Problem Solving



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If you’re worried about something, sometimes it becomes much less frightening if you can break that thing down into smaller, more manageable pieces. One way to do that is to start by listing all the possible outcomes, even the bad ones. For example, if you’re feeling worried because you don’t understand a subject or know how to prepare for the exam, you could write down these potential outcomes:

  • Don’t revise for the exam 
  • Try to figure out the work alone 
  • Ask a teacher or friend for help 


The second step would be to list the pros and cons of each solution:

Don’t revise:

Pros: no need to do anything 
Cons: might fail the exam 

Figure it out alone: 

Pros: can start right away 
Cons: might be too difficult or make things worse 

Ask a teacher or friend for help: 

Pros: someone to explain it, so a better chance of passing 
Cons: waiting for when they can help

The third step would be to choose the most practical solution. In this example, it looks like the last option has the best chances of success. 

Once you’ve decided on a solution or a combination of the solutions, the fourth step is making a plan to carry it out – could you text or call your friend now? Could you ask your teacher for help when you next see them at school? Perhaps it would help to write yourself a reminder to do that. 

The fifth step would involve recording your progress, reviewing your plans, and feeling good about your efforts. If you’ve put a plan in place, such as asking a teacher to help you study, it might help you to feel less worried about the exam, because you know that you have will have more support and resources available to you soon.


These steps are based around BBC Health’s ‘structured problem solving’ worksheet, which you can use as a template.