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Exam anxiety is a real and very common problem for kids of all ages. If your child is suffering from exam anxiety, you can assist them to understand and overcome it.
With a little knowledge and effort, you can help your child take the fear out of exams and restore their confidence.
Let’s take a closer look at what exam anxiety is and how you can help your child deal with it.
What Exam Anxiety Is And How It Can Present Itself In Children?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), Test anxiety is “tension and apprehension related to taking a test, which often results in poor test performance ”.
Simply put, it’s a stress reaction experienced before, during, and sometimes after exams.
Exam anxiety can motivate us to study and perform well in exams – it is important to remember that not all anxiety is negative.
In contrast, Exam anxiety presents a problem when it is severe, lasts for a long time, and interferes with academic performance.
This is normal and can affect diverse ages, but in particular, it commonly affects children while they are studying or completing assessments in school.
Exam anxiety can show itself through a variety of physical and emotional responses, including headaches, restlessness, emptiness in stomach feeling, trembling body parts, sweating and changes in sleeping patterns.
Other signs may include intense feelings of worry, negative self-talk and thoughts about potential failure.
It is important to recognize exam anxiety for what it is – a legitimate response – and to help children manage their worries rather than expect them to push them away altogether.
Understanding The Root Causes Of Exam Anxiety In Children
Exam anxiety is a concern for many children and their families.
A variety of physical symptoms can be experienced, ranging from difficulty sleeping, eating, or concentrating to feelings of hopelessness, irritability, and fear.
The root causes of this phenomenon are varied and complex and can include lack of preparation, perfectionist tendencies, family stresses, unrealistic expectations from peers or teachers, uninformed attitudes towards exams from those around them, lack of self-confidence or knowledge about how to organize resources for studying.
In order to help your child cope with exam anxiety, it is essential to understand the unique factors involved in their particular case so that you can best support them through any challenging times they may encounter during the process.
Potential Causes Of Exam Anxiety In A Nutshell
- High expectations from family and friends
- Negative exam experiences
- Lack of preparedness
Biology, our personality and our life experiences play a pivotal role in this. Exam anxiety can be managed and improved with practice and support for those who tend to worry or are prone to developing it.
Symptoms Of Exam Anxiety
Exam anxiety can be a debilitating condition for many students. It often manifests as physical symptoms such as sweating, jitteriness, and a racing heart.
It can also lead to mental distress such as intense fear or panic, difficulty concentrating, and impaired memory.
Exam anxiety can disrupt sleep patterns, causing fatigue that affects performance during the exam.
It is important to take measures in order to calm down and ensure you are ready for the exam. Some of the commonly reported symptoms are as follows:
- Feeling nervous, unsettled, or overwhelmed
- Feeling panic or experiencing panic attacks
- Feeling down or helpless
- Feeling a sense of shame or guilt.
- Increased heart rate
- Muscle tension throughout the body
- Nausea and/or digestive changes
- Fatigue without physical exertion
- Increased sweating
- Difficulty breathing or tightness in the chest
- Loss of appetite or over-eating
- Light-headedness or feeling dizzy
- Sleep changes (over or under-sleeping, or disturbed sleep).
- Paying attention and/or concentrating is difficult
- Difficulties recalling or processing key information (going blank)
- Racing or disorganized thoughts
- Irrational or unhelpful thoughts
- Preoccupation with thoughts of failure or embarrassment
- Worrying about the time constraints or outcome of the exam
- Comparison to others during a testing situation
- Able to recall exam answers after the exam is over.
- Excessive pacing or restlessness (shaking leg, increased activity).
- Trying to improve your grades or reduce anxiety by cramming or staying up the night before.
- Studying obsessively or withdrawing from others
- Avoiding study cues and procrastinating in regard to exams
- Making simple mistakes on exams despite knowing the content
- Absence from exams
- Early exit from an exam or leaving before the test is completed
- Distract yourself from stress/study by drinking alcohol or using other substances.
Tips And Tricks To Help Your Child Overcome Their Exam Anxiety
Establishing healthy coping strategies to alleviate exam anxiety is essential for students of all ages.
To help your young student manage their stress, create a study routine and timetable, allowing your child enough time to finish their assignments while also leaving room for breaks and playtime.
As exams draw nearer, provide necessary resources such as notes and textbooks for quick revision sessions.
Taking part in regular exercise or outdoor games, or chess can boost kids’ physical strength, focus and positive mental outlook needed to tackle tough questions.
Lastly, keep communication lines with the teachers open so you can remain updated on the curriculum material your child needs to prepare for their exams.
With these tips and tricks up your sleeves, you can ensure that your child is well-prepared and ready come exam day.
What Might Help Before An Exam?
- Students should expect and accept some level of anxiety as part of the learning process.
- Make sure you are prepared by checking the location and time, being on time, and bringing the necessary items (e.g., pencils, spare pens, calculator, eraser, ruler, etc.). Make a checklist if helpful.
- Exercise, play outdoor games and eat healthy, nutritious foods. Caffeine can increase anxiety, so rest and avoid excessive amounts.
- Reduce anxiety by having fun and connecting with others.
- Recognize your anxiety symptoms and acknowledge them to yourself (e.g., I’m feeling a little on edge. I guess I’m a bit nervous about the exam.”).
- Practice relaxation techniques and do things that calm you down (e.g., breathing, mindfulness, visualization, uplifting music, etc.).
- Whether you study for a short period of time or a longer period of time, make sure you are familiar with the material thoroughly by studying every day.
- Rather than thinking about past failures on exams, concentrate on managing the present as effectively as you can.
- Also do not discuss the paper with friends after giving an exam. What is done is done, concentrate on what is to come next.
- Keeping in mind that this is only one of many assessments you will complete throughout is only a short period to get period grandstand scheme of your career/life.
- Talk to someone – someone who knows how you feel, such as a partner, friend, or family member. You can also speak to a counselor if this feels more comfortable.
- Make sure you set boundaries for yourself. As soon as you notice negative or anxious thinking, tell yourself, “STOP,” take a deep breath, and refocus your attention on something around you.
- Encourage yourself with positive self-talk/affirmations (e.g., “I can. I will” or “I know this material”).
- Improve your general study skills (a learning adviser, friend, or parent can help you with this).
- Consolidate your learning by talking to friends, forming a study group, or finding a tutor.
- If you are unsure of what will be on your exam, ask your lecturer/tutor what types of questions will be asked. And review past exam papers for practicing or getting a sense of the format/questions.
- Try to calm down on the way to the exam rather than cramming the last-minute study since this won’t work when stress is high.
- When you feel that talking with classmates is unhelpful or actually makes you more anxious, reduce the amount of time spent with them.
- You can reward yourself for completing the exam by having lunch or seeing a friend or classmate afterwards, seeing a movie, etc.
What Can Help During The Exam?
- Try to calm yourself and accept that some anxiety is present. You can do a breathing exercise or mindfulness exercise and encourage yourself. Try Art Of Living yoga if it helps.
- Not only you but everyone is anxious before exams. Acknowledge your anxiety but don’t dwell on it.
- Put yourself in a comfortable position (on the desk, in your chair, etc.).
- Exams can be uncomfortable and somewhat anxiety-provoking for most people. Keep in mind the people who are encouraging you during this exam.
- Make sure you read the instructions and questions carefully. Reread questions before answering as missing a word can affect how you answer.
- When writing essays write down the keyword on one side as they form in your mind. Elaborate on them later in sentences. Plan and make sure you reread questions before answering.
- If your anxiety fluctuates, visualize yourself remaining calm and doing well and returning to relaxation strategies.
- Make a note of any formulas or important points to remember on the first or last page (if you think you’ll forget it later) so you can refer to them during the exam.
- Organize and budget your exam time so you aren’t under stress and you don’t run out of time. Keep 20 mins spare for revision.
- Do not dwell longer on questions that you don’t know. Leave appropriate space for it and move on to answer the ones you know. This way, you’ll feel more confident. You can always attempt the problematic question during your revision time.
- Allow enough time to attempt each question and start with the questions you know and leave 2-3 lines after any answer for an afterthought.
- Don’t be concerned about how fast or slow others complete or hand in their exams. Speed is not a factor in marking, so concentrate on your own exam.
- Never leave any question unattempted! Give an answer to a question even if you are unsure (providing there is no negative marking for incorrect responses). Attempting each question can result in part marks, which can make a big difference. It’s better than a “ZERO” for not attempting. Or better still, what you thought as ‘maybe right” might actually be the correct answer.
- In case you go blank or feel overwhelmed, try another question. It is usually better to answer questions with any answer than to leave them blank.
- It is important to understand that the exam is just a tiny part of the course assessment and lasts only a short time. It is crucial to remember that the exam is just one component of the course assessment and lasts only a short time.
What Are The Ways To Try And Relax After The Exam
- During this time, you should continue to recognize and accept any lingering anxiety (usually, this takes twenty minutes or more after high stress).
- Recognize your effort and accept that the result is out of your control. Don’t forget to reward yourself for completing the exam and working hard. Give your 100%. Hope for the best and be prepared for the worst.
- Consider engaging in a relaxing activity or doing something that might calm you down, such as talking to a friend, meditating, exercising, or taking some time for yourself.
- Concentrate on the questions you nailed and consider the ones that were more challenging as ongoing learning opportunities.
- Make necessary changes to your strategy based on your exam performance if needed. You could attend a skills workshop from a subject matter specialist or book an appointment with a Career Counselor. If you are concerned about the content, ask your lecturers or tutors for clarification and support.
- Analyze how you performed on your exam and how you can put it to use to improve your skills and knowledge.
- You should separate self-worth, performance, and anxiety in your mind. It’s important to remember that your grades have nothing to do with your worth or your character.
- In case of current or future anxiety, seek support from your teachers, parents, or Counselor.
- Managing your anxiety during exams is manageable with the right help and planning if you remember that an element of anxiety is a normal part of being a student.
Exam Time Management
Below I have taken an example of English subject which will apply to all languages. For other exams, simply follow the 1st four steps. Here we help you set realistic exam time management goals.
Goal setting is an important step to help you stay focused and organized. Break down the exam time into smaller, more manageable chunks.
Track your progress towards your goals and adjust your writing speed accordingly.
- Total Exam Time- 3Hrs
- 3hrs into minutes = 180mins
- Deduct 20 mins for revision. You are left with 160 mins.
- Divide the 160 mins by the number of questions to attempt. For example… if taking an English exam, divide 160 by 3 for 3 sections. Which is 53.33 mins per section.
- Now further divide 53 mins by no of questions per section as they come. (here, you’ll be leaving 0.33 seconds per section. (here, you’ll be ignoring the 0.33 seconds per section. These 0.33×0.33×0.33= 1.39 mins.) These 1.39 mins will come in handy later during revision or if you face a long answer or are a slow writer.
- Don’t dwell on answers you don’t know. See if you have enough time to return to it in the stipulated time of 53 mins. If you have, then try it. Else leave it for revision time.
Create A Plan With Your Child To Help Them Manage Their Anxiety During Exams
Creating a plan with your child to help manage their anxiety during exams can be an important step in helping them successfully complete the tests.
Talk through different strategies that your child can use, from deep breathing and meditation exercises to more practical solutions, such as studying in small chunks and developing a study plan.
It may also be beneficial for your child to learn about the exam beforehand and develop familiarity, so they feel less overwhelmed when it comes time for them to take it.
Reassure your child that taking exams is normal and everyone feels anxious at some point – expressing these feelings openly can help them gain perspective.
Finally, focus on replacement behaviors and coping mechanisms your child can use if anxiety levels become too high.
All of these measures taken together can help create an environment of support and understanding while your child focuses on their studies.
Help Your Child Understand That Exams Are Not The Be-All And End-All Of Life
Help your child understand that exams are not the be-all and end-all and that they can still succeed even if they don’t get perfect grades.
The exams your child takes are an important part of their educational journey, but they don’t define who your child is or what they can accomplish.
Kids need to understand that there are plenty of paths to success and that no single exam grade will determine their future.
Talk to your child about the different skills and abilities that have contributed to successes in their life so far and brainstorm ideas about how those same skills could be put to use if ever an exam grade doesn’t meet expectations.
Show them examples of people who have gone on to do amazing things despite not having top marks in school, and help them realize that with hard work, perseverance, and resilience, anything is possible!
If your child struggles with exam anxiety, remember that you are not alone. Many other families are going through the same thing.
To help your child manage their anxiety, it is essential to talk to your child and create a plan to help them manage their anxiety.
Work with them to set realistic goals and expectations, and help them understand that even if they don’t get perfect grades, they can still succeed in life.
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