Being related to academia, I find myself well aware of everyday problems that majority of students confront. With that I wrote few lines about examination stress.
This article of mine has been published in World Times Magazine, Issue: X, Volume: 5, this July 2011.
I hope you will have enjoyable reading.
By: Prof. Ayesha Kashif
Stress is indeed one of the most common problems of today’s world, so before discussing “exam stress” it is important to explain first that “what is stress”? The definition says that “Stress is a dynamic condition in which an individual is confronted with an opportunity, constraints, or demands related to what he or she desires and for which the outcome is perceived to be both uncertain and important” Dictionary explains it as emotional force or strain. Stress is considered to be the combination of multiple reactions i.e. psychological, physiological, and behavioral response that people have in reaction to events that intimidate or challenge them.
Stress can be positive or negative. Sometimes, stress is supportive and helpful because it provides people with the extra energy or vigilance they need; for example stress could give an athlete the edge he or she needs to keep in a marathon race. The good kind of stress is called eustress and the bad kind of stress is called distress. Studies shows that mild to moderate kind of stress is usually good and enhances people’s performance, but when stress increases from moderate to severe levels; it always affects the performance negatively.
It has been commonly observed and with time; it has become desired norm that students should be stressed during the exam days. This might be the result of several factors; if asked students. They tend to explain that stress is sourced due to; immense workload that seems difficult or sometimes impossible to be managed in time.
Common Sources of Stress Among Students:
Majority of the students feel stressed and tensed because of high expectations of their family members, teachers or friends. They do not want to disappoint them by their poor performance, this leads to heighten the examination stress. It is important that the parents or teachers should set the goals for the students realistically. They should not be giving them the targets that are beyond the capability of the student. Parents and teachers must know the natural interest and aptitude of the student instead of forcing them to join any of the field in which they have no inclination or interest.
If a student is studying over scholarship, then they need to maintain their grades over certain thresholds. In that scenario they cannot afford to show poor performance as it can result in the discontinuation of the financial aid that they are getting in shape of scholarship. They might observe themselves to be in contest with other students and the competition may amplify their stress and anxiety levels.
According to Catherine Pulsifer "How we perceive a situation and how we react to it is the basis of our stress”. If you focus on the pessimism in any situation, you can experience high stress levels. However, if you try and see the optimistic direction in the situation, your stress levels will be diminished." Instead of perceiving half glass of water empty, one should perceive the half glass full.
Negative evaluation of one’s own self and negative thoughts that arise in the mind of the students during exams are another important factor that causes exam stress. Students usually think that they are not capable enough to study such difficult and lengthy syllabus or how difficult it is to get good grades; such negative thoughts directly affect their performance and ultimately lead to stress and anxiety. One should start thinking on the brighter side of the picture. They should see the advantages of getting good marks in exams instead of thinking on the disadvantages of having poor marks. Such positive attitude can reduce the pressure of exam stress and even enhances the performance during examination.
Lack of Self Confidence:
This is perhaps one of the major factors that cause exam stress. It means that students don’t rely on their own capabilities and potentialities. They perceive themselves not competent enough to be successful in the examinations. This fear causes anxiety and they start looking for some short-cuts or negative ways for passing the exams. They start thinking about some of the ways through which they can cheat in the exams or sometimes they even start running after the teachers before the exam to get some grace marks. It is really important that the students should have trust over themselves and their strengths. Instead of counting on their weaknesses they should highlight their strengths. This will not only have a positive impact on their performance but will also enhance their self esteem which will result in great performance.
Poor Time Management:
Majority of the students do not manage their time effectively or they fail to manage their work before hand. During the beginning of the academic year or semester they waste majority of their time in non-academic activities, thinking that they will cover this depletion in the end, but when the exams are just few days away, they suddenly realize that they have a lot of burden and the syllabus is too lengthy to be covered in this short span of time. This fear causes them lot of stress and anxiety and it leads to poor performance. If the students only revise their daily lecture regularly they will never be overburdened by the lengthy syllabus at the end of the term.
Few Tips to Overcome Exam Stress:
· Make a proper time table for study from the very beginning of the term and prioritize your work according to its importance.
· Don’t bundle up the work. Try to do daily work in small slots on daily basis.
· Take healthy diet. Avoid taking too much caffeine. Prefer fruits and vegetables. Some of the fruits like bananas have such ingredients that help reducing stress and depression.
· Take small rest pauses during the study. It will freshen up your mind and will affect your performance positively.
· Take proper sleep, specifically one night before the examination, as sleeplessness can result in bad performance.
· Take out time for exercise, walk, jog or any kind of aerobics. Physical exercises help reducing mental stress.
· Offer prayers. Have faith over God, and then over your own self. It will definitely sooth the anxiety.
· Discuss your academic or non academic problems with your friends. Sharing your worries with any of your sincere friend will definitely help you in overcoming your problem.
· Relax yourself by taking deep breaths before reading the question paper. Some of the students do not read the question paper fully and start writing the answer, that result in reduced performance.
· It is often a good idea not to discuss the examination paper once you are out of the examination hall. Usually students discuss their answers, soon after the exam and when they find their answers not 100 percent similar to the others they got extremely stressed, that ultimately affects their next exam performance.
In the end I will just highlight one of my favorite quotations by the most genius person of this world; Albert Einstein says that "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity” so instead of getting stressed by a problematic situation start looking for the opportunity that is hidden in the same crisis.