Exam stress epidemic

Exam anxiety is a widespread issue affecting countless students, especially during the season for board or competitive exams. The constant pressure to perform can lead to fear, worry, and depression. Exam cancellations or rescheduling, only exacerbate these feelings, say experts
Exam stress epidemic

HYDERABAD: How would it feel if you woke up the next morning after an exam you had studied for years and performed well on, only to have it all declared null and void? Sad, frustrated, anxious, relieved, or furious? That’s precisely how countless students feel every year. During exam season, whether boards or competitive exams, students’ anxiety levels spike. To understand the effects of such unfortunate incidents and the increasing exam pressure on students, CE talked to Dr P Madhurima Reddy, a senior consultant psychologist at Continental Hospitals, and Dr Anusha Garg, MBBS, MD Neuropsychiatry.

“Recently, I appeared for UGC-NET 2024, which was nullified the next day. Now, it’s rescheduled for August, but I’ll be back at my university in Hyderabad in a different city. I’m unsure if I’ll be able to take it at all,” shares Priyadarshini, a resident of Odisha, currently studying at EFLU Hyderabad. Similarly, Ambika Mishra from West Bengal, an engineering graduate, shares, “I gave CGPEDM back in 2023, for which I had to travel to Odisha from West Bengal for the written exam. This was financially challenging as well. However, after one month, that written exam was cancelled.”

According to Dr Madhurima, the main reason is the constant fear of comparing themselves with others. “Students, as early as 7th, 8th, or 9th grade, start worrying about what future career they should pursue,” emphasises Dr Madhurima. “There is a lot of confusion among the students. Firstly, because many choose their career path just because their friend is taking the same. Students don’t listen to themselves but follow others. Secondly, students don’t try to understand the passion behind their choices,’’ she reveals. Further adding, Dr Anusha Garg explains, “Not all anxiety is bad; at some point, it works as a protective response, allowing us to prepare better for our upcoming examinations and focus on our tasks.”

“There are students who let it go sometimes, but many go through the ‘emotion of nostalgia’, remembering how they studied so hard for the exam or how much they discussed the paper at home, which they all simply can’t let go of. Often, this pressure leads many students into addictions like drugs, smoking, and alcohol, and they also get suicidal thoughts,” informs Dr Madhurima.

“My first extreme breakdown of appearing for a competitive exam was CUET-PG 2023, where I didn’t receive my admit card till the last moment. I had lost all appetite, surviving on water, and I had locked myself in my room and didn’t have any desire to study anything anymore,” shares Ankita P, a resident of Odisha and a student of EFLU Hyderabad.

According to Dr Anusha Garg, “The uncertainty of exams being cancelled can be really frustrating; students don’t know what to do next, and they can’t study or sleep properly. While preparing, students have fixed schedules for setting their targets and priorities for their examination, and sudden disruptions cause demotivation and affect their mental health. There might be ongoing bullying, and they don’t have anyone to talk to; this all can collectively lead a child into disparity,” emphasises Dr Garg.

Tips and techniques to overcome exam stress

The biggest help will be “Social support and good parenting.” “Where students are always reminded that everything will be fine, we are here for you, and you can share anything with us,” states Dr Anusha Garg.

Dr Madhurima Reddy suggests

  •  Self-love: Students must love themselves. Lots of self-love is key.

  •  Approach the right career coach: Seek professional guidance for future planning, especially during classes 10th, 11th, and 12th.

  •  Mind mapping: Arrange questions and make points to make it easier to memorise.

  •  Avoid overdoing preparations.

  •  Meditation and breathing activities: These can increase blood circulation and help with memorisation.

  •  Healthy lifestyle: Eat nutritional food, stay hydrated, and sleep soundly.

Exam stress epidemic
Isn't this a 'NEET' solution to address the poor design of exam and test questions in India?

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