Exam Stress

Now it’s been a little while since I sat an exam in school, and I can’t say I ever remembered worrying much about it.

But now I find myself stressed about other people’s exams. My eldest daughter is at university, and she has to sit exams throughout the four year course. My teenager is in high school, and she is getting pressure from school about her ‘improvement levels’. Now it was clear to me that the ‘anticipated’ scores are for the school’s league table, and nothing whatsoever to do with her education, and that got me thinking…

She knows what she wants to do in life. As a career. She has her higher education plan mapped out in pencil.

She’s 14.

At 14 I think I was still perfecting the elusive art of making a fart noise in my armpit.

And that brings me to my youngest daughter (the exams, not the fart noises). She is 7, and she has to sit exams. 7 years old. I don’t know how these things work in other parts of the world, but I think we have it wrong in the UK.

“Daddy, I’m feeling a bit stressed about my SAT’s” she told me the other night, wearing an exhausted look on her face that seemed more belonging on a 45 year old bank manager. With a stomach ulcer.

What have we come to as a country, as an educated nation, as a species even, to put kids under that kind of pressure?

“You got that answer wrong!” Who cares? She’s 7, she was probably wondering if we’ll find the fossilised remains of a unicorn when we go on holiday! Not concentrating? Chances are she was daydreaming about cheese!

Every child develops at a different rate depending on a vast range of variables. Every parent dreads hearing that their child is ‘behind’ in something, and that pressure and stress trickles down the family tree and drips depressingly to the feet of the kid. It’s simply not fair, nor is it right.

Life has plenty of time, decades in fact, to take a swing at them, so why can’t we protect their innocence a little longer? Why can’t we prolong their childhood a bit, so the only thing they stress about is whether their cuddly snake from Ikea misses them when they’re at school?

Exams are important, later in life, but they shouldn’t be a focus at a young age. We are allowing our kids to be treated as adults. I can just see the conversation now:

Step into my office, please. Close the door

Child meekly steps inside, closes the door and takes a seat.

I’ll get to the point; the financial review has come in, and I’ll be honest your quarterly sales figures are poor. There will probably be redundancies coming up and I’m sad to say you’ll be the first to go unless you pick up the pace. Ok? Good, off you go


Calm. Down.


These are kids, so let them be kids. Unless we want a generation of stressed out, suicidal, panic-attack-suffering kids taking control of the country in 25 years.

Anyway, to put it all in perspective, I sat down my kids and told them the story of my own education: I did ok. Not great. Borderline ‘meh’. I failed just one exam when I left high school.

“What was that?” I hear you all cry…


English Literature.


Goes to show that exams aren’t really the final word, doesn’t it?



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