Irish teens find exams more stressful than international students

Youngsters spend almost 2½ hours on the internet every day during the week

An OECD study showed girls were more likely than boys to want top grades. Photograph: Eric Luke

An OECD study showed girls were more likely than boys to want top grades. Photograph: Eric Luke


Irish school students suffer much higher levels of anxiety than their European counterparts in the lead up to exams, according to new research on students’ wellbeing.

Nearly two thirds of Irish students interviewed as part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Pisa study revealed they suffered from anxiety even when well prepared for an exam, notably higher than the 55 per cent OECD average.

The data show students’ anxiety about school work and tests was often based on the level of support they receive from teachers and not school hours or frequency of tests.

The report’s findings are based on a survey of 540,000 students in 72 countries. There are 61,234 15-year-olds in Ireland, according to the OECD.

The research highlights the role of teachers in students’ wellbeing and says educators should not be defined solely by the number of hours they spend instructing students.


Researchers found more than 63 per cent of Irish students felt anxious about tests despite being well prepared, while 46 per cent of Irish students reported feeling very tense when studying, 10 per cent more than the OECD student average.

In Ireland, a third of respondents said they were “very satisfied with life”, just slightly below the OECD average, while slightly more than 10 per cent reported not feeling satisfied with life.

Most Irish students reported feeling very comfortable in their school environment with 73 per cent saying they felt they belonged at school.

In all countries, girls reported greater schoolwork-related anxiety than boys. Teenage girls were also found to have lower life satisfaction with just 29 per cent of girls internationally saying they were very satisfied with their lives compared with 39 per cent of teenage boys.

Boys were also more likely to report a greater sense of belonging at school and describe themselves as ambitious with aspirations to be the best. Girls were more likely to want top grades than their male peers.

The survey showed students are spending increasing amounts of time on the internet with Irish teenagers close to the OECD average, spending 144 minutes online per day during the week. UK teenagers were among the most active internet users during the week and at weekends, while Korean students were less likely to spend time online.


Bullying among Irish teenagers was below the OECD average. However, a significant proportion still reported being targeted with 14 per cent saying they were bullied a few times a month and 3 per cent saying they were hit or pushed.

Some 92 per cent of Irish students said they talked to their parents after school, while 94 per cent said their parents were supportive when they faced challenges in school.

OECD chief executive Gabriela Ramos said teachers, schools and parents all play a role in a child’s wellbeing.

“Together they can help young people develop a sense of control over their future and the resilience they need to be successful in life,” said Ms Ramos at the launch of the report. “There is no secret, you perform better if you feel valued, if you feel well treated, if you are given a hand to succeed.”

Nearly half of Irish students said they expected to complete a university degree, compared with 76 per cent in the US, 24 per cent in Norway and 17 per cent in Germany.

Irish students were also found to be more physically active than their European counterparts, with 78 per cent taking part in sporting activities or exercising before or after school.