Monday, November 16th, 2009

Exam phobia!

Teenage girl studying with textbooksExams exasperate. Now, that they are almost there, students are cramming into everything with feverish pitch. Your child spends frantic hours cramming the night before the examination and worries that she cannot retain what she has learnt.

Making sense of it. Your child could be suffering from high anxiety and also mental block due to an inefficient study pattern. She needs help.
PQRST Model suggested by Imperial College London is a good revision technique that can be used

  • Preview - skim the material to get an overall preview
  • Questions - formulate questions that highlight what you aim to derive from your reading
  • Read Actively - make appropriate notes of key ideas
  • Summarize - identify the main points using lists, key words, flow diagrams, etc. and connect them with knowledge from other sources
  • Test - test yourself by reciting and reviewing the summaries immediately after learning the material and again at later intervals

Students have the misconception that continuous long hours of study are the secret of high performance levels. It has however been proved scientifically by extensive studies of the human brain that concentration starts to increase after 20 minutes of study, peaking at 40-45 minutes after which it steadily declines, thereby increasing the time taken to learn and remember in cases of long hours of continuous study, reducing effectiveness. It is therefore recommended to take regular short breaks after about 50 minutes of reading to maximize memorizing and concentration levels.

Coping with Anxiety

Exam time is stressful for children. However, with the support of parents, children can defray stress.


  • Be affectionate but don’t make the child uncomfortable with over-attention. A hug in private just works fine.
  • Spend some light moments with your child. It could be sitting at the dinner table and sharing some jokes with the family.
  • Forget about an exam as soon as your child has appeared for it, ruminating over it is not going to help you or your child. Inculcate the same in your child.
  • Spend some time together with your partner.
  • Do one thing that gives you joy or happiness every day. Encourage the same in your child.
  • Do not set down rules for your child; let the child follow his or her routine while studying
  • Encourage your child to take adequate breaks.
  • See that the child gets eight hours of shut-eye.
  • Nutritious food is essential for your child but steer clear foods that are high in fat and sugar. Fresh fruits and vegetables are the best bet.

It is however recommended that in extreme cases of stress, insomnia and tearfulness expert consultation should be sought.

In the exam hall

The exam hall is where it all counts! All those hours of preparation and practice, hence you will be suffering from some amount of stress. However, there is a way to bell the cat and we have enumerated these for you—

  1. Map your time. This is the primary rule of writing an exam. Read the questions carefully and allot time to writing answers to these. While solving numerical questions if you are getting stuck, it is a good idea to move on and return to the question later. Always strive to have 15 minutes in hand so that you can revise the answers before handing your answer-sheet.
  2. Avoid irrelevance. This is not going to fetch you any mark.
  3. Write in a legible handwriting and avoid grammatical and spelling errors.
  4. Underline important points. Leave a line between paragraphs and between the answers. They may sound common sense, nevertheless are overlooked in the hurry to complete the answers.
  5. Start your answers with crisp definitions, and give relevant diagrams wherever necessary.

Finally, remember external pressures around exams can be huge. It can be hard to deal with, especially with family and people you respect, but you need to remember that it’s your life and your exam, with you in control. Also try to put the last exam out of your mind and look ahead to the next one – you can’t go back and change things.

Dr.Vinita Jha is a Gurgaon based psychiatrist and runs her own wellness company.

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Category: Exam Stress
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