I don’t envy teenagers these days. As well as negotiating the minefield of puberty / boys / girls / which colour lip gloss to wear to the cinema on Saturday, all under the rampant spotlight of social media, they also have to face end of year exams. Ugh.
This was my absolute worst time of year as a 15, 16, 17 and 18 year old. I hated the onslaught of revision, stress of exams and endless anxiety. In fact, I still sometimes have the recurring dream that plagued me throughout those years.
In the dream, I’d be sitting in a draughty school hall on one of those rickety exam tables, with a clock loudly ticking in the background. The exam paper before me would blur into hundreds of indecipherable tiny shapes. Just as I started to write, my hand would cramp up and I’d end up poking and jabbing at the paper, my fist clamped around my pencil like a lump of iron. That was generally when I woke up.
So yeah, the build-up to exams weren’t my favourite.
In spite of this dream (or perhaps because of it) I actually rather enjoyed the exam experience once I got going. It was the pre-exam tension I hated. When my own girls are old enough to have to go through this themselves I’m going to aim to be as supportive as my own parents were with me. Here are a few things they did which really helped with my pre-exam nerves and my preparation for the relentless marathon of exams…
- Booked a private tutor
I was never a fan of Maths and I begged my parents to book me in for a weekly session of private tuition just before I took my GCSEs. This session really helped me as the one-on-one setting gave me the confidence to ask questions I didn’t always feel able to in a classroom environment. Companies like Fleet Tutors offer help with all sorts of different types of exams, across all ages and subject areas. For me, I really believe my Maths tutor was the difference between me getting a B and, therefore, never having to take Maths ever again!
- Tested, tested and tested again
Revision can be a lonely old business, so my parents (who were both teachers) used to regularly test me and discuss possible essay questions with me, so I wasn’t doing it all on my own. I can still remember my mum sitting on the end of my bed reading through flashcards that I’d written and meticulously highlighted in a variety of colours.
- Make endless cups of tea
As well as being lonely, revision is also a thirsty business. As a teenager, my bedroom was in a loft conversion, at the top of a four story (not counting the basement) townhouse in Bristol. My poor parents would trudge up and down that long flight of stairs during the evenings and weekends, bringing cups of tea and treats up to my room, making sure I took regular breaks in between all that revision.
- Told me not to sweat it
It’s still my mum’s favourite mantra now, and one which I’ve taken on myself and regularly use with my own kids: “All you can do is your best”. This is the phrase I took into each and every exam and still take with me in everything I do today. Try your hardest, do your best, and that’s all you can do. If it doesn’t work out then such is life, etc etc. For a person prone to anxiety and being extremely hard on themselves, I find this idea incredibly comforting.
Are you a parent of a teen? Perhaps you can remember how your own parents helped you as a teenager doing end of year exams? Have you got any tips to share?
Thanks to Fleet Tutors for working with me on this post. For more information about how I work with brands and companies, check out my Work With Me page.