble under pressure? – Just like the person sitting on it.

Exams can be daunting, especially the important ones. GCSEs, A-Levels, and University exams dominate the minds of young students all over the world as their performance marks them for the rest of their lives. What does this do to the youth of the country?

The Countdown

About two months before an exam, the pressure is on: how much can I study? It can feel overwhelming when a course requires you to write about so much, in so little time, and with other subjects demanding your equal attention.

Imagine being accepted to Oxford after the arduous process that application entails. The extreme weight of your performance would be overbearing. Or maybe a dream apprenticeship requires those all-important Maths and English GCSE’s that you find so tough.

The young people’s mental health charity Young Minds notes that the modern student can face anxiety, depression as well as sleeping problems or eating issues. Exam pressure, or exam stress, can be serious especially if certain factors are at play.

The Aftermath

The stress arguably gets worse after the exam. The in-hindsight nit-picking of your answers and the agonisingly long wait till the results finally roll in can be a period of crippling stress. What if I’ve failed? Where will my life go now?

Until the results arrive, a young person’s life is effectively on hold. From experience, existing through a regime where you do nothing makes you feel much worse and can exacerbate other issues. During this period the young person can worry a lot, feel tense, get headaches, and lose enjoyment.

And upon arrival of those dreaded papers, for those who don’t do well, it could lower their situation from an already hindered state to a place that no one wants to be.

Speaking from personal experience, the grades demanded by the universities I applied for were incredibly high and the pressure to do well was on. Luckily everything went well, but if it hadn’t there would have been nothing left for me to do. The stress would have made me hopeless.

Media Minds Matter:

The media, especially social media, seems to exacerbate this. In the same way that a picture of a tall, toned, Photoshopped model may make you feel bad about yourself, a picture uploaded by the school of successful students holding up amazing grades can have the same effect.

The Cure?

As important a subject as any, the cultivation of a clear mind should be taught as part of fitness and physical education at schools. Meditation, as discussed in a previous article, can be used here to help as well as other measures] which can make this period a time of development instead of breaking down.

And, as another article of ours suggests, putting your phone down might help. This combination of things should build towards a solution for easing exam stress, but the government and school system needs to step up to do even more.



Booth, R. (Aug 2019).  Social media pressures ‘driving up exam stress in girls’. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/aug/21/social-media-pressures-driving-up-exam-stress-in-girls

NHS. Help your child beat exam stress. Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/coping-with-exam-stress/

The Public Purse. (Jul 2019).  Brief Meditations On Meditation: Mental Health And The Beautiful Quiet. Retrieved from https://www.thepublicpurse.org.uk/public-health/brief-meditations-on-meditation-mental-health-and-the-beautiful-quiet/

The Public Purse. (Jul 2019). Social Media – Land Of The Anxious. Retrieved from https://www.thepublicpurse.org.uk/daily-purse/social-media-land-of-the-anxious/

Young Minds. Exam Stress. Retrieved from https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/feelings-and-symptoms/exam-stress/

Young Minds. Take Time Out. Retrieved from https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/looking-after-yourself/take-time-out/