Dealing with Examination Stress
CitySpidey interviewed Dr. VS Ravindran, the renowned Educational Psychologist, Director-General of ICTRC. He trains school counselors, social workers, psychologists, police officers, corporate professionals and other specialists. He trains professionals associated with both government and private organizations.
Dr. Ravindran has worked extensively with students and their parents for more than three decades. Here’s how the conversation went:
Q) High School students will soon be appearing for their final exams. These students have immense pressure to outperform their peers. Because of this competition, they are under tremendous pressure and anxiety. What can they do to deal with this situation?
Ans) The pressure you speak about is created by their environment, some created by the parents, some created by society and sometimes it is self-created. They are under so much pressure and the reason is ‘Evaluation Anxiety’.
“What will others think of me?” or “What is going to happen?” or “What if this happens”
They start thinking of worst-case scenarios, and that can be very hard to deal with.
“Will my friends like me still?” or “Will my parents approve of me?” These questions create unnecessary pressure on the students.
My suggestion to them would be:
- Stop thinking about evaluation by others.
- Study to learn - marks are just byproducts. If you study to get marks you’ll always be stress-ridden. It will ultimately cause you to perform even more poorly.
- Study on a regular basis. If you keep holding your studies till the last moment you’ll obviously be under stress and end up learning nothing.
- Students should set tentative goals in mind. Say there’s a student of Class 10, they should have some idea as to what subjects they want to opt for their next grade. They should line up their majors according to their career plans.
Q) You say students should choose subjects according to their career plans. Do you think this goes hand-in-hand with the kind of guidance or counselling that is provided to the students at their schools?
Ans) At every school, there is a person called the counsellor. This one counsellor is appointed to two thousand-odd children. So you tell me what kind of counselling these children would be getting? Many people don’t even know what proper counselling is. I would rather say, every teacher should be trained to be a counsellor. Every teacher should be equipped to address children’s stress, anxiety, and study-related concerns. Otherwise, there is no salvation for the students. Schools should conduct ‘group programmes’ and ‘need-based individual programmes’. Teachers should be sufficiently trained not only in lesson planning but also in the psychology of learning. There is a saying in our field: “To teach John Latin, you should know not only Latin but John too.”
Q) Would you like to give any suggestions for the parents of these young students?
Ans) Of course! Not only one, I have many suggestions for the parents.
- Do not transfer your anxiety or your stress to the children.
- Try keeping them away from all the unnecessary negativity. Filling their mind with negative thoughts will only pull them down, it doesn’t encourage a child. Telling them how bad the job market is, or how bad the world is, or there’s a lot of competition in the world outside is only going to make them dejected and despondent.
- If you don't fill their brains with hope, they’ll fill their veins with dope.” Do not fill their mind with hopelessness. The world isn’t as corrupt as it is made out to be by doomsday predictors. Tell them there are enough opportunities out there.
Q) Do you think the approach of New Education Policy (NEP) benefits students in any of the aspects we talked about before? Would you like to give us a statement for the same?
Ans) Oh, I’m all for it! But you see, policies have always been there. The issue is implementation. Many times those get diluted and don't get implemented properly. I’m just hoping for the day when even our higher education system and schools become a seamless transition for children. They should be able to choose whatever subjects they wish to study. Be it music, dance, physics, history, computer science or whatever combination they want. They should study what they have the aptitude for. I’m very happy about the multidisciplinary approach NEP is talking about, I have been thinking about it for years! People should not be in silos. I only pray that it is implemented in the right spirit.
Q) While writing their exams, students often feel anxious or under pressure. How do you suggest they deal with it?
Ans) That's actually very simple, read the question paper thoroughly. Do not start answering looking at the first question. Students often blackout because they don’t read the question properly and can't get it right. It leaves your brain in a jumble. Your feeling brain takes over the thinking brain. So read all the questions thoroughly and let your brain sort through all the important information.
Learn to manage your time. You can’t write pages after pages on a six marker question. For this students can attempt writing mock exams at home. This will teach them how to manage their time. Practice writing.
Do not start analysing your answers straight after your exam. It is only going to cause more stress. Maybe do it after you are done with all of your exams.
On the eve of the exam, do not touch a new chapter or topic. It would only increase your stress. Reserve that day for revision only otherwise you’ll get foggy. You won't be able to recall what you have already learned.