10% increase in counselling sessions about exam stress since the pandemic

Childline delivered almost 2,000 counselling sessions about exam stress last year, as formal exams returned after the pandemic

A mixed-race boy with braided hair and a hearing aid, is looking at school work, he seems stressed

  • The impact of the pandemic and pressures from schools and families are increasing worries about exams.
  • We encourage children and parents to do non-revision activities to support their wellbeing in this stressful time.

Last year, GCSE and A level exams returned after a break due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Childline delivered 2,000 counselling sessions in this time, with children struggling with exam stress. This was a 10% increase from the year before.

44% of these counselling sessions took place in April, May and June. Some students worried that the disruptions to their learning in the pandemic, has affected their performance and ability to cope with pressure. There are also lots of children struggling with their mental health, family expectations and lack of motivation.

We worry that this trend will continue this year. Childline is available 24/7 online and over the phone. We urge any young person with worries about exams to get in touch with Childline, and not worry in silence.

One 16-year-old girl said to counsellors:

“The pressure from school and my parents over exams is pushing me over the edge. I’m so stressed I’m crying at every little thing and haven’t been sleeping.  I wish someone would ask if I need help, I’m not ok.”

One 17-year-old boy told Childline:

“I can’t stop my negative thoughts about exams. With the pandemic cancelling exams I don’t have any good study habits, I feel so behind and don’t know how to catch up.”

A 16 year old girl said: 

“I’m feeling really overwhelmed with studying. I even felt guilty for taking time to talk to Childline, but I do feel better now for taking a break and talking about my feelings, thank you for listening to me.”

We recommend: 

  • Talk about how you’re feeling – this can help you to feel more in control or help someone else realise that they might be putting too much pressure on you. You can talk to friends, family, or one of our trained Childline counsellors.
  • Take regular breaks – taking some time away from the revision can make you feel more able to cope, and can make it easier to concentrate when you start working again. Plan when you are going to start and finish your revision, taking 20-minute breaks each hour to do something fun or have a snack.
  • Maintain healthy habits – remember to eat healthily, exercise, get plenty of sleep and do things that you enjoy.
  • Practice positive thinking - try to think positively about the future, and try not to compete or compare yourself with other people.

Visit our Childline page on exam stress for more information and advice.

Shaun Friel, Childline Director, said:

“We all remember how stressful taking exams were when we were younger but for this current generation the extra disruption can have a really negative impact.

“While some nervousness around exams is normal it’s worrying to hear from students that stress is impacting their mental health and contributing to negative thoughts and actions.

“Talking about worries is incredibly helpful and so Childline is available for every young person whenever they need it.

“We all have a role to support young people in this situation and as parents and carers we can make sure we are not putting too much pressure on children, encourage them to think positively and reassure them that while exams are important there are always options whatever the outcome.”


Young people can call Childline on 0800 1111. They can also visit the Childline website, read our advice, or talk on our message boards and 1-2-1 chat at childline.org.uk.

Notes and references: 

  • There are Childline spokespeople available for interview. Contact [email protected] for bids.
  • Snapshots are based on real Childline service users but are not necessarily direct quotes. All names and potentially identifying details have been changed to protect the identity of the child or young person involved.
  • In 2022/23 Childline delivered 1,914 counselling sessions about exam and revision stress in 2022/23 compared with 1,734 in 2021/22 - an increase of 10%.
  • Last year 850 counselling sessions about exam and revision stress were delivered in April, May and June, 44% of the annual total.
  • Where gender was known girls were involved in 772 counselling sessions (78%) and boys in 184 (19%). 3% involved children who identify as transgender or non-binary
  • In 2022/23 1,914 counselling sessions which mention exam/revision stress 49 also mention Covid/pandemic/lockdowns so about 3% of exam/revision stress counselling session.