At MBIS, apart from the ongoing formative and summative assessments, we also seek external validation of our students’ academic abilities through a series of examinations. These come in the form of Check-point examinations for students of Grades 5 and 8 and in the form of IGCSE and IBDP examinations for our secondary students.
And with examinations, comes the inevitable anxiety. With a lot at stake, examinations turn out to be family anxiety time. It might be a useful exercise for students and parents to bust some myths about examination anxiety and understand why it occurs.
Examination anxiety is of two kinds. The first kind is somatic and pertains to what you are feeling. That empty feeling in the pit of your stomach, the urge to compulsively use the toilet, sweatiness, stomach or headache, the desire to throw up, constitute somatic anxiety. The second one, which is the one more difficult to understand and tackle, is cognitive anxiety. This arises due to the negative thinking mode that some students get into before an examination.
Particularly for parents, and also for the students taking an examination, it is important to remember that examination anxiety is a normal phenomenon that definitely does not go away by asking the student to relax. It is also a myth that students who are well prepared do not undergo anxiety. The well-prepared toppers, with greater pressure to perform from parents and school authorities, are probably more anxious than others.
Over the years I have noticed many other examination anxiety myths taking root in the minds of parents and students. Parents actually believe that students are born with this anxiety, that it is a mental illness that cannot be reduced, that this anxiety is bad for students and if reduced performance will improve, that students who are not prepared have anxiety and that attending classes regularly and doing your homework will eliminate it. Interestingly Math tests have a whole set of anxieties associated with them which surpass anxieties associated with other subjects.
There can be many causes for test anxiety but it is important to remember that it is not inherent to human nature and that it is definitely a learned behaviour. And parents can claim the lion’s share for spreading this anxiety to their children. It can often be caused by teachers who like to raise the importance of their subject by asserting time and again that it is a difficult one and that students will have to work hard to perform well. Anxiety also comes from the fear of disappointing parents, family and friends and the need to do well to secure good admissions.
So what does one do about it? For parents, it is important to ensure that they provide a healthy work environment to their children and help them to prepare a study schedule with regular meal and sleep times. Suspending all physical