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National 5 Exams

Hi Sam ,
I am really worried about my exams this year as I am part of the first year to sit the new National 5 exams. I really don't like the thought of all the new curriculum for excellence because all year I have gradually lost confidence in all my subjects and it doesn't really help that the teachers don't know what they are doing as well. I feel like there is loads of pressure on me to do well n these exams by my school and the SQA. It has gotten so bad that I have started having panic attacks on the day of the exam or the day before.what advice would you give for coping with the pressure ??
Ask Sam


Hi there,

Well done for having the courage to write to me. It sounds like you’ve been struggling with this for a while. You don’t have to be alone with this.

Change can be very difficult for everyone and in education it can be made worse by the fact that there is a lot of media and political interest going on at the same time. It sounds like this has been made harder for you because the teachers are coping with the change as well. The teachers must be stressed too and this may be making it harder for them to support you properly.

There is a lot of pressure around at exam times, from others and often from yourself too. Exams are important but there are always other options if things don't turn out the way you hoped and expected. Some stress and pressure can help but too much can be very unhelpful as you know from the panic attacks you’ve started to have. 

There are things you can do to help manage a panic attack. For example, you could try breathing deeply. You can breathe in for 3 seconds and then out for 3. While you are doing this, try telling yourself you’re going to be okay and that you’ve got through them before. It can take practice to get right and you need to find what works for you. We have more ideas about Controlling panic attacks that could help. 

It might also help to let your school know about the panic attacks. If you have a panic attack at school, the teachers would then be able to help you. They should be able to tell you how they can deal with this should it occur during an exam. Knowing that someone knows and what will happen can help to make you feel a bit calmer. We also have more information about Exam stress that you might find useful to read.

It could help to talk through how you’re feeling with one of our counsellors. I know they talk to a lot of young people about exam pressures and talking can really help to release some of that stress. You can ring them for free on 0800 1111, you can have a 1-2-1 online chat or you can send emails through your account. In the meantime, please take care and good luck.


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