Monday, March 15, 2010


How to overcome exam phobia

It is a common experience of my teaching that more than 60 per cent of students suffer from an examinations phobia.It doesn't matter whether the student is intelligent or not. They all worry about forgetting or overlooking something or the other while appearing in an exam, not being able to recall important facts at the appropriate time and, most importantly, ending up with a low score or failing. And these fears become barriers in their performance, especially during exam time.I want to share through this piece some of the major reasons leading to exam phobia along with some ways that can come in handy in helping students beat the fear and enjoy the learning process.Most teachers as a general practice in schools target their teaching either directly or indirectly towards the exams. Being focused on that, they highlight the same for the students as well like emphasiszing the need to complete much of the syllabus before the exams, working on important topics that may come in the exams, revise the lessons before the exams, etc.The students too, as a result of this, feel that exams are the most important thing. With that settled, they too start focusing on exams while living with a feeling of dread instead of enjoying their classes.But before discussing ways to help students beat this fear, it would also be helpful to examine the facet of fear.Sometimes fear is related to a specific subject as a result of which your confidence may rise or fall only when tested in that subject.Students might also fear the punishment that would be awarded to them by their parents or teachers on getting low marks. Because if God forbid, they measure less on their expectations, they are not just punished for it by the teachers in the form of having to write the correct answer 10 times or sometimes even 100 but the parents too show their disappointment by ignoring them for several days.Another aspect is being retained in the same class on failing the finals. In addition to all this, the students know that the teachers always appreciate those who get the highest marks in class so simply getting good or average grades is not good enough.At this stage, when the students find themselves disinterested in their studies due to exam phobia, the role of the teachers in encouraging them to just do their best becomes even more important.So how can a teacher help the agonising young minds to lose their fear of exams? The following tips may come in handy: • Make your students aware of the fact that their getting less marks in the exams will not result in any kind of punishment. Help them realise that examinations are merely a segment of the learning process used to explore one's skills. Give the same message to the parents as well.• Do make the students understand that the process of learning is far more important than giving exams. If a student takes an active interest in his or her studies while not thinking about being tested on it later on, he or she would automatically gain good marks.• Appreciate even the slightest improvement in performances. It will enhance self esteem, making the child want to learn more and work hard to acquire more good grades. Also share the improvement in students with the parents which will also do away with the notion that teachers only call the parents when the child is failing in class.• Help them believe in their strengths. All children have their own sets of hidden potential. Help them realise their good points. For example, some students may have good handwriting, some might have good presentation skills and so on. Ask them to use the best of their already existing skills and abilities during the exam to get better results instead of thinking and worrying about self-created fears.• Help the students search out their own areas of weakness. Self assessment helps in finding out the area within oneself that needs improvement. For instance, I secured less marks in the exam because: (a) I made careless mistakes, (b) My presentation was not attractive, (c) My time management needs improvement, (d) I need to go through the concept with the teacher again and so on. After making them go through a process of self assessment, facilitate them to practically work on the weak areas either through tasks given in the classroom or through home work.
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