Exams- To stress or no to stress?

Our pre-occupation with textbooks is probably a pointer to our obsession with the finishing line – EXAMS – rather than focusing on the process of learning!

The routine school examinations, more often than not, evaluate a child’s capacity to learn by rote, and reproduce, on a particular day. Clearly this evaluation process allows very little degree of freedom to the child’s individuality and analytical capacity. The evaluation methodology seems to be geared up more towards making the system simple for teachers rather than assessing the true abilities and potential of a child. This is where all the stress and anxiety related to exams starts building up.

            “Education is not the filling of a bucket, but rather the lighting of a fire”

                                                                                    – William Butler Yeats

It is this fire that we need to keep alive and give fuel to, such that it intensifies. After having put the role of examinations into perspective, let’s look at how we can support our kids during these taxing times and what can we do to deal with exam stress?


(Image courtesy- Internet)

I feel the most important thing that parents can do is to not add to the whole stress that the child is already dealing with during exams. No child takes exams lightly whether he has studied all through the year or is a last minute runner. So, if parents play the role of supporters then it won’t add to the overall anxiety for children.

Below are some actionable items that the parents and children may find handy to deal with the tension

  1. Eat well and eat right– Children’s appetite goes really down during exam times. But to be able to perform well and to their optimum, they need to energize the body with right nutrients. Though sugar and junk food really tickle our taste buds and give instant energy, but they can really leave one feeling negative and can interfere with the exam preparation. Parents can really take up this front and design a tasty yet healthy meal interspersed with lots of fruits and nuts in between.


(Image courtesy- Internet)

  1. Water is your best friend– We all must ensure to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. Students taking exams must aim for at least 8 glasses of water per day. Not drinking enough water can make them feel sluggish and stressed and negatively affect the efficiency of the brain.
  2. Manage your time wisely-Students must not just cram for an exam at the last minute, this will surely lead to exam stress. Work backwards starting from the exam date and make a time-table. Break your course into manageable parts and assign dates by which you can finish studying/revising a subject. This will reduce the unnecessary pressure that mounts up towards the beginning of exams.
  3. Take breaks– According to psychological studies, the average human brain can only focus on a task effectively for about 45 minutes. In addition, research in neurosciences suggests that focusing on the same task for too long diminishes the brain’s ability to accurately process it. Hence, taking breaks and rejuvenating yourself is very important. It could be going for a swim, a walk in the fresh air, playing any racquet sport, listening to music or hitting the gym. But do remember, taking a break should result in you feeling refreshed mentally.
  4. Stay away from mobiles and social media– Some children might say that indulging in Whatsapp, Facebook, YouTube etc during a break refreshes them. But unfortunately, that isn’t true! Studies suggest that all these activities invariably leave the brain stressed, exhausted and sluggish. Parents should gently encourage students to consider pre-exam and exam time as a gadget – detox time.


(Image courtesy- Internet)

  1. Sleep well– The virtues of a good night’s sleep during exam season should not be underestimated. A relaxed mind will think better and perform better. To be able to score well in exams, it’s very important that the child is mentally relaxed and only then will he be able to focus 100%. Last minute cramming never helps. Even if the student hasn’t been able to cover the entire syllabus, panicking will only worsen the situation. He may get nervous and forget the rest 80% syllabus that he would have prepared thoroughly. There are studies to indicate that if you overload the brain with too much information in too short a span of time, it is likely to end up confused and not function optimally.
  2. Meditate or do yoga/light exercises– This lets the mind focus and calm down. Deep breathing techniques or listening to instrumental music also help alleviate stress.
  3. Speak to someone- If, as a student undertaking exam, your stress gets to a point where it is overwhelming, and is affecting your day-to-day life, try and speak to someone about it. You can speak to your favorite teacher, school counselor, a family member, a friend about the pressure you feel. You’ll be amazed to know that you aren’t alone in feeling like this.

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  1. Spend quality time together as a family – An evening before the exam, parents must endeavor to relax or calm the child, rather than adding to the stress of unfinished syllabus, if any. Parents can consider making few hours prior to the exam light-hearted using various techniques e.g. playing a board game as a family, having dinner together, encouraging them to read a light book, go for a swim, or simply listen to soothing music. This might appear contrary to the popular belief, but trust me this works! The idea is that the child should be mentally relaxed and feel cared for. She must understand that his family is there to support her, no matter what. This will boost her confidence and self-belief.

As parents and society at large, we should really focus on creating sufficient interest and curiosity in our children such that they, on their volition, pick up books to learn, to explore, to wonder, to question, to experiment, to analyze, and to create; not just to pass their exams or score well. Have you ever wondered as to how important the exam you took in class 10th was now that you have come this far in life? Look at the bigger picture of life and see the relevance of results of Class 8th, 9th, 10th etc for yourself. While we cannot undermine the need of these exams but we also shouldn’t give them so much importance in our lives that they become the sole objective for our children’s lives! So, parents and children take a deep breath and enjoy the process rather than making it a war to be won.

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