Depending on the type we choose, we go to school to acquire knowledge, aptitude, skill, etc. It takes a certain period of time for sufficient learning in a particular field to take place. This period is often segmented into sessions, semesters or terms depending on the nature of the program and the culture of the school. At the end of the session, semester or term, the school organizes a formal assessment for the students. This assessment is geared towards checking the degree to which they have imbibed the lessons taught. It is this formal assessment that is often generally referred to as examination or test.
In this article, we are going to discuss what examination really is and take some space to look at the students’ disposition towards examinations. We shall discuss examination stress and anxiety, the symptoms and how to overcome them.
So let’s get on it.
Table of Contents
What is Examination Stress?
Examination stress is the feeling of anxiety, worry or tension in the periods leading to a test; or that comes because one is already faced with a test.
Signs and symptoms of Examination Stress
By signs and symptoms of examination stress, we mean those feelings and lifestyle changes that show that someone is going through exam stress. These signs are broadly categorized into three: physical, behavioral and mental or emotional.
Let’s look at each category.
1. Physical signs
A student who is experiencing exam stress may feel persistent slight headache, fast heartbeat and tense muscles. In many cases, this is accompanied by uncontrollable sweating and insomnia.
2. Behavioral signs
Behavioral signs of exam stress may come in the form of actions that are hitherto alien to student. The stressed student may fidget, grind their teeth or bite their nails unconsciously. In extreme cases, some students resort to smoking, drinking or over-eating.
3. Mental and emotional signs
Though the first two categories of signs are unpleasant, emotional signs are worse. The student experiencing examination stress has an uncontrolled feeling of fear. They find it very difficult to concentrate on anything as their thoughts keep racing. They feel low, moody and overwhelmed. And then, they can suddenly go blank.
Causes of Examination Stress
What predisposes students to exam stress? The truth is that different students experience exam stress for different reasons. In this section, we shall look at the various reasons. If you know the reason(s) why you are going through stress, you’d be in a good position to identify strategies to overcome it.
The causes of examination stress can be grouped into four (4) categories: the student’s lifestyle, information gap, lack of preparation and psychological factors.
Let’s discuss each of them.
1. The Student’s Lifestyle
The predominant lifestyle of a student can predispose him to examination stress. If a student does not get adequate sleep per day, he will never get enough rest to function normally. In addition to this, poor nutrition or use of stimulants can lead to examination stress.
More so, there are students who have procrastination issues in their life. They are not adept in scheduling their available time or prioritizing commitment. Such students always come under pressure in test-taking situations because they are hardly prepared. Read the Best Time Management Tips for College Students.
2. Information Gap
Most of the students who experience examination stress always lacked academic information. Some of them play truancy from the beginning of the semester. Consequently, they neither know the course requirements nor the lecturers’ expectations. You can even see some students who lack information on exam dates and exam location. Such students are bound to experience examination stress.
Because of this information gap, these students lack the knowledge of how to apply stress reduction techniques during their preparations before the exam and even during the exam.
3. Lack of Preparation
If a student is not efficient in studying, he is bound to experience examination stress. Many student do a lot of things in the name of studying. Some don’t cover their course content, others just try to memorize their entire textbooks. Some do all-night studying without taking some time to sleep and rejuvenate their bodies.
Apart from inefficient studying, some students also study ineffectively. They read without understanding, they don’t make notes while studying and they fail to recall what they read.
4. Psychological Issues
Many students find themselves stressed out as exam approaches because of certain psychological issues. Some have a negative self-concept and self-criticism. They believe they are not smart enough, that they will get a poor grade or that they won’t pass at all.
There are others who have irrational beliefs. They say things like, “If I don’t ace my exam, my boyfriend/girlfriend would lose respect for me.” Some are under pressure from their parents to get good grades. Still others believe that they will fail the exam, no matter what happens.
These psychological issues and dispositions put the student under pressure and make them to manifest symptoms of examination stress.
How to Overcome Exam Stress
To effectively deal with the problem of examination stress, it’d help a lot to try to identify the cause of your stress. This is because what causes your stress as a person may not be what causes another’s. When you identify the cause of your exam stress, the next step is to ask other questions. Your answer to these other questions would help you to determine the technique that would work in reducing or eliminating the stress.
For example, if you arrive at the conclusion that you were exam-stressed because of lack of adequate preparation, you might want to ask the following questions:
- Why was I not adequately prepared for the exam? Could it be that I did not have ample time to study?
- If I did not have ample time, why? Is it because of my job, family responsibility, watching TV, playing games or hanging out with friends?
These kind of questions are critical to finding the best intervention for your exam stress problem.
Strategies to Reduce or Eliminate Exam Stress
1. Change your Negative Dispositions and Thinking Patterns
Change your perception about tests and examinations. Don’t see exams as a threat. Don’t conclude you will never understand a course. Never see any course or lecturer as stupid. Such negative thinking patterns lead to stress.
If you can switch to a positive mindset, you reduce your stress level drastically. Guard your thoughts diligently. Don’t entertain negative thinking either before or during an examination.
2. Learn to Prepare for Exams Ahead of Time
As we have already seen, it is lack of efficient and effective preparation that causes exam stress. Find a conducive study environment, read your materials several times and take notes. Try to understand and retain what you read. Practice recall by answering past examination questions. Just get ready ahead of time. Don’t let the exam take you unawares.
3. Always Find Time to Relax and Rest
This is very important. Stress can give you both physical and emotional tension. Always find time to get adequate relaxation and rest. Get enough sleep – it is an antidote for stress. Play good music, it also helps to ease exam stress.
4. Eat Healthy, Live Healthy
Pay attention to nutrition. Eat good, organic, well-balanced food. Avoid junks, tobacco and every form of stimulant. Always engage in physical activities and get your body exercised. All these help to reduce the effect of stress.
The signs and symptoms of examinations stress are not pleasant to experience. But you can overcome them if you follow that strategies given above.
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