Young people struggling to cope with exam stress turn to Childline

Girls 5 times more likely to seek help from Childline1

New figures show that Childline gave 2,795 counselling sessions about exam stress in 2018/19 - around a third in April and May2. Counselling sessions were most commonly with 15 or 16 year olds, when many are preparing for GCSEs3.

Young people's concerns included:

    • disappointing their parents
    • trying their best and still failing
    • excessive workloads
    • and feeling unmotivated to revise.

Other young people said worrying about taking exams was negatively affecting their mental health, causing some to self-harm or feel suicidal.

Childline is encouraging all young people to speak out if they're stressed about their exams, especially boys who are 5 times less likely than girls to talk to Childline about the pressure they're under.

Sophie's story

Sophie struggled with severe exam stress during her A-levels which caused huge anxiety before exams. She was regularly sick from stress before exams and it impacted her physical and mental health.

"My experience with GCSEs means I'm very nervous about making assumptions for A-Levels. It doesn’t matter that people keep telling me I will do well, I just don’t know how I’m going to do. But if I don’t get good grades this time around, the only thing I have to blame is myself. So it’s a lot of pressure."

Tips and advice to help reduce exam stress

  • Take regular revision breaks and try exercising.
  • Go to bed at a reasonable time and try get some sleep.
  • Try to think positively. Even if you don't feel like it, a positive attitude can help.
  • Remember: everyone's different. Try not to compare yourself to others.

  • Facilitate classroom discussions to get students talking about exam stress.
  • Encourage students to take regular breaks.
  • Encourage students to talk to you or other teachers about how they're feeling.
  • Help students to see exam stress as short-term.

"My advice to parents would be to never say ‘it wasn’t like this in my day’- children won’t care and it isn’t about you. Also never compare siblings. What you can do is ask if they need anything, say you are proud of them and offer an end-of-exams celebration to help them visualise it being over."
Anna Williamson, Childline counsellor

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Exam stress advice from Childline

Find advice on coping with exam stress, share your thoughts on the message boards or chat to a counsellor on the Childline website.

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Mental health and suicidal thoughts in children

Learn about the signs of mental health problems and suicidal thoughts in children - and find out how you can help them. 
Read our advice


Names and identifying features have been changed to protect identity. Photographs have been posed by models.


  1. 1. 5 times as many girls (1,769) than boys (341) received counselling sessions about exam stress in 2018/19.

  2. 2. In 2018/19, Childline delivered 2,795 counselling sessions where young people were worried about exam stress.

  3. 3. The most common age for exam stress counselling was 15 with 21% counselling sessions, followed by 16 with 14% counselling sessions.