Manage Atar Exam Anxiety

Manage Atar Exam Anxiety

How to help your child manage final year ATAR exam anxiety and achieve their potential

With the all-important final year exams having now started in some parts of the country, past studies show that final mark anxiety is very real for Year 11 and 12 students. Leading education expert Dr Selina Samuels from online tutoring company Cluey Learning says it's understandable students will feel some anxiety prior to their final exams.


"A little bit of nervousness is not necessarily a bad thing," she says. "However, long term or excessive anxiety can be debilitating and counter productive. This is when students cannot focus on anything other than the looming assessment or exam and find it difficult to take any pleasure from the things they usually enjoy.


"Fortunately, there are various strategies that will help your child cope at this stage and strive towards getting the best possible results."


Here Dr Samuels shares her top tips for parents to keep motivation high and nerves under control.


Work with friends


A useful way for students to manage their time, particularly in the lead up to the final exams, is to divide and conquer. I always tell my students that they shouldn't see their classmates as competitors but instead as allies. The main game is competing with other schools rather than competing with one another. Students should want everyone in their school – and especially those who are ranked above them – to do as well as possible in the final exams. Encourage your child to share notes and work together as a team with others to gain valuable insights.


Make the most of revision by practising

Many senior students believe revision means dragging their eyes over the same notes that they have seen many times. However, this is a huge waste of time. It is much better for students to apply what they have learnt and discover what they don't yet know by doing past papers, writing practice essays and tackling difficult questions. That way, they spend your time learning the concepts they'll need whilst also honing exam techniques.

Consider reaching out to an expert


At Cluey, we work with many students in the weeks before their final exams and find that they routinely make considerable progress. Often, students enter the final stretch of study with lingering questions or gaps in their understanding, and they either feel too embarrassed to raise these in class, or their time at school is over and they have no way to address the problem.  


A tutor who has experience with the same exams and who has the relevant curriculum and materials at their fingertips, as they do at Cluey, can answer those questions and fill gaps in student knowledge. The final period of revision can also feel very lonely and we find that Cluey tutors can act as valuable learning partners to take the uncertainty out of revision, provide knowledgeable and targeted feedback and help students maintain a level of motivation and enthusiasm that can otherwise be hard to find.


Keep anxiety to a minimum by encouraging routines. 


It is important to maintain a consistent routine, whether or not students are studying for exams. That means they should go to bed and get up at the same time every day (and that means seven-nine hours each night!), continue to exercise and play sport, eat regular meals and maintain their social life. Maintaining the usual rhythm of life helps to remind kids that life goes on, even when there are exams.


Encourage meditation


This can be a really valuable practice to help address the physical manifestations of anxiety and can be as simple as just sitting still for two minutes and paying attention to breathing. It is very important to remember that there is no "right way" to meditate and that every little bit counts. Sometimes the process of finding a moment of stillness when you are feeling anxious reminds you that you are actually in control of your life and your responses, which is very empowering. If students feel that their anxiety is outside their control, encourage them to speak to you as a parent, teachers or their GP.


Align with teachers


Parents often feel powerless to help their child going through the stress of exams, but there are a couple of simple strategies that can make a huge difference and also bring parents and their children closer together. I always recommend parents align themselves as much as possible with their child's teachers. Now is not the time to disagree or disapprove of their marking system; working together helps students feel supported.  


Seek out feedback


Key to the success of that strategy is meaningful feedback and guidance. At Cluey, we are often contacted by parents who recognise that their child needs regular targeted feedback, and that the teachers at school simply do not have the bandwidth to provide the level of support required. A tutor can be a vital learning partner in that situation and far more successful than a parent struggling to understand an unfamiliar curriculum and recall information that you last encountered decades ago!


Have calm conversions

Finally, it is important for you to check in regularly with your child – even if they are technically adults – and find time for calm conversation. Sometimes the simplest things, such as bringing them a cup of tea and a piece of chocolate when they are studying, can open the lines of communication and give kids the room to tell you how they are feeling and ask for help when they need it.



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