Overcoming Examination Stress
Preparing for a big exam can be an incredibly stressful time for students. It is normal to feel
stress while preparing or sitting for an exam, whether an ordinary semester exam or a
significant milestone exam. The pressure helps you focus on the exam and motivate you to
prepare well. It is also helpful to be encouraged to perform well academically.
Most of the time, having some plans, such as forming groups to study together, establishing a study schedule, and breaking the task into manageable pieces and exercises, helps the
students to manage the stress and feel more in control of the situation. However, for some
students, the exam stress is so overwhelming that it affects their well-being, sleep, eating habits and physical health. Such overwhelming stress may indicate a sign of test anxiety. Test anxiety is not listed in DSM-5 because it occurs as a manifestation of social anxiety, general anxiety disorder (GAD), a specific phobia or childhood trauma. Test anxiety is an extreme fear of failure or failure to perform up to expectation. It is also usually caused by intense internal or external critics or both.
Test anxiety often manifests through physical symptoms like excessive sweating, rapid
heartbeat, stomach pain, headache and nausea. It sometimes causes panic attacks and, in
some situations, fainting spells. Test anxiety is caused by deep-seated negative thoughts such as "I am a failure, "I am not good enough" or "I am underserving", which leads to extreme fear of failure leading to a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. The more severe the anxiety, the more it impacts the student's ability to think and perform.
It is helpful to manage test anxiety early instead of waiting until it becomes too close to the
exam. Medication may be beneficial in some situations, but psychotherapy is usually sufficient to help the students manage their anxiety and be more confident in preparing and sitting for the exam.
The most popular psychotherapy for anxiety is cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), which
involves identifying and changing negative thoughts and behaviours related to test anxiety. The students will also learn relaxation techniques and other coping strategies. However, students who need more than cognitive change may benefit from alternative psychotherapies such as Brainspotting, EMDR and Sandplay (Tray) Therapy. These therapies work with cognition but also process the unconscious part of the brain, which holds the deep-seated memories, emotions and belief which triggers test anxiety.
Restoring Peace Counselling and Consultancy offers counselling and psychotherapy services
for children, adolescents, youths and adults individuals, couples and groups facing anxiety,
depression, trauma, and various mental health challenges.
Keywords: anxiety, child, counselling, therapy, stress, mental health, anxiety, test, exam,