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Mission Examination

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Stress can sometimes be a pill of motivation for students. What happens when it begins to go out of hand? Priyanka Bhatt finds out how parents and kids are coping as exam season nears...

As the  examination season approaches, students are seen gearing up to perform their best in class. There is a visible increase in students  at the xerox shops near the colleges, and a perceptible rise in the number of frantic phone calls that students make to clear their doubts and relieve the pressure. However,  examination pressure is not to be taken lightly. Films like 3 Idiots have shown the impact of academic pressure on students and yet there are parents and teachers who  sometimes push their kids unknowingly into the black hole of pressure, not realising the impact it has on young minds.

As the years have gone by, the rates of student suicides have only increased. The foremost reason for a  student's stress before exams is the pressure to perform. If a student's peer is performing better, especially a cousin who has always been a better acdemic performer, the constant comparision starts bothering the child before he or she realises. Asha Mehta, whose son is in his last year BBA believes that students should themselves understand how important competition is today. “In a world where society always judges a person through the job he or she has, it has become almost mandatory to score well. However, as a parent I always have had my son to relax too before exams. He used to prepare for exams well in advance so a day before he is more relaxed than his friends who call him in the middle of the night for an update,” Mehta says. She believes that children need to be given their freedom sometimes to bring out the best, but not so much that they do not prioritize it.

A certain amount of stress is rather considered to be effective and beneficial as it leads to alertness and careful behaviour in terms of revision of overlooked chapters before the exams. Therefore this stress helps the student in adequate preparations but when it spirals out of control, it can have disastrous effects on them, leading to a poor performance.

The lifestyle of a city like Mumbai is also one of the factors that contribute to students getting stressed. “Both my parents go to work, and sometimes it gets difficult for me to cope with the stress as there is not enough time to talk to them. I used to get stressed a lot in my initial days of engineering, but began seeking counsel from my teachers,” says Anuj Desai, a final year engineering student.

Desai thinks it is important to communicate what a student feels. “Parents will not know what you are going through unless you talk, as even they are stressed. My parents have always been supportive, even when they have had less time to spend with me. That is what has kept me going despite the academic competition that I face in my field,” Desai tells us.  Symptoms of stress can be identified before examination, even if the child refuses to tell the parent. Difficulty getting to sleep or difficulty waking up in the morning, constant tiredness, forgetfulness, unexplained aches and pains, poor appetite, and most important is an increase in anxiety and irritability.

Dr. Harish Shetty, a reknowned psychologist and cousellor says that students need to communicate what they face. “Parents and teachers both need to be aware that once the mind of a student is fractured, they can spiral into depression and perform worse than they usually do,” Shetty says. He thinks that in a country like India, parents themselves stay anxious because of the lifestyle and needs of the family. They only want their child to be happy, but sometimes are not aware that if competition is high, then opportunities will be higher too. They need not pressurise the child unnecessarily,” Shetty explains.

Dr. Shetty thinks that one should learn to recognise when stressing out. He offers a solution saying, “a break or a chat with a fellow student who understands the pressure you're under will get things into perspective.”

Jagruti Raval, a parent of a seventeen year old son in his second year of engineering says, “the teachers in colleges sometimes fail to understand how tedious studying an entire curriculum can be. Also, it depends on individual students how they take pressure. Some break easily while some students perform exceptionally well under pressure. Generalising never helps as you cannot use the same principle for all of the students. Some do not deliver even minimally under pressure as they need their space to perfom well,” Raval says. She is one of those parents who believes that marks do not determine a student's worthiness. “Scoring great marks does not make a student a better person or becoming super successful in future, and mugging  to score well never helps. It depends entirely on how well the parents know their child's caliber,” she concludes.

Dr. Shetty's advise to control exam stress:

  • Avoid comparing your abilities with your friends.
  • Make a realistic timetable. Stick to it.
  • Panic is often triggered by hyperventilating (quick, shallow breaths). If you feel yourself losing it during the exam, sit back for a moment and control your breathing. Deep breath in and out through the nose, counting to five each way.
  • Failing in preliminary exams does not mean you will fail in finals too. It only means you have another chance to improve your performance.
  • Scoring 95 per cent will not make you a hero, or scoring 45 per cent will not make you a zero. Never let scores determine your worth.
  • Finish only as much as you can handle. Attempting to finish the entire portion will only make you stress more and perform less as chances are you will forget the little that you have perfected already.
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