Sunday, May 24, 2009


Today’s student does not only carry the burden of clearing his/her exams, but rather of excelling with as high percentages as possible. Be it parents, teachers or other classmates, one is praised and branded as good only when he/she scores 90&# 8211;99 per cent.

This intense competition and pressure has put a lot of stress on the teenager. During the exams this presents as acute anxiety and associated problems and, at the time of the results, it can be a cause of tremendous concern.

Examination Anxiety is a much-talked about phenomenon today. Everybody tends to agree when we mention the stress and pressure on the students yet, most of us feel helpless to do anything about it. In the present confusion about handling examination anxiety, the main point is to understand and accept that anxiety is a normal part of the human experience.

One common mistake some students make is to change their lifestyle totally during an exam under the assumption that if isolated from all leisure and fun and focuses only on study, then he/she will do better.

This is a mistake, as the brain needs rest and if fatigued will not be able to make the most of the studies. Regular and effective study is the only way to perform well. Here are some basic guidelines of effective study for the final days before examinations.

Study duration: Study in short spans of 40-45minutes. Attention span does not last beyond this duration. This also helps prevent boredom as short sessions followed by short breaks help maintain interest as well. Avoid TV during breaks but come out of the study room as that’s important to relax .

Environment: Avoid distractions like TV. Try to avoid music while studying. Do not study while lying on the bed. Get your right quota of sleep as that is crucial to performance.

Self-assessment: On a chart in your room give yourself a rating on a scale of 0 to 5 based on how well you have studied. This helps in self-monitoring and self-motivation.

Self examinations: Take weekly self-tests, time yourself and give yourself marks. This helps to maintain motivation, gives the student a realistic understanding of his preparation and reduces exam anxiety.

Break the chain of anxiety: Anxiety always stems from dire predictions about the future. Pinpoint what you predict will happen. Remember your past predictions of disaster. Reviewing your track record for accurate predictions may help you to recognise the negative thinking.

Relaxation exercises: This is an effective method to reduce anxiety and improve confidence and performances.

Proper diet: Do not to cut down or increase food consumption. Avoid coffee, tea and nicotine. Avoid self-medication for headaches and other stress-related problems

Professional advice: If you are unable to handle the stress and the pressures, see a psychologist/psychiatrist who will help counsel you so that you can start afresh.

Every year we go through the same cycle without finding a solution. The way examinations are handled needs to be corrected. Schools need to impart life skills education so that students cope better with stress and have a healthy outlook towards life. Each school must have an involved trained counsellor, who can spot high-risk students and get them help. Help lines would be more effective if each school has their own run by teachers and counsellors.

The media can help create awareness about the effect of stress on students and its undesired impact. Healthcare professionals also need to take a proactive role to help reduce the burden of exams on the students, by being involved with the school system. The focus should be on primary prevention, not secondary treatment. Each child who drops out off school or commits suicide due to exam pressures is a national disaster.

The writer is a Consultant Psychiatrist based in Delhi.

Parents should

Not nag

Be supportive and encouraging

Encourage interaction with friends

Talk to them about their feelings

Have fun with them

Don’t let them overwork

Take breaks with them

Take professional help if needed

Look out for

Mood swings

Crying spells

Social withdrawal

Deterioration in cleanliness

Sleep impairment

Complaints like pains and aches

Appetite reduction

Expressions of low self-esteem, sense of loss or failure

Inability to have fun, or enjoy routine activities


Loss of drive

Feeling of hopelessness, worthlessness and helplessness

Constant self-blame and negative frame of mind

On D-day

Don’t study till the last minute.

Try to minimise the waiting time outside the hall.

Talk to your friends but not about the exams or studies.

Try to think positive.

Once in the hall, take time to settle down and set your table.

Ignore symptoms of anxiety and focus on your task.

Do not hurry into reading the question paper

Feel comfortable before you start your answers

If you do not know a question, move on to the next after leaving some space; try it later

Leave space after each answer so that you can add later if you need to.

Do not hurry; this is not a race

Do not worry about supplementary sheets that others are taking

Try and revise your answers finally

Once out , avoid a post-mortem

Relax and take a break

Start studying when comfortable

--BY Sameer Parikh