Survey Shows UK Students Raise Health Risks During Exams


A new report suggests that children as young as 10 years old are risking their health in their efforts to cope with the stress gained from taking tests in school.

Researchers for Opinion Matters surveyed over 1,000 children in the UK concerning how they prepared for the SAT (Standard Assessment Tests) exams last year.  Year Two and Year Six students are currently gearing up to take the exam this week.

The majority of survey participants, 68%, said they felt pressure to do well on the exams in the week leading up to it, and 55% reporting that they felt concerned for their futures if they did not do well.

Researchers also found that students were dealing with their test anxiety using methods that risked their health.  Of all the participants, 8 reported smoking on the morning of the exam, 45 had biscuits for breakfast, 37 said they ate chocolate, 30 reported consuming a sugary beverage, 19 had crisps and 9 said they had a pastry or sausage roll.

Researchers said that the unhealthy food options chosen by children prior to the exam are not only poor diet choices, but put the children at risk of developing obesity later on in life if the choices continue.  In addition, children could feel tired during the exams as the sugar wears off — right when feeling energized and focused would be more beneficial, writes Sarah Cassidy for The Independent.

22% of participants, 59% of whom did not eat a healthy breakfast, reported not sleeping well during exam time.

Child psychologist Dr Claire Halsey said: “It’s troubling that children are expressing so many worries about their exams.  It’s natural to experience some pressure to perform before any test, even at age 10 and 11, but these results show that SATs have become more than a little nerve-wracking.”

In a second study by Opinion Matters, 1,000 parents were surveyed, finding that 20% reported their child being too nervous before the exam to eat anything, and 18% noted a change in behavior for the worse around exam time.

Of the parents surveyed, 74% felt their children were under more pressure around exam time than they were at their age.

John Coe of the National Association for Primary Education offered a sensible alternative exam preparation routine, stating: ‘A decent breakfast should set children up for success in their exams, and eating breakfast with friends at a breakfast club – and calming each other’s nerves about the tests – is a happy way of meeting the challenge to come.’