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Exam Tension !


eenagers are often under great stress. Most of them attend regular school as well as “classes? These  classes are for about four to five hours a day, five to six days a week. In addition, most children in the 10th standard have test series as well. So they are under a tremendous amount of pressure.

Pressure to excel comes from many sides. Parents expect that because of the money they spend, their child should do well and go to a reputed college or a select course. It is natural for parents to want their children to excel. Teachers in the school want the children to achieve good marks because the pride of the school is at stake. As for the so-called “classes? you already have to be an achiever to get into some of them and then there is intense pressure to get the maximum marks. And finally, peer pressure acts as the icing on the cake.

In this mad race to get a high percentage, which is the measure for achievement, children and parents alike forget a few valuable lessons. The purpose of this article is to address a few of these.

  1. Examinations test only one small part of one’s ability, which is far more than what is tested.

  2. The marks that one gets are of temporary importance. Their significance is only to get admission to a college of choice or to a select course.

  3. Competition should be with oneself and not with anyone else. It is most important that successive performances in tests show an increase in marks.

  4. Your best is good enough.

  5. The purpose of education is to kindle and nurture the curiosity to learn and to inculcate independent thinking. The difference between literacy and education is that education enhances your basic ability to respond while in literacy you only learn to read and write.

Most parents will tell us: “It is all very well to say that exams test only a small portion of your ability. But that is what is most important for my child’s future.?Granted. While we need to support our children to achieve academically, do we need to sacrifice other interests the child might have? Success does not have a narrow definition. Sachin Tendulkar and M.F. Hussain are successful people even though they didn’t achieve academic excellence. Each one of us is unique, hence has a unique way of succeeding. We need to teach children to identify their strength and go with that, while blocking out their weaknesses. This is somewhat different from what most people advise. Remember that if Sachin Tendulkar and M.F. Hussain had focused on their weaknesses they would not have achieved their success. The focus needs to be on strength. We need to make sure that the weakness does not come in the way of the strength.

Here are some bits of advice we give to our children in the school:

  • If you are not in “classes? don’t join them. You hardly get time to do self-study. So instead of getting educated, you are becoming literate!

  • Keep up with your hobbies.

  • Find time to relax. Give your head a rest, and use your body for a while. Go for a walk, or follow an exercise programme or dance to your favourite music.

  • Set achievable and realistic targets for your marks. If you are getting say 55 marks, then your target for the next test should be a 10% hike, that is 61 marks. If you achieve this then for the following test, keep the same target, which is another hike of six marks. If you don’t achieve the set target, but achieve say 5%, which is 58, that is still good. For the next test again set 5% as your target. Keep going with this process till you reach your optimum.

  • During the exam, read the question paper thoroughly. The first question you should answer is the one that you are most sure of, then the next and so on. This serves two purposes: 1. You will have ample time to answer the question to which you know the answer, which in turn builds your confidence and aids the process of recovering and remembering what you have read before. 2. It creates a halo effect, which means that the examiner also realises that you know and have understood what you have learnt.

  • Remember that we all learn from what we have done correctly and not from our mistakes. A mistake only teaches us what was wrong but does not teach us what is right. It is only when you have done something correct that you have learnt something new. So focus on what is correct and how to do things correctly rather than on mistakes.

  • Eat breakfast. It is essential that you eat a healthy and full breakfast. It provides you with energy to pay attention to what is being taught in school.

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. Nature is wonderful. It provides you with all the nutrients that the body needs through different fruits and vegetables.

  • Refrain from excessive coffee, tea, soda and soft drinks. They all contain caffeine and in addition to being addictive, they actually increase your tension instead of relaxing you.

  • Make sure that you get at least seven hours of sleep.

  • Drink a minimum of eight glasses of water daily.

  • If you do need extra teaching then take tuitions only for those subjects in which you actually need the help.

  • Attend a Career Guidance meet or consult a guidance counsellor. Get your aptitude test done. Focus on your strengths.

  • Most importantly remember that whatever you do, ultimately you cannot control the person who is correcting your paper. So be prepared to accept whatever marks you score.

  • Understand that it is as important to be graceful in loss as in success.

  • Appreciate that there are several changes occurring in your body. Hormones are roiling through your body. This in turn affects your body image. In addition to the tension of the exams, these changes in the body also cause stress and confusion. If you are getting into unnecessary quarrels or fights at home, pause and ask yourself: “What am I scared about and what am I sad about at this moment??Often when we are very angry we are either sad or scared about something. When we identify what else we are feeling, our anger level goes down.

  • Recognise that just as it hurts you when someone is sharp with you, you hurt others too with your sharp reactions. Take time to cool down and this will help you to respect yourself.

  • Though sex and sexuality are normal and natural, you don’t have the mental maturity to handle relationships and so postpone your curiosity and experimentation to a time when you are in a position to handle them.

  • You will get lots of advice from your peers who are as confused as you are. They will suggest that you can reduce tension by smoking, or that you will sleep well if you drink alcohol, etc. Do not be taken in by these suggestions. You know that smoking is injurious to health and that in school as well as at home people do not approve of it. So experimenting with it brings additional tension! Alcohol too is addictive. So find other simpler ways to relax. Talk to your parents as you would with a friend. If that is difficult for some reason, reach out to your class teacher. We are here at the dispensary and you can talk to us about anything that is bothering you.

It is important for us to remember that our expectations from our children need to be realistic. We need to remember to compare the child’s current performance to the previous performances. Our expectations, though unstated, are picked up by children, which add to the enormous burden they are already carrying. Let us praise our children for doing all the right things. This certainly will boost their confidence. When we need to reprimand them for something, let us criticise the action and not the person. Our children are precious to us. Let us help them to cope with this delicate stage in their life and support them as they blossom into adulthood.

Saraswathi Char