A positive approach to exams

A positive approach to exams


homework-boy-sq.jpgAs we move into exam season, it is not just the teenagers who struggle with exam stress. SATs, 11+, children are being exposed to exam pressures at a younger age and the experiences they have now, will influence their approach to exams in the future. Here are some tips in how to approach exams that will help your children perform to their best.


This is a 'technical term' for looking at something from a different perspective. For example, with SATs, reposition it as a test of how the school is performing rather than a direct measure of their individual intelligence. You can encourage your child to, 'Do the best they can because it will help their teacher look good' as a form of motivation, however deflect from the measurement of their own result.

Similarly with the 11+, rather than seeing it as a pass/fail, position it as a test of whether the Grammar School learning style suits them. Using analogies such as, 'The grammar schools are like square holes so the 11+ is to see if you are a square peg and will fit there comfortably. If it shows you are more like a round peg then we find a school that is like a round hole'.


This is a particularly good technique for 11+. Telling children that by taking the test then they will have the choice of €˜5' schools (for example) or if they don't do it they can choose from 4 schools. This confident-kid-300-x-300(1).jpgcan act as a very positive motivator as most children will prefer to have the optimal choice and it creates a personal motivation to perform for their own benefit.

Avoid attaching reward to success

Whilst some children are motivated by rewards to do regular activities - such as tidying their room - the risk of not performing (ie failure) in these tasks are minimal. When it comes to exams, the perception of failure is more acute and thus the promise of a reward can add to the risk attached to failure. Smaller rewards attached to effort are more effective. For example, rewarding a period of study, or concentration hard on a paper with a treat will link reward to effort rather than success. After the exam take the child out for a treat as a reward for having taken the exam, but avoid withdrawing rewards for failure.

Manage your own emotions

Younger children have few references to exams and will be looking to their adult role models to guide them in how to react. How you are €˜dealing' with the exam will influence them on how exams should be approached. So, if you are stressed or anxious, they will pick up on this and they will start to link being anxious to exams. Most children will have experienced times tables tests or spellings tests and will have seen you being relaxed around these as 'school as normal'. Aim to do the same around these other tests. These techniques b9ef6174fa0a71a833529f830a01e579.pngcan be applied to other exams too: Dance, music, sports competitions€¦.key is to reward effort, and avoid attaching high risk to failure - they have many exams ahead of them and so help them to look at what they can do differently if they want a different result.

If you have a child that is struggling with anxiety, or perhaps aware that your own anxieties are affecting your life, then please get in touch with Caroline. Help can be provided online, face to face or via my book, Anxiety Alchemy (available on Amazon here

Tel: 01980 862725 / 07825 912502 Email: Caroline@anxietyalchemy.co.uk

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Caroline Cavanagh

Caroline Cavanagh

As a clinical hypnotherapist, Caroline has been helping people make changes to their lives for years but then one client made a huge difference. A 14 year old girl with extreme anxiety was leading a very inhibited life and the future was very poor. However, the changes she made through their work together lead to her not just resuming life as a normal teenager but soaring! It was not just the changes she achieved, but the skills she had that she can use for the rest of her life that led Caroline to want to give other teenagers the same insights into how their minds work. She is now working in secondary schools and developing programmes specifically for teenagers.

Caroline published her first book, Anxiety Alchemy in 2016 and was awarded National Consultant of the Year 2016 by the APCTC, a body of over 35000 members. She lives and works just outside Salisbury.

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