How to cope with the pressure of exams?

Published:Nov 28, 202318:14

Daniel Curry, Director & Principal, Vega Schools   

One of the unavoidable challenges as a student is facing examinations. Some are routine, while some are high stakes exams with long lasting impact. As parents, we want our children to excel. So how do we help our children do their best in the face of exam stress?

It’s important to place children in a top school with strong academics. Preparation is the best way to deal with stressful situations. This preparation is not the result of last minute cramming, but happens effectively over time and with good instructional practice. Poor practices include rote memorization which results in little to no long-term recall. Rather, having pedagogical approaches like problem based learning are shown to have higher long term retention and, more importantly, greater depth of understanding and knowledge. Having a strong grasp of the academics is the first step in reducing exam stress.

Top schools also help students develop problem solving skills and strategies that they can apply to examinations and everyday life. These strategies allow problems to be broken down and analyzed in pursuit of finding solutions. These skills need to be practiced regularly to be honed, which is why a school that incorporates problem based learning and critical thinking gives an advantage to students. Like any skill, application over time results in mastery. Students can easily approach an examination confidently when they are sure of their skills.

Combining both the academic knowledge and the application skills will result in a decrease in stress for students. Their self-confidence in facing and overcoming challenges should be a natural outgrowth of good preparation in a high quality school. However, there will always be an element of pressure. 

The effects of stress on performance are interesting and have been studied at length. The absence of stress completely usually results in lower performance. As stress increases, performance increases; however, there is a tipping point after which stress is damaging and counter-productive. Parents likely do not need to add extra pressure or stress to a student who already knows the importance of any particular examination. Keep in mind that too much stress will result in bad outcomes. Most students already are worried about exams; what they need from their parents and school is encouragement and support.

When students have been prepared over time, they have good recall of information and how to apply it. Last minute attempts to memorize large amounts of information do not result in the depth of knowledge needed to perform well on examination. If anything, the stress of that last minute preparation can be counterproductive. The best advice for students immediately before an exam is to eat and drink well and get plenty of rest. The old saying ‘well rested, well tested’ is a good one to remember. Being comfortable and relaxed during an exam produces good recall and good results. 

Stress exam is a fact of life, but it can be managed and harnessed with the right education. Look for top schools whose pedagogy provides the best foundation right from the start. When this approach is incorporated into Pre-nursery, nursery, kindergarten and higher, students have their best chance for success over the long run.

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