If your child is taking their GCSE or A Level exams this summer, examination nerves will have already kicked in. The night before an exam is often charged with tension and anticipation. As a parent, your support is crucial in helping your child best prepare and ensure they go into the exam hall with a positive mindset. In this article, we’ll outline seven actionable steps you can take to effectively support your child the night before their exam.

1. Set a calm tone

Anxiety is often mirrored between parent and child, and a relaxed home environment will set the stage for a calm pre-exam evening. So, even if you’re feeling the nerves, don’t let it show. Try to relax, put on some calming music, and be ready to support your child if required. Managing your own stress and providing a stable environment will help your child stay focused and composed.

2. Pack essentials together

To avoid a list-minute scramble, help your child get organised and ensure they pack all of the materials necessary for their exam. Here is a checklist of items they may need:

  • Transparent pencil case
  • Black pens
  • Pencils
  • Rubber
  • Ruler
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Reading glasses
  • Transparent water bottle
  • Snacks
A girl packing her backpack the evening before an exam.

Depending on the subject, they may also require:

  • Calculator
  • Compass
  • Protractor
  • Set square
  • Coloured pencils

It’s also a good idea to ensure they lay out their school uniform or clothes ready for the morning.

3. Address pre-exam nerves

Talk to your child about how they are feeling. If they are nervous, reassure them that pre-exam anxiety is normal. Encourage them to see the exam as an opportunity to showcase their knowledge and skills, not as a hurdle or an obstacle.

Discuss strategies they can use if they are feeling overwhelmed, such as mindful breathing or positive self-talk. Phrases like “I am prepared” and “I can handle this” can help shift their mindset from anxiety to confidence. Remind them that they have prepared as much as they can, and now is the time to trust in that preparation. Reiterate your pride in their efforts, regardless of the outcome.

4. Support last-minute revision

Every student responds to the pressure of exams differently. Don’t badger your child to spend the evening cramming, but be there for them if they do want a bit of support with revision. You could test them on their flashcards or provide a listening ear as they explain and reinforce a complex topic. Let your child take the lead. If they want some help, all well and good, but if not, give them some space to prepare in their own way.

Father helping daughter with revision the night before her exam.

5. Ensure they are well-fed

Diet can significantly impact exam performance. Your child may say they are too busy or feel too nervous to eat a full meal the evening before their exam, but eating a nutritious meal is key to keeping them energised and focused.

Rather than having sugary snacks or caffeinated drinks that could spike and crash their energy levels, a balanced meal will fuel their body and brain. You could ask your child in advance what they would like to eat. A familiar, comforting meal may help to soothe nerves!

6. Encourage relaxation

Encourage activities that promote relaxation and time to unwind. Whether it’s a warm bath, some gentle yoga stretches, or reading a book, find what works best for your child to ease their mind. You might consider a family activity that’s light-hearted and enjoyable, like watching a favourite TV show or playing a board game. Having some downtime will enable your child to recharge their batteries and leave them feeling refreshed and alert come exam day.

7. Ensure they get ample sleep

Reinforce the importance of a good night’s sleep (around 8-10 hours), which is crucial for memory and concentration. Although staying up late to revise might seem like a good idea, your child will probably wake up feeling exhausted and irritable − not the best state to be in when facing a 2-3 hour exam.

Try to minimise distractions that may disrupt your child’s sleep. Encourage your child to avoid scrolling on social media or texting their peers late into the night about the upcoming exam. This will only heighten their anxiety and hinder their ability to wind down.

Tired teenage boy eating breakfast.


How can I help my child manage their exam anxiety?

The best way to help your child manage their exam anxiety is to foster a positive perspective on exams and encourage open discussions about their worries. Exams aren’t the be-all and end-all, but are an opportunity to showcase what your child has learned over the last two years. Help them establish a pre-exam routine and use coping strategies such as positive self-talk and deep breathing to stay calm in the exam hall.

How can my child calm their nerves before an exam?

Before the exam, your child could engage in light physical activity or listen to some calming music to clear their mind and boost their mood. They may find it helpful to find a quiet spot away from other students where they can read over their notes one last time.

What are effective last-minute revision tips for my child?

Effective last-minute revision should focus on reviewing key points, testing knowledge using flashcards, or doing practice questions. Ensure your child prioritises sleep over last-minute cramming to ensure they feel refreshed and ready come exam-day.

What should my child bring to their exam?

Make sure your child packs all essential items the night before the exam. This may include necessary stationery, a calculator, a clear water bottle, and any pre-exam snacks. Check with their school which items they’re allowed to bring into each exam.

How much sleep does my child need the night before an exam?

The recommended amount of sleep for teenagers is 8 to 10 hours, especially before an exam. Encourage your child to put their textbooks aside and wind down at least an hour before they need to sleep. Keep electronic devices out of the bedroom to avoid distractions.

What is the best breakfast before an exam?

Your child should opt for a breakfast that includes slow-release carbohydrates, such as muesli, whole-grain brain, and bananas, and a protein-rich food like milk or eggs to sustain them throughout the exam.

How can I create a calm environment at home during exams?

Creating a calm environment involves reducing physical clutter and setting a quiet, orderly space for study. Be mindful of the overall household noise and consider establishing quiet hours at home during the weeks leading up to the exams.

As a parent, you play a fundamental role in setting your child up for success in their exams. While it’s important to support their academic efforts, fostering a supportive and calm home environment is equally critical. By ensuring they are well-prepared, well-rested, and well-supported the night before an exam, you set the stage for them to perform at their best.

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Molly Wood

Molly is a recent first-class graduate from the University of St Andrews, where she studied biology. As Project Manager at PMT Education, she oversees SEO, digital content, and media management.