11 Things to Tell Your Child on Exam Day


Are you or your child stressing about exam day? Here are proven ways to reduce exam stress and give your child an edge on the day.

Exams are one method for a teacher to gauge what her students know (and need to know), but they aren’t just for the teachers.

By writing exams, children learn solid study skills, learn from errors, and learn how to handle the unknown in an academic setting. Through practice and preparation, children will feel equipped and ready to handle exams. Part of the preparation includes the day of the exam.

Here are a few tips for parents on how to handle the day of the exam and send your child to school with their best possible foot forward.

1. Eat a good and light breakfast

Advise your child to eat something that will sustain them and help them concentrate. Try to stay away from sugary cereals or treats and rather opt for slow release foods that will power your child through until break time. Wholewheat bread, eggs and fruit are good breakfast choices to help keep the brain consistently alert. Sugary foods result in mood and concentration swings, not ideal when having to concentrate for extended periods.

CAPS Practice Exams

2. Try to arrive at school or the exam venue early

There is nothing more stressful than being late (or almost late) for a big test or exam. Stress can make thinking difficult and that is not what you want when trying to settle down and answer exam questions. Tell your child to pack for the exam the night before making sure they have all the necessary stationery packed in to lessen the time needed to get ready the next morning.

CAPS Practice Exams South Africa

3. Go to the toilet before the exam starts

The disruption and distraction of going to the toilet during an exam can impact the exam taker. Getting up during an exam can make you lose your train of thought or ‘groove’. It can also waste valuable time. Getting toilet visits out of the way before you begin can help keep you on track.

CAPS Worksheets South Africa

4. Stay away from distracting and negative people

Keeping away from people who may agitate them before the test or may say unhelpful, anxiety-provoking comments can help keep pre-exam jitters to a minimum. Rather wait for the exam to start in the company of calm and supportive people, so that they enter the exam in a good frame of mind ready to go.

South African Caps Worksheets

5. Take time to slow your breathing and relax when you sit down in the exam room

Being relaxed lets you focus all your attention and cognitive ability on the task at hand. Instead of wasting time and energy thinking about all the things you don’t know, take a few deep breathes in and out and go over the exam outline in your head (i.e 1 hour paper, 3 sections).

South African Caps Worksheets

6. Skim over the exam paper

Advise your child that when they receive their exam paper, they should skim over the questions. Even underlining key words and instructions that are important for successfully answering the exam. By skimming over the paper they can identify questions that may need more time to answer, or questions they are unsure of. The best advice is to answer the questions you are able to first and then go back to the ones you are unsure of; rather than waste time thinking about those you don’t know and running out of time to answer the ones you do.

Printable and Interactive CAPS Worksheets

7. Watch out for the wording of the questions

In order to answer a question effectively, your child needs to understand and address what the question is really asking. If the question wants an explanation, it won’t help to simply answer yes or no. Remind your child to read carefully what the question is asking and what type of response it is asking for.

South African Practice Exams

8. Don’t worry about how long others are taking

Remind your child that everyone answers at their own pace. Just because Timmy is finished before them, doesn’t mean he will get a better result. Stressing over what others are doing will distract them from answering their own paper. They should keep an eye on the clock to ensure they have enough time to answer the more difficult questions, but not worry how long those around them are taking.

Printable and Interactive South African Worksheets

9. Grab a lucky charm

It’s not just superstition. Research suggests that carrying some kind of lucky token can actually build confidence and relieve anxiety. People who had their lucky charms with them performed better and set higher goals for themselves than people who didn’t. If your child doesn’t already have a lucky charm, you can give them one to take with on exam day. Also, make sure to wish your child good luck. Research also shows that even something that simple can make a difference in how confident they feel.

Printable and Interactive Worksheets

10. Remain positive

Staying calm will help your child stay calm. Success is always a team effort. Drawing on the support of everything that is potentially positive in a student’s life helps to maximize exam performance.

Printable and Interactive Practice Exams

11. Do not over-hype the importance of any examination

It is very easy in the middle of a stress-inducing experience such as a major exam to get the whole event totally thrown out of perspective. Parents need to be aware that sons or daughters writing exams can sometimes mistakenly believe their standing in their parents’ eyes is dependent on their success in the exam. Parents should ensure that it is absolutely clear that their unconditional love and regard for their child is in no way dependent on how they perform in the exams. This affirmation is the greatest gift you can give them at the start of their examinations.

Printable and Interactive CAPS Practice Exams

Remember to use WorksheetCloud as part of your exam preparation. It reduces stress right upfront by giving you access to printable and interactive CAPS based worksheets to help you revise English, Afrikaans, Mathematics, Natural Science, Social Science and Life Skills.

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About the Author

Kayleen heads up the Customer Service team at WorksheetCloud. She has a degree in psychology and education from UCT, and taught in a classroom for several years with a special focus on children with learning challenges.


  1. Candice Argall

    I love these thoughts. I have never considered the idea of a lucky charm, but I think even for a religious person who may be wary of such things, some sort of token of a reminder that you’re not on your own is a wonderful way to boost confidence. I will definitely bear that in mind, even for myself! 🙂

  2. Gena vd Watt

    Hi. Also add bacon to the breakfast. Fat is good. I have been given my children eggs & bacon/sausage/chicken livers with avo/tomatoes/cucumber/creamed spinach 12+ years. My son was on Rittelon for 1 year, but I wanted a more natural way. It was then that I read about changing his diet. It worked!

  3. Hoosin Omar

    Excellent Advise THANK YOU

  4. Ladovica Gordon

    Love the tips! Will definitely invest in a “lucky token”.

  5. Charmaine G.

    I’m panicking more than my son. He seems to be in control, while I’m not sure whether I have prepared n motivated him well enough. The tips are great,Thank You; keep them rolling during this stressful period.

  6. nomzamo ngalo

    my son failed grade 8 last year so i really panick this year wondering if he is going to pass .thank you for the exam tips

    • Kayleen Olivier

      Hi Nomzamo

      Thanks for your message and feedback!

      We hope that these exam tips are helpful and that your son is able to use them to achieve better results in the end of year exams.

      Please let us know if you have any questions and we’ll be happy to assist.

      The WorksheetCloud team 🙂

  7. Busi

    Thanks for tips; much appreciated

    • Kyle Roets

      Hi Busi

      Thanks for your comment!

      We are glad to hear that you found this article useful. Please let us know if there are any other blog topics you would like for us to cover in the future.

      Kyle 🙂


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