Exams are a challenging part of school life for children, young people, teachers and parents.  They cause stress and anxiety which impact on learning and memory.  But there are ways to help ease the pain of exams , aid learning, boost memory and help revision.

Here’s our quick and easy exam survival guide for schools, parents and pupils:

Eat well:
Having a good, well-balanced diet is vital for mental and physical health and can help children feel positive and alert. Foods that release energy slowly such as brown rice and wholemeal pasta will keep kids alert for longer and stave off distracting hunger pangs. 

Some foods even help boost brain power such as blueberries, nuts, sunflowers seeds and blackberries which have all been found to improve brain cell activity.  Bananas are a good source of potassium which helps regulate oxygen levels and promotes strong signals between cells; important for calming nerves.

Sleep well:
A good night’s sleep will improve thinking and concentration. Most teenagers need between eight and ten hours' sleep a night. Reading is great before bedtime, but make sure children read something that engages their imagination. Cramming textbooks before bed is usually a bad idea as it can cause anxiety. TV or computers can be a distraction, while a bath half an hour before bed can help relaxation.  Encouraging positive sleeping habits and bedtime patterns is healthy for everyone. A calming routine before bed will encourage a restful night’s sleep and a rested brain, which improves memory and ability to recall information easily.  

Get moving:
Being active and having regular exercise boosts energy levels, clears the mind and relieves stress. Walking, cycling, swimming, football and dancing are all good forms of exercise.  Dancing is great as music is a stress reliever too.

A good dance raises endorphin and dopamine levels in the body and the brain.  These neurochemicals are essential for learning, so maybe before a revision class, use music and have a boogie to energise and warm up your pupils!

Think well:
Being positive about an event and thinking positively can be an excellent way to combat nerves.  Giving yourself time to think through an event and using your imagination to think about it in the best possible way is a good coping mechanism.  This is called cognitive visualisation and should be coupled with positive language. 

For example instead of saying -

The exams will be difficult but if you try your hardest, that’s okay, you could say

The up and coming tests will be a challenge, but you can do it and if you revise well and believe you can, you have the ability to pass. 

The two sentences mean the same thing but one focuses on a positive outcome.  Getting young people and children to think and talk like this and leading by example is a great way to encourage positive thinking before exams.