Curbing/managing examination stress and examination techniques
Many students experience stress as examinations draws nearer and sometimes this stress may cause a person to suffer from what is commonly known or referred to as a panic attack.
Exam stress is an unfortunate part of life for many in educational institutions. Students getting ready for exams often feel a lot of pressure, which can result in nervousness and anxiety
What is Examination stress?
• Examination stress encompass:
• Extreme worry about upcoming exams
• Fear of being evaluated
• Nervousness about the consequences
• Examination stress is experienced by many students and it can happen to anyone. It is
• not strange or difficult to understand, however it is controllable by following a plan of techniques
Symptoms of Examination Stress
• Dry mouth
• Rapid heart beat
• “Butterflies in the stomach”
Behavioural and Cognitive Symptoms
• Avoidance of exam situations
• Exam stress can get so severe that it leads to the student dropping out of school entirely just to avoid testing
• “Blanking out”
• Trouble concentrating
• Low self esteem
• Feelings of despair
• Feeling a sense of inability to do anything about your situation, so you may criticize or belittle yourself about your performance and feelings.
Causes of examination stress
Examinations stress may sometimes be instigated by the expectations of parents, family members and tutors to pass the examinations. Students want to impress and please everyone surrounding them and in the process place a great deal of pressure on themselves
A certain fraction of exam stress can come from within the student themselves. The pressure to do well does not only come from the educational institution and family environments; if the student is afraid of perceived failure, a bad grade on an exam may be the realization of their greatest fear. If they dwell on the exam’s difficulty, and worrying about their grade, they will almost certainly feel more stress.
If a student feels as if they haven’t prepared for the exam sufficiently, they can come in on test day with a threatening feeling.
There are four main areas which can contribute to your exam anxiety:
• Inadequate rest
• Poor nutrition
• Insufficient exercise
• Not scheduling available time
• Not prioritising commitments
• Academic information such as course requirements, lecturers' expectations, exam dates and testing location
• Knowledge of how to apply anxiety reduction techniques while studying before an exam
Studying styles that are:
• Inefficient, inconsistent content coverage
• Trying to memorize the textbook
• All-night studying before exams
• Ineffective: reading without understanding; cannot recall the material; not making revision notes; not revising
• Feeling little or no control over the exam situation
• Negative thinking and self-criticism
• Irrational thinking about exams and outcomes:
"If I don't pass, my (family/partner/boss) will lose respect for me/I’ll lose my job!“
• Irrational demands "I have to get at least a Merit or I am worthless.“
• Catastrophic predictions "I'll fail no matter what I do—there’s no point."
The advantage of examination stress
While a small amount of pressure or stress can be motivational, a tiny bit of nervousness can actually enhance performance.
Curbing/Managing examination stress and effective exam techniques
If left untreated, exam stress can interfere in a person’s day-to-day functioning therefore incorporating effective examination techniques to manage it may help students to regulate anxiety levels better
To curb this source of stress, the student should study well ahead of time and not procrastinate. Also, if the exam-taker does not get enough sleep the night before, they will feel additional stress.
General exam stress alleviation tips include:
• ?Believe in yourself
• ?Don't try to be perfect
• ?Take steps to overcome problems – e.g ask for help if you need it
• ?Don't keep things bottled up- e.g talk to someone you trust about how you feel
• ?Keep things in perspective- it is not the end of the world your exams make up a fraction of your entire life, take a positive outlook on it
• ?Plan your study time- Draw up a schedule that makes provision for ample study time as well as relaxation time
• ?Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle- Eat healthy, exercise and get plenty of rest
• ?Get accurate information. Check your course syllabus/scopes and get an understanding of the grading procedure. Knowing the material will reduce your anxiety over the unexpected. If you don’t understand, ASK. Well before the exam, make sure you know the venue, the start time and the duration of the exam. And what needs to be brought to the examination session.
• ?Get yourself into exam mode-Practice on sample tests in the textbook or study guide. Look at past exams papers
• ?Avoid bad things- Give coffee and other stimulants a miss the night before the exam or on the day of the exam. Avoid anxious or talkative students. Avoid other people or things that may disturb your self-confidence
• ?Develop a method for studying the notes you take in class, as they often form the backbone of most exams. If you wait until the day before the test to read your notes, it will be all but impossible to retain that information
• ?Leave plenty of time to revise- Procrastinating will leave you with less time for revision and this will result in you having to cram the revision into a short period.
? Be at the venue half an hour early to settle in and give yourself time to calm down before the examination. Avoid arriving late.
• D-DAY (Day of the examination)
? If you start to panic during the exam the quickest and most effective way to eliminate feelings of stress and panic is to close your eyes and take several long, slow deep breaths.
? Remember that the invigilator is there to assist you (for instance, if you have a problem with distracting noises inside or outside of the examination room)
? Read the instructions carefully and make sure that you understand what is expected of you
• Pace yourself- Do not rush through the exam, but always make sure you know how much time you have available
After the exam
Reward yourself-Go and do something more enjoyable. Whatever you do, don't spend endless time criticising yourself for where you think you went wrong. Congratulate yourself for the things you did right.
Examinations are not the end of the world and you can overcome it. Just ensure that you follow the techniques that work well for you and make the best of your examination experience as it in the end contributes to your educational upliftment and success in life.
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