Exam time can bring up a multitude of feelings, a significant one being anxiety. Studies have found that anxiety is greatly affected by both the school environment as well as the approach to independent studies and revision. Revision is typically an emotional space for both neurodivergent and neurotypical students as it can be both a source of anxiety and also a way to control or mask anxiety.

Whether a student is over-working and nearing burnout or completely avoiding revision these are just one of two ways in which anxiety, in the context of revision, can manifest. This makes identifying anxiety increasingly complex from the perspective of both caregivers and educators. Often, the intervention can come too late especially if a key strategy has been punishment or the student has been praised for their increased work rate.

Anxiety in school children

Unfortunately, anxiety in school children is on the rise globally with a multitude of countries reporting increased rates. In America according to the National Institute of Mental Health over a third of adolescents suffer from anxiety whereas other researchers estimated that three quarters of high school children have stress related burnout. Studies have pointed towards both increased social media usage and disruptions being caused by COVID 19 as key factors that are impacting the mental health of young people. Another important finding is that anxiety and depressive symptoms have been shown to correlate to homework, revision and exams.

Where does this leave you as parents?

Although pandemics and social media usage may be difficult to control, parents are much better equipped to support exam and revision related content by ensuring young people have access to appropriate resources and toolkits. Importantly, recognising red flags and keeping up a discourse with young people can be critical in preventing revision impacting mental health.

What do red flags look like and how can we begin to support an anxious young person?

Let’s delve into two case studies from students our senior tutors at The CODE Education, the sister organisation of CiM, have worked with.

Case study 1: Noah

Noah was a child who had behavioural concerns and often was in detention for missed homework as well as disruptive behaviour in class. Although the immediate response was for the school to punish this behaviour, upon discussion with his parents and teachers we understood that anxiety had a large role to play in these behaviours. We noticed several red flags that would precede poor behaviour such as excessive screen time, conflict with friends and family, extreme tiredness and increased irritability. When these were correlated we noticed that this often would occur in the lead up to exams as well as during periods of transition at school, such as the start of term. These behaviours are often very difficult to identify as a manifestation of anxiety.

Case study 2: Olivia

Olivia was a student who had masked her anxiety for a long time and it was only flagged once she was nearing burnout. Oliva’s anxiety was hard to spot as she presented as having excellent executive functions, worked hard, colour coded and organised notes and met all her homework deadlines. Despite this her parents soon noticed her withdrawing from her family and friends as well as having problems with eating and sleep. In addition to this, despite working incredibly hard, exam grades were falling.

A key strategy used to intervene here was to teach Oliva to study ‘smart’ not hard. We covered effective revision strategies such as the correct spacing of content and the use of revision techniques that work with the neuroscience of memory. Once this had been covered we worked to ensure that she fostered a growth mindset to improve resilience, such as recognising any poor grades as an opportunity to improve. The combination of these two strategies helped Olivia to effectively direct her energy in order to succeed in higher education and beyond.


In summary, it is important to understand how anxiety may express itself. A child does not always have the language or emotional awareness to name the feeling they are working through. If you suspect your child is anxious around exams and does not know how to revise there are many excellent resources out there such as The CODE Education’s revision course which will give you a complete toolkit covering each step of the revision process. This is an excellent way to give students the correct approach and stop anxiety in its tracks before it becomes overwhelming.

Don’t miss out on our upcoming FREE Webinar!

Join educational consultant and EF coach Roxane Barsky, and revision expert Jared Hamilton for their upcoming FREE live webinar, Anxiety & Revision: A Tutor’s Perspective!


In this webinar, Roxane and Jared will unpack why students get so anxious around revision time, how we can tackle this, and uncover the effective revision skills that lead to exam success.


It takes place on 25 October at 6pm-7pm BST. Click the button below to reserve your FREE spot!