With Matric and other important exams almost upon us, there are many worried students debating on how best to tackle the stresses of exam pressure. Exam anxiety can be extremely debilitating for certain individuals. Studies have shown that there is a negative correlation between students’ levels of anxiety and their test scores - in other words, the more anxious a student becomes the lower his/her test score is likely to be. Further research has shown that exam anxiety also affects one’s self-confidence in testing situations.
Although many students consistently get lower marks because they suffer from performance anxiety in testing situations, they often avoid confronting the problem until it has become severe. Test-taking anxiety responds well to cognitive behavioural techniques such as relaxation, irrational-thought monitoring and visualisation. Study skills training can also be of great benefit because students learn to organise study material in such a way that less of their attention is needed to store and recall information in their memory.
The pressure of exams combined with the tumultuous emotions and stresses that area associated with teens and young adults can sometimes have devastating consequences. Not surprisingly, medical professionals are particularly alert for teen suicide attempts during this time of the year. The Gauteng-based Depression and Anxiety Support Group has for the past two years run a successful school programme to combat the increasing number of teen suicides which have been reported. The programme involves professionals educating teachers and pupils on suicide, the warning signs and the effective help that is available. The Depression and Anxiety Support Group has trained counsellors to assist you Mondays to Fridays 8am to 7pm and Saturdays 8am to 5pm on telephone number (011) 783-1474/6.
The good news is that students can learn how to beat exam anxiety. Below are pointers that can help any anxiety-ridden student acquire effective skills in tackling exam stress.
1. Set goals for your studying schedule and make a list of why you want to achieve these goals.
The goals must be:
· observable and measurable
2. Keep a diary time log and schedule your time management appropriately
3. Realise that you don’t have to react to your thoughts
When you have anxious thoughts about a test you will often feel like you have to do something to act on them to get rid of your fear. Instead of acting on your thoughts, notice them, accept them and watch them vanish as others take their place.
4. Realise that fears are, more often than not, based on what you imagine will happen and not what actually will happen.
5. Watch your self-talk
From the moment you open your eyes on the day of the test, you will probably be experiencing scary thoughts. Your task for the day is to realise the meaninglessness of these thoughts and to practice deep breathing when these thoughts become too fearful.
6. Be on time
Lateness in itself will cause your anxiety level to rise. Arrive at the test site early and take some time to focus. Keep your mind steady and calm
7. Don’t panic if you don’t know an answer
Remember thinking is a process. If you are battling with an answer:
· Look for hints in other questions
· Try to remember something the question is related to
· If your memory is still blocked, pick a line of thinking that is as close to the subjects as you can get and start writing.
8. Use relaxation techniques and coping responses
When taking the test, if you feel at any time that your anxiety is about to overtake your ability to think and reason stop for a minute or so and practice deep breathing, visualisation or relaxation techniques.
9. Bring all the materials you’ll need
10 Listen carefully to verbal instructions
11. Read all instructions slow and read them twice
12. If you’re afraid you’ll forget important information write it down fast
13. Skim the test and budget your time
14 Answer the easy questions first