Don’t stress before exams

Exam time comes with a lot of stress. Then is the time to control the mind and give your best performance. The eleventh hour rush is not advisable. One needs to plan the time beforehand.

Here are some Q &As that will help you to keep your cool! It’s that time of the year again, when burning midnight oil seems mandatory and whatever little time is spent in bed is wasted trying to pacify the butterflies in the stomach. Examinations are rarely perceived as an opportunity to show someone how brilliant you are; most of the time the mere thought of appearing for an exam triggers the body’s ‘flight or fight mechanism’. In short, the days of feeling the adrenaline rush, palms sweating and heartbeat racing are back!

Though sample answers have been provided, surely each student would attempt the questions differently — based on their individual experiences, beliefs and attitudes.

Causes of exam stress:

(a) Psychological factors: Stress is generally triggered by the fear of being evaluated. This is experienced by most students, to varying degrees. Apprehensions about fulfilling one’s expectations and those of others, especially, parents and teachers, escalate stress levels. Other psychological factors such as negative thinking, self-pity, feelings of inadequacy, helplessness and certain irrational beliefs may further aggravate exam anxiety. Fear of performing badly and eventually, missing out on a place in the desired college or university also contributes to it.

 (b) Study methodology: Sometimes reading the text without understanding the concept and not making revision notes can prove to be detrimental. Being inconsistent through the year, last-minute mugging up, binge studying and studying all night just before the exam contribute to exam stress.

 (c) Lifestyle: Students tend to unconsciously overeat during this phase; they inadvertently binge on fast food, which may cause indigestion and stomach upset. Inadequate rest, insufficient exercise, lack of focus, inability to prioritise commitments, inefficient time-management are other lifestyle issues that cause exam stress.

How do you cope with exam stress?

A good way to cope with this situation is to prioritise your activities. It has been rightly said “One does not plan to fail; one simply fails to plan!”

One way could be to divide all your daily activities into four groups:

(a) Urgent and important (exam next day and loads to study).

(b) Not urgent but important (preparing for an exam two months away).

(c) Urgent but not important.

(d) Not urgent and not important (social networking).

The secret to time-management and eliminating stress is to reduce the time duration of activities in (d) and, most importantly preventing situations moving from (b) to (a).

An organised effort eliminates the chances of last-minute panic and undue stress.

Is it possible to avoid getting stressed before an exam?

  • Being a little anxious before an exam or an interview is natural and may not be completely avoidable. At the same time, behaving like the ostrich burying its head in the sand and immersing oneself into books, notes and text while managing exam stress single-headedly might not be a good idea.
  • On the contrary, it may be best to talk to your friends about how they feel and discuss ways of coping with it. Parents and teachers (who have already experienced exam stress) can offer guidance and tips that outline how things can be handled more effectively. Then, work out your own ‘De-stress plan’.
  • Avoid spending time in front of screens. Watching TV or spending time in front of the computer or playing online games is a big ‘no’, since screens do not allow the senses and mind to relax. Taking short 15-minute breaks after an hour or so, getting good sleep, not watching TV (especially the night before the exam), judiciously following your study plan, making brief notes….can actually improve the brain’s ability to retain information and also help develop a conscious mechanism for minimising anxiety. 

What is the best way to approach an actual exam? 

Having a structure in place to co-ordinate different efforts is the ideal way to approach an actual exam. Once you’ve prepared properly and to the best of your ability, stay relaxed, focused and calm; don’t panic when you see the question paper! Be confident, clear and concise. Keep your writing legible and present your answers neatly; avoid scratching/ scribbling /rewriting and remember to highlight important points.


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