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Managing Examination Stress and Anxiety

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March 9, 2017

Managing Examination Stress and Anxiety

The 32nd President of the USA, Roosevelt once gave a very beautiful and relevant mantra to combat fear and the stress it feeds. Roosevelt said, ‘All we have to fear is fear itself’. Though Roosevelt was speaking of the then prevailing economic crises in his country, yet the mantra given by him can be herein quoted for the students encountering and facing fear of examination; the fear of hopelessness; the fear that leads to stress among them. This stress increases with the approaching date of the examination, troubling the students day in and day out.

Chronic stress during exams becomes an everyday companion of some students. The long term exam stress is a matter of serious concern. The persistent fear like what if the paper is tough; what if I don’t remember the answers; what if I am not able to finish on time; is not a positive sign. It may sound ridiculous but as a matter of fact this is the condition of most of the students as the month of February arrives. This stress gradually but consistently dominates them, eats away their psyche so much so that it starts having psychological effects.

Exam anxiety and stress is an unpleasant and undesirable state of mental uneasiness, nervousness, apprehension or excessive concern about exam and results. Exam stress is a spontaneous reaction to pressure caused by a number of reasons like fear of failure, meeting the expectation of the parents and teachers, lack of preparedness or unfavorable previous results. Yet another reason could be a challenge to integrate years of hard work and study into a mere three hours time. The consequences are obvious. The prolonged exam stress leads to making the students irritable so much so that the slightest challenge makes them feel wobbly in the legs and sick in stomach.

Well exam stress is a big thing. It can cause more than just a few minor ailments. Stress during exam time has been proven as an indirect cause of eating disorders, depression, social/ physical/emotional changes and even something as serious as death.

Now the question arises that if stress is that bad, then why does it exist? Are all stresses negative?

Well, some amount of stress is good for us to excel in life. This is good stress or ‘Eusstress’. Working for exams and other assessments is surely stressful but some stress can be useful in helping you to focus on the preparation and in motivating you to work hard and achieve your best.

Do you know that a diamond is just a lump of coal that did well under pressure. The only difference between a diamond and a lump of coal is that the diamond had a little more pressure put on it. Steel is another example. You know there are tests of fire that make fine steel.

So exam stress is very common. Use it in a positive way. Need is to limit not eliminate stress. Use it to improve your performance and learn coping skills.\

However, if stress increases further, it can start to have a detrimental effect on our performance. As we feel more anxious, we are less able to concentrate on our work and we can doubt our true abilities.

So, below are a few tips you can use to help limit stress around exam period.

Time Management is a Prerequisite. It is one of the instrumental factors in stress management. A day passed unproductively will not return. No one plans to fail but some fail to plan. Even if you have done partial preparation hitherto, you can do the remaining now. But manage your time well. Treat time as money.

Take help from teachers. Self help is the best form of help and self study is the best form of study. However, the subject experts can make your work easy by guiding you in the way you understand, making the intricate details of the subjects easier and that too comparatively in less time.

Split the study time. When you are getting too stressed, it’s time that you need to take a break, to do something else for a short time.

Create willingness to study. It is said, ‘Mind unemployed is mind unenjoyed’. Make study a desirable activity rather than a forced one. Study with pleasure and for pleasure remembering that being a student your work is to study. Maxim Gorky said so beautifully, ‘When work is pleasure, life is a joy. When work is a duty, life is slavery’.

Be organised and prepare a revision timetable. The total study work can be divided into three parts. First very thoroughly done already (say it is 35%), moderately done (say 35%), and remaining not done at all or very little done. Then a revision timetable can be prepared accordingly. Believe me, it will make you feel organised. You will develop belongingness with your work and efficiency will increase manifold.

Ask mother to prepare your favourite breakfast! Sounds funny? Well, favourite food is motivational, isn’t it? So, eat regular meals including breakfast to maintain your blood sugar and energy levels.

Sleep well. Shakespeare calls sleep nature’s gentle and soft nurse. So, during sound sleep of 7-8 hours your brain is softly and gently treated by sleep. You definitely work more efficiently after that. Please don’t skip it.

Physical activity is also necessary. Going for a walk, a short session of playing badminton or cricket or any similar exercise will get you back nice and fresh. It will reduce stress and enhance your efficiency.

Make yourself feel relaxed. It will take a few minutes of yours but breathing techniques and meditation can really help you feel calm and composed.

Procrastination is bad: Research has shown that that cramming or last minute revising is not productive and fruitful even for short-term knowledge gain.

Know the student-friendly things in the whole procedure of examination. This is to draw to the attention of the students who have fear of failure in the exams that there are many things which are really student-friendly in the whole procedure of examination like preparatory holidays between two exams which can be availed to prepare any particular subject exclusively, favorable marking -scheme, question paper design that has questions of different difficulty levels such as easy, medium and difficult.

Read motivational stories/ accounts. One such suggested story is ‘Deep Water’, an autobiographical account by William Douglas.

Do some simulated practice at the Exam Timing i.e.10.30 1.30 p.m. This can prove instrumental to success provided that it is done with strict self -discipline and adherence to time-limit. Experts say that such a practice session will condition your body and temperament to remain active and at your best during this period of time.

And last of all, be positive.

Remember the fact that there is life after exams.

Dr. Prabhat Kaushik is a Master Trainer, CBSE, Ministry of HRD, Government of India, Director General, Zee Learn Ltd, International Trainer & Assessor, Motivator, Educational Catalyst and International leader.

Dr. Prabhat is highly passionate about rekindling education. He is one of the most sought after educationists for gifted and talented children and has extensively travelled globally for the same. At the global level, he has established a large number of schools and is on the governing body of many organisations.

Dr. Kaushik is an International Leader, British Council (U.K.), for sharing educational best practices in British schools and benchmarking with Indian schools including exchange programmes and training for all stakeholders.

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