Advice about exam anxiety for 16 year old pupil

(17 Posts)
Cathpot Fri 08-Mar-13 22:33:03

Hi, spent about alf an hour this morning calming down a distraught pupil at school who had just got a disappointing exam result. She is top set and is doing well but puts huge pressure on herself and gets very anxious in exams to the point it affects her performances. In science for instance she gets an A* for coursework but modules are all over the place from B to D.

I can arrange a quiet room for her for summer exams and I am going to work in some one on one sessions to boost her confidence answering the longer questions but I also spoke to her about trying to address the anxiety attacks she is getting during the exams themselves.

I have limited experience here so any suggestions of where to start looking for help for her- books? Breathing techniques? GP? Her mum was there as well this morning and said that they are a generally very anxious family, in fact her older sibling had to be home schooled for the end of year 11.

I really felt for them both this morning, any ideas would be really helpful

happygardening Fri 08-Mar-13 22:59:25

CBT is the answer does your school have a counsellor does she offer it? If not she is unlikely to meet the criteria for CAMHS ref but some GP practices have counsellors attached and they might offer it or sadly the other way is for the child's parents to find one and pay and it's not cheap and paediatric CBT counsellors are not that easy to find. I do know of a fantastic one who does a lot of CBT for children with school/exam related anxiety and other issues but most likely not in your area.

sashh Sat 09-Mar-13 07:18:24

Visualisation can work if she will do it.

You start at the end, so she has to imagine how she will feel when she gets that grade she has worked so hard for, 10 mins just before bed. Any thoughts of failure - push them away - she is concentrating on receiving the result.

Do this for a week and then you go back to after she has taken the exam and the positive feelings she gets from knowing she has done as well as possible.

Keep going back gradually so that eventually she is feeling confident in the exam room.

GetMeOut Sat 09-Mar-13 09:25:34

There is an interesting article in the Times today ( Sat) unfortunately I can't add the link as it is behind the firewall , but would suggest that it is well worth the cover price (£1.50) to get get hold of a hard copy. It references a lot of additional reading resources as well.

hardboiled Sat 09-Mar-13 14:11:58

Maybe worth having a talk with the mother too and get her to work on her own anxieties. If she is an anxious type herself as she admits to be, that's not going to help the children and may explain a lot of the stress... We transmit so many of our worries to them, they just get it all even when we think we are very good at pretending. Children are antennas, constantly switched on.

Kez100 Sat 09-Mar-13 19:26:37

My son has suffered from bursts of stress since year 6 (now year 10) due to his dyslexia. I have asked him what coping techniques he finds useful.

He says he goes into a smaller room for exams and says that helps a lot. His main stress comes from the fact exams are under time pressure and, although no one can change that for exams, by being in a room with fewer students it is more like a normal class. The admin is done quicker and while it is formal, it appears less formal because there are fewer papers being handed out. In this room they are not allowed to leave if they finish early. He doesn't know if that is a rule for the big room too but he says it means he isn't distracted by others moving and making him 'feel slow' - which he is, he writes and reads very, very slowly.

When he gets stress he holds the side of his chair and squeezes really hard until his whole body is tight and then he lets go, while breathing out, to try and let the stress go. This sometimes works.

He thinks there may be a exam allowance for some people where they can stop and start exams, so long as it is administered properly and they qualify. It may mean she needs her own room. He doesn't get this arrangement and so he doesn't really know what the system actually is but you might want to ask your school exam access arrangements specialist to see if there is something like this available.

He then said that he had real problems with the long science questions. He got E grades in his mocks because he couldn't answer them at all. He borrowed a friends A* mock paper and read her answers - she got 4/6 and 5/6 for most and he said that really helped him answer the long questions in the real exams - he has just got his results this week and got 2 x B grades. So, he recommends looking at exemplar answers for these questions.

He did the online BBC bitesizes as revision.

He didn't do past exam papers because he struggles writing and really didn't want to, but he thinks for someone who doesn't find writing a problem - get her to do lots and lots of them so that when she goes into the exam she feels really well prepared.

schoolnurse Sun 10-Mar-13 08:48:47

I second CBT I work with quite a few children who have high levels of anxierty in many different situations we have an on site CBT trained counsellor and in the vast majority of cases CBT has had an astonishing effect.

Mrsrobertduvall Sun 10-Mar-13 11:12:09

This could be about my own dd...she has huge anxiety, OCD.
We have had cbt but it has not really helped. She had a massive meltdown before a maths paper a couple of weeks ago, and subsequently spent the first half hour like a rabbit caught in headlights.
She has great support from school, does exams in separate room but still goes to pieces.
Have put her on rescue remedy and am talking with the dr next week?

Horrible for her...she is on course for Bs and Cs (with hopefully one A) but maths has November retake written all over it.

Cathpot Sun 10-Mar-13 12:55:18

Thankyou so much for all the replies, I will look through them carefully and make a plan. I will call her mum this week and have a longer chat. It was really distressing watching her in such a state I can't imagine what it's like for her mum. She talked about getting in a panic about the longer questions and we discussed things like scribbling down all the bits she is worried about forgetting at the start before she even looks at the questions so she knows they are 'safe' . I will also talk about answering the long questions first- she worries about time slipping away, we will go through how to answer these in class anyway but i think extra one to one will help her confidence. The cbt is something I am sure would help, I will see what's available locally.

Kez100 Sun 10-Mar-13 15:32:07

Cathpot - would you like me to ask my son to say exactly how he got over the being unable to even attempt the 6 mark questions in the mock to feeling comfortable with them in the real thing?

Cathpot Sun 10-Mar-13 21:18:18

Yes please kaz100

Kez100 Mon 11-Mar-13 20:10:35

Just asked him.

He recommends getting lots of past six mark questions and either exemplar A* answers or the official mark scheme.

Get her to read the question and then the answer/mark scheme to that question three times. Then draw lines linking the bit of the question to the bit of the answer/mark scheme which relates.

He did this and only had five questions with answers to analyse but it gave him confidence to know how to structure an answer.

The above assumes she knows the science and just needs exam technique help. If it turns out she needs to also revise the science, then, for that, he used Letts revision books and BBC bitesize for his particular exam board and paper type.

He wishes her well. He says for him (with literacy issues) the questions used to seem like 'demons' to him. He hopes she can find confidence in answering them and says well done on the A* coursework.

suebfg Mon 11-Mar-13 20:14:11

Not sure if this has already been posted but Bach Flower Rescue Remedy is very good for anxiety.

Cathpot Mon 11-Mar-13 22:44:49

Hi kaz100, please thank your son for his advice, i appreciate him taking the time to think about ways to help her. I am going to set up a weekly sit down with her to go through things and talk to her mum about cbt. I had a quick email chat with her today and to be honest just the fact we are making a plan is helping her feel better. I will mention rescue remedy but I have a feeling she's tried it already.

timidviper Mon 11-Mar-13 22:51:59

Cathpot My DD was extremely anxious in exams and we were struggling to calm her when a friend who is into homeopathy told her to put a particular homeopathic tablet into her water bottle and sip it whenever she felt the anxiety building. It was probably a placebo effect but it made a huge difference to her and, with each exam she survived witout panic, it got easier.

timidviper Mon 11-Mar-13 22:53:38

Sorry I should clarify I'm not advocating that you slip her any kind of remedy but am just saying that it is sometimes helpful to think of other options

Cathpot Thu 14-Mar-13 19:38:39

you made me laugh! I will suggest it- placebo is fine if it helps. I spoke to her mum who is looking into cbt and we are meeting to make a plan for the exam tomorrow. Thanks for all the useful suggestions

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