Coping with exam stress
Last week I saw my students gathering around in the corners of the institute, discussing some issues quietly, some were sitting in the cafe with a dead look on their faces as if they had no point in living anymore, but still some managed to smile back at me. I soon figured out that the cause of all this emotion was the exam schedule that had just been announced. I knew that everything had been properly scheduled so what was all the fuss about? I discovered the cause. One reason is family pressure on the students to succeed in exams and the students can begin to feel a little overwhelmed by it all. Surprisingly, students who are actually good at coping with all these pressures start feeling nervous also, just because they are part of the same group. Another cause of ‘exam stress’ comes from students imposing on each other - sharing and explaining notes, coaching through problem areas, collaborative study. The impact of this on those not experiencing anxiety is that they also begin to experience anxiety. Unfortunately, we don't have a magic wand that can make exams go away, but I would like to share some tips that will help any student teacher stay well, focused and prepared for exams.
The three vital things your body needs to keep well are food, water and sleep.
Keeping hydrated is important for brain function, distributing nutrients around the body and removing what we no longer need. If possible, carry a water bottle to the exam hall to rehydrate.
Say NO to dieting during exams! Don’t be afraid of the extra pounds that you might put on – I promise they will go away after the exams. Fuel your body and mind with lots of greens, fruit, nuts and seeds as healthy energy boosting snacks and make sure you have a balanced diet of three meals a day. If you don't feed yourself properly your regular tummy rumbles will make it incredibly hard for you to concentrate. Try and eat as naturally as possible and stay away from refined sugars - found in sweets, fizzy drinks and chocolate. Yes they'll give you a boost initially but very quickly you'll notice a slump, leaving you feeling sleepy.
Sleep is so important; it's your body's healing time, when the cells repair and your brain archives the millions of thoughts that have raced through your mind during the day. If you find that you have started dreaming a lot, it's because there has been a lot playing on your mind during the day.
To help you get into that sleepy zone, give yourself 30 minutes to wind down - that means no TV and no smart phone! Pick up your course book which will help your eyelids drop immediately. :-)
Keep yourself focused
When you wake each morning don't rush to the nearest set of notes or textbook. Sit and think what targets you want to achieve today, think of a time line and get started.
Let it pressure go
Accept the things that you can't change. Your exams are coming, they will happen and then they will be over. Instead of leaking energy on worrying about them, create solutions and focus on what you can control.
A Small Achievement
A few months back we started using language development software (i.e. Rosetta Stone) with our student teachers. They can use this software in their language lab classes but they also have the opportunity to use the software whenever they want. At the start, it seemed students were not taking advantage of this opportunity but today I was happy to see its effect on the language skills of students - especially on those student teachers from rural locations.
In the morning, I had a class of English Language Teaching with the students – a lesson on Phonetics & Phonology. I gave them a chart of consonant & vowels sounds and asked them to pronounce these sound after listening to an audio; they pronounced these sounds without listening to the audio. They made hardly one or two mistakes in reproducing these sounds. They said they had learned all these sounds while working with the language software. In the exercise they had a lot of fun discovering various phonemes within words in order to create new words with the sounds because they were doing it for the first time, but at least they were familiar with the sounds.
A small, but important achievement.