Tests Sans Stress

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Whichever the year, whatever the college (or even school), it is the time of  exams. It may not be final exams, but exams none the less. The scores matter since either they form a part of your final evaluation or they are key for your entrance to a higher education institution. The Common Admission Test (CAT) begins this month for a seat in the coveted Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). It is followed by several other entrance exams for which students are fervently preparing. Students opting for chartered accountancy, cost accountancy and company secretaryship have exams in November and December. Semester end exams are around the corner for most degree college students and a certain percentage counts towards the final grade; so, they cannot do without perfect prep. And of course, schools have their term-end exams around this month.

The Stress
Since our education system is one that depends all on exam scores, it is impossible that students and their parents not be stressed about it. “Do I even have a choice? Even with what I would consider a great score for my son’s capacity (84 per cent in the class 10 ICSE exams), he couldn’t manage to secure a seat in the college of his choice. I have to worry about the future course of his education,” says teacher Pooja Jhaveri, whose son Mitul is in class 11 now.
She is not alone. In fact, a recent survey shows that pressure to perform in exams is causing students to adopt severe methods to deal with stress: pop memory-enhancing pills, smoking, eat junk food. Th e study says such students – many of whom are taking the crucial examinations – believe they will be called failures if they don’t score decently. Th e time is such that the stress is felt by everyone – the student, parents, family in general, and in a few cases, even the neighbours! In such a situation, it is imperative that a system is devised for dissipating some of the pressure and helping those involved to de-stress at the right time. In this light, there is an opinion that if the stress is reduced during the weeks preceding D-Day, it helps lighten up the general atmosphere in what is termed as ‘exam homes’ – or homes where a student is appearing for an important and decisive exam.

The Pressure and it’s Solution
“The main pressures that a student feels are parental and peer. During the exams, parental pressure takes precedence. Parents need to be counselled and made to understand that marks are not the end all and be all everything,” says Manju Nichani, Prinipal of KC College, Mumbai. She adds that marks are important, but not more important than the kids, and she is in favour of counselling. She advocates a long-term of counselling for HSC students since in addition to board exams, they also have to appear for a multitude of entrance exams.
“This last-minute kind of counselling is geared more towards students and if need be, parents,” says Malthi Arunachalam, who works as a counsellor in several schools in the country. According to her, it is essential that the family is made aware of the ill effects that undue pressure can have on children, and that is what she begins with. “I start by giving them the worst picture. Th is picture is constructed from real life incidents, so they do not undermine the seriousness of the situation,” she adds. Malthi then gradually brings them from the negative to the positive, heavily emphasising on the need for a relaxed atmosphere at home. In most cases, it works.
Often, it has been observed that a feeling of lack of preparation can lead to pre-exam anxiety and in some cases intense stress. Students who are emotionally ill-equipped to handle stress, further encounter problems like a sluggish memory, demotivated learning, low confidence etc. As a result, with exams fast approaching and preparation always seeming inadequate, they start feeling helpless. It is important for students to understand that if there is anyone who can be of help are the parents. “Even parents are highly stressed, looking at their child preparing day in and day out. Everyone wants the student to do well, which oft en translates into constant nagging. Th is nagging is at its peak during the exam weeks,” says counselling psychologist Shital Ravi of Disha Counselling Centre, Mumbai.
Ravi opines that counselling in such scenarios helps put things into perspective. “In the last few days, if goals are set and parents are kept in the loop by children, parents will back off ,” she adds. With counselling, home management changes, which results in a more relaxed home. When in doubt, parents should keep motivational quotes handy, read inspirational stories, cover the study place with stress-busting posters etc. Th is will help students ward off any unwanted distractions and will help them stay focused. After all, students are still teenagers and a lot of their strength and self-confidence comes from their parents’ perception of them. The more positive the parents are, the better the kids will do!

In Addition
With not many days left , it is time to concentrate. If you are tensed, find a way to deal with your tension. Determine the source, and if it is due to lack of preparation on your part, then pull your socks up and adopt a realistic approach to make the most of the time you have left . With a rational approach, you will be able to achieve much better results as compared to panicking and popping antacids. Anyhow, if you think that you are well prepared for the test but are still distressed, then find the source. A little nervous energy does not hurt, but it should not overwhelm you.
“My last minute advice to students preparing for exams is that they should be able to relate better with whom they trust and love. They should be open about their problems and talk to parents if they are facing anything unnerving,” says Malthi. She adds that it is better to face the ‘music’ from parents at this stage when at least some remedial measures can be taken. “After the results are out and the kid has scored badly, nothing can be done except shift ing blame and moping,” she opines.
Ravi agrees. She also thinks there are other things that students could do in advance. “Get hold of appropriate textbooks early on and familiarise yourself with them. Try to do some preliminary preparation,” she says. She also suggests keeping in touch with other students appearing for the same exam. “It is very useful to have a short chat with another student everyday to discuss progress and problems,” she says.
So, if you started reasonably in advance and are realistic, you will not face too much of a problem for your exams. Aft er all, the worst part is the preparation. All the best!

EXPERTS SAY

FOR PARENTS
• HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
• UNDERSTAND YOUR CHILD’S STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
• GIVE POSITIVE REITERATION TO YOUR CHILD
• BE MOTIVATIONAL
• DON’T KEEP FEEDING YOUR CHILD ALL THE TIME

FOR STUDENTS
• SET SHORT TERM GOALS – HOURLY, IF REQUIRED
• TRY TO ACHIEVE THE GOALS
• DON’T STAY UP TO CRAM WHAT YOU ALREADY KNOW
• EAT AND SLEEP WELL
• WORK TOWARDS LEARNING AND NOT CRAMMING
•USE STRESS BUSTERS AS AND WHEN REQUIRED. THESE COULD BE ANYTHING, FROM A WALK TO WATCHING A SITCOM OR PLAYING A GAME

STUDENTS SAY
• Try to combine everything and learning the larger, main concepts first
• Then break down the large amount of material into the main concepts
• Know the format of your examination really well, including the evaluation
• Practice, and more practice will build confi dence to face the exam room
• Practice/ revise more than one subject in a day. Variety helps
• Change your attitude – Think this is only a test and there will be others
• Take things in a positive way. Remember all the hard work you have done already
• Ensure that you get enough and sound sleep. Every person is different; so while
you may not need eight hours, but make sure it is enough
• Do something relaxing when you feel you are prepared for what you have
studied; it’ll help you retain stuff better

Volume 1 Issue 4