The Dread of the Final Exams

Exam DreadIt’s that part of the year again, the final exams fast approach, the scariest scrap of paper, you know the one- with boxes and dates and page numbers and chapter names, is handed over to you. For a second you don’t want it. Your heart rate increases, your mood takes a nose dive and a sinking feeling in your gut suspends you in time. As your body recovers, in the next couple of minutes you hold it scanning for the gaps in the dates and especially focus on the date of the first exam and with more fervor, the date of the last one. It’s seems like a life time away.

In the next few moments you know what you have to do. This is serious business and not a moment can be lost. You go into super-mom mode, a checklist has neatly been imprinted in your mind- you are now the ‘man with a plan’.

Get kids to show books for work completion….. check (or not, give a couple of slaps, condemn the kid)

Is it corrected…… check (or not, well better make an appointment and take the teacher to task)

Hassle the tuition teacher to get her priorities right…. check

Unleash hell on the whole household- EXAMS ARE UPON THE KIDS…. check

Does this sound familiar? Yes… I thought so too. Let’s focus for just one minute and assess the situation. Let’s analyse exactly how our response is going to yield any positive results shall we?  And then let’s talk about what we can do to help our already stressed and burnt out kids with their exams in a way that is productive and not stressful.

After the discussion there is handout that you can download and keep for easy reference if you feel this post has helped you in anyway.

Create a positive mindset: A child needs to know that he or she is deserving of your love regardless of his/her grades. Lot’s of kids don’t even try because your standards are set so high that to meet them seems like an impossibility to the child and so why bother.

In addition, address your ‘comments’ in a better and more reflective way. Here is wonder picture to show you how.


Once you have won over the willingness of the child and he or she feels safe, it’s time to move on the next phase.

Focus on education over grades: Your kids need to know that their worth is not defined by grades. However, they also need to know that slacking of will lead to a grade that could have otherwise been much much better. Every kid wants an A, but not all of them will get it.

In the meantime, most books these days have very interesting material, the trick to make kids retain more information is repetition as well forming meaningful connections to daily life. You can provide all that from the comfort of your own home.

Sit down with your child and familiarize yourself with the material and then practice it everywhere. Math in the kitchen with recipes, writing about the taste of food, and even converting fractions into decimals can be made into a game. Arrange for a friend to come over, take field trips, if nothing else, then just read through the material and really talk about it. You’ll be surprised.



Identify the stress triggers: Anxiety during exams is quite common but issues are created when the exact cause is not identified. Some children are pretty good at articulating the material but can not write well or fast enough. With some children it’s the opposite. Find the weakness, ask your child to analyse what he/she can do better and then work on it. That’s the easy part, but finding the cause of stress is difficult. Some kids can’t do a test properly on an empty stomach, or a full stomach, or it could be that a child feels the need to go the bathroom. Maybe the child just dreads exams pure and simple. A simple breathing exercise (breath in, hold for four seconds, slowly exhale, hold and repeat will calm frayed nerves), a silent prayer and the knowledge that he/she will do their best is usually enough to conquer this fear.

Acknowledge Responsibility: The child is the center of the learning paradigm and everything and everyone in his or her surroundings contributes to it. You as parent, have a certain duty. It is with a great deal of sadness that I say that in my experience as a teacher, most parents do not accept this responsibility and out source it wherever possible. There is no force on earth more powerful than a motivated mother or father because of the inbuilt love for their child. A deeply dedicated teacher will do whatever she can, more so that you can ever imagine, but she has time constraints and obviously she can not top your love for your child.

The other thing is, parents usually do not take accountability from the child when he has slacked off or simply not put in half the effort he or she could have. They also resort to holding the school or teacher or tuition teacher accountable for the poor performance of their child making the child believe they are exempt from their own tardiness.

Not a good approach. You should definitely work in collaboration but never forget your own power.

Set up learning goals: Make a time-table with your child’s input and go through all the material in a pre-planned well organized way. Keep cut outs handy for difficult words and highlighters at hand to make key points stand out. Give mini-assignments and even make a small exam of your own. Keep a timer at hand to enhance time management. You child will know exactly what to expect and your dedicated input will serve as quality bonding time as well.

Give insider tips: Some things only you can tell. Your rich experiences should be propagated and handed down, I will always remember and treasure the golden nuggets of wisdom handed down by my parents. Here are few:

In a math exam always make a margin on both sides, a thicker one on the right hand side for rough work.

Leave a question your are stuck on and move on, come to that one at the end.

In comprehension passages, seek out common phrases from the passage- these are sometimes in order as well, but not always.

Here is a similar post I did last year:

Exam Time? Tips on how to Support your Child and Enable him to do Well


Anyways, you get the idea. I hope that this rather long post has been helpful, would love any feedback and little golden nuggets that you would like to share. Here’s that little handout that I promised:

exam stress busting mindset



4 thoughts on “The Dread of the Final Exams

  1. Farhana Arif

    My child gets confused or over excited during exam and he makes silly mistakes in papers which he regrets afterwards. How to overcome this problem. Though he is a good student teacher never complain abt him sometime they get shocked to see his papers.


    1. rahimajabeen Post author

      It’s all about a little practice. Depending on how old he is, give him editing tasks. For example write this sentence: there was so many books in library
      Now give him a blue, green and red marker. Ask him to correct the punctuation with blue- so he would capitalize the ‘t’ in there and put a full stop at the end of the sentence. Then ask him to detect any other grammatical mistakes like ‘was’ would become ‘were’. Any word that needs to be removed/added/moved here and there could be done with red. In this case we have to add the article ‘the’ before ‘library’.
      I think your child would do well to do some self calming meditation right before the paper. Also another trick is for you to advice your child not to continuously keep looking at the entire exam. Tell him/her to focus on the question at end.
      Self-editing is practice for ‘checking’ the paper before submitting it. Alternatively, if your child has a younger sibling, ask him/her to ‘check’ his work too.
      Like my facebook page for tonnes of tips and tricks to help young and middle school children out and encourage your friends too:

      Hope this has helped.



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