"Mom, I have a headache, I can't go for the exam."
"Dad, I feel like vomiting, I can't sit for the exam."
"Mom, I have a terrible stomach ache, I can't attend this test."
These are some common excuses that students come up with when they are unable to cope with exam stress.
Exam anxiety disorder affects almost 40 percent of children, including adolescents. Stress levels spike, especially during major exams. Student appearing for SSC/HSC exams undergo the same amount of stress as those appearing for IIT/Medicine Entrance Exams or CA exams.
Some students become withdrawn, cranky and irritable and even throw tantrums. Children are unable to vocalise the fact that they are scared of exams. This can also lead to school refusal, an anxiety disorder where the student stops going to school due to emotional distress. Some students end up falling prey to alcoholism, smoking, drug abuse and excessive use of anti depressants. Most of these are easily available everywhere in the country.
Exam related stress leads to pressure and anxiety. A lot of students go through this so one should not feel that they are the only person who has to face it. Physical symptoms such as stomach ache, nausea, increased heart rate, excessive sweating and severe headaches are very common. Cognitive and emotional symptoms include the mind going blank, lack of concentration, inability to organise, exam apprehension, fear of failure and low self-esteem. This in turn leads to sadness, anger, depression, severe anxiety and panic attacks.
Parents these days try to force their own ambitions on their children. They often deny the fact that they are pressurising their child. The child on the other hand does not want to disappoint their parents. Apart from parents, coaching classes advertising pictures of students who have topped the subject adds to the child's dilemma. The fact that there are limited seats available in every sector is another concern that affects the child.
Dr. Jalpa Bhuta, Consultant Psychiatrist, Global Hospitals, says, "The number of students and parents who come to visit us shoots up by 60-70 percent every year during examination periods. For young students, we usually use methods like family counseling and therapy wherein we involve the parents and teachers to ensure that any pressure that the child is going through eases off. For older students the approach is different, wherein we provide cognitive behavior therapy along with counseling and medication".
Some simple suggestions for students:
- Start preparing for your exams well in advance to avoid last minute panic.
- Organise your notes and make sure you do several repeated practices or revisions.
- Take enough breaks.
- Do things unrelated to your exams that relax you.
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, drink lots of water, avoid sugary foods and yes, exercise regularly.
- Try deep breathing, meditation, yoga and visual imagery techniques to cope with exam stress.
Parents should empathise with children. They should avoid hovering over them like helicopters. Instead, they should give them enough space and emotional support. Making the examination look like 'a matter of life and death' is the biggest mistake any parent can make. Parents should not judge the students based on the marks they score in their exams. They should look at the child's overall performance and see what the child is good at. Never criticise, compare or humiliate a child. Make sure you do not do anything that lowers the child's self-esteem.
*Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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It is said when the examinations are approaching, the students suffer from examination fever and rightly examinations are regarded as a curse by students. The approach of examinations means the beginning of fear in the mind of a student.
As a matter of fact, examinations are the only worry of students. They are the only unpleasant experience in an otherwise happy and carefree life. The bugbear of an examination interrupts the smooth course of a student's life. Games, musical concerts, debates and other extra-mural activities are all stopped busy in preparations for examinations. Students are not to be found at the cinema-houses, restaurants and other places of entertainment during the examination days.
Examinations are held to test students' ability, to check up the work they have done during a term, to judge what progress they have made and to determine whether they have been utilising or wasting their time. If there were no examinations, the merits of the various students could not be judged, nor would the majority of students take any interest as it is only the fear of examinations that makes students work.
They know that if they keep on neglecting their books, they will be exposed in examinations. They are aware that their marks will be communicated to the guardians who will take them to task if the results are not satisfactory. They know also that if they foil they will experience a feeling of humiliation. All these things combine to urge a student to hard work. Examinations are, therefore, a spur to effort, an incentive to work.
But examinations are not a reliable test of the ability of students. A student may memorize certain portions of the text and if a question is set from the portions he has prepared, he will no doubt secure good marks, while another student, brighter and more intelligent than the first, may not show good results because he did not especially prepare the questions which were set in the examination.
Similarly it may be said that the standard of marking all the papers is not the same, because different examiners mark different papers in different moods. Most educationists now agree that a simple crucial examination is certainly no test of ability; they insist upon a series of practical tests of knowledge and intelligence over a period of two or three years. The results of all these tests, they say, should be taken into account when judging a student's ability. The argument has no doubt a good deal of truth in it but on the whole it may be said that good students do not usually show bad results and that negligent students do not generally pass.
It cannot be denied, however, that examinations do exert as unusual strain upon the minds of the students who lose all their zest for life at the approach of an examination. Tutors are engaged, notes and guess-papers are purchased, special lectures are attended, coaching classes are thronged, in short, all possible measures are taken to get through the examination. The reason for all this is that throughout the term the students pay little heed to their studies and so when a test is near they have to concentrate all their energies on studies.
The scheme of internal assessment introduced some years ago by some institutions is intended as a step in the direction to keep a watch on the students' labour and regularity in their studies. However, even this has its own drawbacks.