Most of the students are anxious at the time of examinations along with their parents. Some experience a high level of anxiety during their examinations. As the bell for the examination goes, it is anxiety time for students and parents. This is the last lap for teachers and parents to be more supportive and go along with the anxious child. As a teacher you play a major affective role in a child’s life, and can pass on the following to your students.
The key to reducing anxiety is to make an early start with your revision. 6 to 10 weeks should be enough for end of year examination, depending on how many you have, and where you are at in your studies. Take enough time to do yourself justice. Remember revision is just that – it’s about seeing something again and refreshing your knowledge. It’s not about new work. If you have worked at a steady pace throughout the year, revision will be relatively straightforward. Be realistic about what you can do.
Normal levels of stress can help you work, think faster and more effectively, and improve your performance. If you find your anxiety overwhelming, your performance could be badly affected. Becoming aware of what causes your anxiety will help to reduce the stress. Then you can manage it better and do yourself justice. Most of us suffer from anxiety around examination time. It’s normal.
The anxiety can cause:
- Patchy sleep and sleepless nights.
- Irritability or short temper.
- Butterflies in stomach.
- Poor appetite, or over eating/snacking.
Causes of anxiety
Take some time to identify what is causing problems for you. Once you know what causes stress you can start looking for solutions.
Your anxiety may be linked to:
- You are being generally anxious, a bit of a worrier.
- Being poorly prepared.
- You’ve had a bad experience or low marks in the previous examination.
- You’re a perfectionist – anything less than an A is a failure.
Revision is not a substitute for your hard work throughout the year. If you are serious even now and work towards your goals, you will be doing well by following some of these guidelines… here we go…
Your Preparation can build your confidence:
Develop good study habits and strategies: (Revise rather than cram). Human brain remembers associated memories very well, but at the same time we tend to forget nearly 70 percent of what we studied after a day. If we revise as much as possible we will be able to retain more than what we forget after 24 hours. Once you have done with topic A, it must be revised after 24 hours, again after 2 days, then after a week. This helps you to remember major portions of the subject.
Managing time: (dealing with procrastination, distractions, laziness). Often some don’t study throughout the year, but cram up at the end of the season. Your brain needs time to consolidate. Study for 2 hours and take rest for 30 minutes. This time helps your brain to consolidate what you have just studied or revised. Be strict with your timings, start getting up and sleeping at the same time; make your routine and follow it – this will help you to gain more control over yourself when you need it most.
Be Strict with yourself and the television, mobile, Facebook, Twitter, World Cup, etc. All these things can wait for you, or you can catch up with them later or in your break time. (Make sure you come back from short or half an hour breaks; if you are not able to come by yourself, seek help from one of your family members to remind you to get back to your study time). You might have spent good time enjoying so far, now you need to be strict with your laziness. It is your choice to do well or not do well. You can take care of your laziness once you have done your examination, means you can be lazy later.
Organizing material to be studied and learned (Take a step by step approach to build a strategy and not get overwhelmed).
Allocate adequate time for each subject. Give a little more time for the subjects which are difficult for you. But make sure you have ample time for adequate revision.
Outside pressures (success/failure consequences, grades, graduation, peer pressure, competitiveness, etc.) Decide and remember to cross the bridge when you reach. There is no point thinking about how to cross the bridge when you are still miles away. This kind of over anxious thinking definitely spoils your present study time. Let’s use every minute wisely so that it will help you in doing well. Don’t compare with your friends how they are studying or what they are doing. You are not a replica of your friends, stay focused.
Review your past performance (to improve and learn from experience). However was your performance, be realistic – if you have done badly remember you haven’t done your preparation adequately. So change your thinking realistically saying, ‘I am preparing well now. So I will be able to do well in the examination’. This realistic assumption will assist your brain and can reduce anxiety, as we cannot cheat our own brains.
Take Proper Breaks
- Studying 24 hours a day, 7 days a week will exhaust you – you will be burnt out, long before the actual examination.
- Divide your days in three periods of 150 minutes each and revise for two out of the three.
- Keep up with some of your other activities – try to get the balance right between study and leisure. (keep walking or jogging which can help your body and brain. Television and mobile or screens will compete with your brain capacities and bring down your efficiency)
- Get the support of your friends, family and study partner.
- Be cool and keep to a healthy lifestyle.
- Avoid anything that promises you limitless energy – there is nothing that provides this and you don’t want to experiment on anything new at this time.
- Take regular exercise. Find something you enjoy – swimming, jogging; these activities should not be very exhaustive.
- Yoga, tai chi, meditation or other alternatives for relaxing the mind and body are worth considering.
Eating and Sleeping
- Your brain needs energy and it also needs rest. Eat little and often.
- Eat quality food, e.g. whole meal breads, pasta, nuts, fruit, lots of vegetables, etc.
- Go for quality drinks, e.g. plenty of water, milk, real fruit juice, etc; never coke and aerated or energy drinks.
- Have specific time for eating, (have something every 3 hours, as your working brain requires enough glucose to study well).
- Take at least 6 to 7 hours of sleep; if you sleep less than what your body requires, your brain may not function to its full potential. You feel mostly exhausted by the end of the day and whatever hard work you are putting in will not yield good results.
Plan Your Revision
- Set aside plenty of time for revision.
- Sort through your notes, essays and reports, and focus on the essential material.
- Actively use your notes – re-structure and condense them.
- Plan answer outlines.
- Think about questions you might expect to find in your examination.
- Seek help and guidance from your teachers, elders if you find something you don’t quite understand.
- Don’t sit reading for long periods of time.
You slowly lose your attention capabilities. If you feel that stress is seriously going to affect your examination or make your life a misery in the run-up, do something about it now. Talk to a friend, a tutor or see one of the psychologists who can help you lower your anxiety so that you can do well in the examination. Don’t allow anxiety cripple your hard work which you put in through the year.
John Victor is a Senior Clinical Psychologist, formerly with VIMHANS as Faculty & Consultant. Trained all the counsellors of MSF India, CANSUPPORT and SPARSH in association with MSD (Merck Pharmaceuticals) in Basic Counselling Skills. Conducted workshops on Fear and Love for Maths, Living with Teachers Stress, Dealing with Anger and Aggression in Children, etc. Worked with all the staff of MSF Kashmir (Médecins Sans Frontières) in dealing with their professional burnout at the time of severe conflict in 2011, (Kashmir) Conducted series of public awareness programmes at IHC on topics like ‘Violence & Aggression in Children’ and ‘Personality Re-Engineering’. Currently associated with SANOFI in conducting Conscious Parenting Workshops all over India.