The Stress of GCSE Exams

The Stress of GCSE Exams


Mummy says… I could be considered a bit of an expert on GCSE Exams – not because of my own, but because I have just got through the fourth result day in my family in the last six years! I want to share with you some of the stress of GCSE Exams.

The Stress of GCSE Exams

My teen son has just picked up his first set of GCSE results – he is going into Year 11 next month, and over the last few years the school have split the exams over Years 10 and 11. This may seem like a good thing and in some ways it is, but it also means that the stress of GCSE Exams is now spread over two school years.

My son struggled at the end of Year 10. He reached a point where he felt so overwhelmed, so panicked, in such a low mood that I was really worried about him. I haven’t shared any of this on the blog before, but feel now that it is the right time.

As his mum, I had moments where I feared for him due to how he was feeling. I was worried sick, and realised that the only thing that mattered was having him here. Keeping him here. Nothing else mattered.

I was quite scared, and unsure what to do, but here is what I did, I want to share incase you find yourself in a similar situation.

  • I kept the communication channels open with my son. I gently reminded him that I was always there for him, if he wanted to talk.
  • If he did start talking to me, I removed all distractions and focused on him.
  • I listened. I stopped my thoughts and trying to speak and I listened to him.
  • I encouraged him to write down, in complete privacy his thoughts – he found writing in a rap style helped him.
  • I gave him space with his older sister, who he did confide in.
  • I never asked his sister to break his confidence – I just checked with her that he was ok, and that there was nothing ‘going on’ that I needed to know, for example being bullied.
  • I set up a meeting with his Head of Year and the School Nurse. They reassured me how common this was, and we worked out ways of supporting my son together. This removed a lot of anxiety and worry from both myself and my son.
  • I talked to my son about focusing on, and thinking about the here and now, and not trying to predict what he thought might happen over the next few years, which is very scary to a (just) 15 year old.
  • I took my son to the GP to talk to her. She was wonderful and we have now some additional support in place.

My son, despite his recent difficulties picked up an armful of B’s and C’s in his exams today. To say I am proud is an understatement. He is a very, very clever boy, proven by his achievements today with virtually no effort because he couldn’t, due to the mental place he was in.

All hopes of exam celebration were cancelled a couple of months ago because I didn’t care about exam results, I just wanted my son be here. To want to stay here. I wasn’t worried about school or exams, because as long as he was here, we would figure everything out.

But tonight we have celebrated. A surprise, unexpected celebration which has been wonderful.

I want to say Congratulations to my son, whatever Year 11 brings is ok, because we will face it together. It has been a tough few months, but we have each other and that is all that truly matters.

Have you been affected by the stress of GCSE Exams?


  1. I remember when I was at school quite a lot of people in my year became quiet and reserved around exams and it is worrying that so much stress is put on people, but that’s why it’s so important to also have breaks and treats too x
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  2. I remember how nervous and scared I was when GCSEs came around… They were the first real exams that meant anything, so it felt so stressful…

  3. Well done on the fabulous results
    My neices passed too
    So PROUD of them

  4. Exams are always stressful.

  5. Great results and you are so right. Nothing is more important than being here

  6. As an ex teacher I’ve seen first hand the stresses that children go through at exam Tim, sounds like you gave your son the support he needed. Congratulations to him!

  7. I remember I really struggled with my GCSE’s. I was told shortly before I was due to take them that I was predicted the lowest grades in the entire school!! 🙁 I was having such a rough time, but I proved them wrong and got all B’s! GCSE’s are definitely not the be all and end all x
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  8. I sat my GCSEs a few years ago and remember it being very stressful! As it’s the first lot of “formal” exams as such it can feel overwhelming but your son will make it in the end!

  9. Congratulations to your son for his brilliant results. I’m so sorry he has been so stressed with them, it’s good he has all the right support in place. My daughters school splits theirs over 2 years and I worry about the stress and it being 2 years of stress. Schools place so much pressure on the kids to get the high grades, it’s so wrong really.
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  10. GCSE stressed me out like you wouldn’t believe when I did them! I came away with Bs / Cs and Ds and have never looked back but at the time the pressure from the school to do ‘well’ or else you won’t be able to go to college or do what you want with your life I felt was insane!

  11. Exams are stressful but it can be a good stress, a chance to prove yourself, to show what you’re capable of, and it prepares you for the real world – prepping for job interviews, taking important meetings, giving presentations etc. Having said that I don’t want to go through it again! Congratulations on the results.
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