Exam Stress

In the UK more than 700,000 teenagers take GCSE exams each year alone. According to ReachOut exam stress is increasing, young people aged 14-25 experiencing stress increased from 51% in 2017 to 65% in 2018. More and more young people are seeking help for their mental health.

Here are some examples of how exam and coursework stress can affect young people:

  • depression
  • fear of failure
  • insomnia
  • self-harm
  • effects of social life
  • dread
  • hopelessness
  • suicide

There is a lot of pressure on young people to do well in their exams. Our society tells them that if they are to be successful, they will need to pass their exams. With many young people looking to move into further education in Sixth form and Universities, with their own requirements on what grades the students would need to achieve.

We also have a primitive stress response called the “Fight-or-Flight” response. Hardwired into our brains over millions of years of evolution to respond to threats in our environment by either fight or running away. Triggering an increased heart rate and breathing, rush of blood to arms and legs, shutting down the digestive system and a feeling of being on high alert. Your mind may race and struggle to calm down.

Young people are still designed to have these responses and sense danger. However their environment around them has totally changed and what young people perceive as danger (i.e. exam failure) still creates the same responses they’d get if a lion attacked them.



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