Categorized | Opinion

Exam Stress 101

Posted on 19 April 2012 by admin

Gagan Batra

Another school year is coming to an end. While grade school students have just recently begun a new semester, university and college students are getting ready to bid adieu to their familiar campuses. That’s right, it’s the time of year again that all students know and love: it is exam season. While most students claim that they detest this time, that it’s full of stress and sleepless nights, it does have the advantage that classes are over. Now instead of worrying themselves with waking up extra early to be on time for their lectures, students can focus on simply studying the material that they’ve already learned.

I hear complaints all the time, friends telling me that they aren’t given sufficient time to study for their final exams because classes end too late. However, in most schools, classes are known to end at least a week in advance before the final examination period actually begins. Needless to say, one can never be given enough time for something as significant as studying for final examinations. If I’ve learned anything from my years in university, it’s that finals have the potential to make or break a student. Making up a major portion of a student’s grade in a particular class, exams add to the pressure that is to pull through the year with flying colors.


The only way to get through this tough point in time is to keep your composure! I can’t even think of the number of people I’ve known who have let all of the pressure of exams get under their skin. An important thing to remember is that no one can spend all twenty-four hours of their day studying. It just isn’t possible. Good sleep is such an important aspect to ensuring that students maximize their potential for both studying for and writing tests. Speaking from experience, there have been many times when I had not slept the night before a test and spent that time studying instead. It is not effective! Research proves that lack of sleep before tests actually impairs your comprehension and ability to concentrate. A striking fact was brought to my attention by a medical professional at my university; not sleeping for an entire night can affect one’s cognitive functioning to the same extent as one who drinks a full twelve pack of beer. In other words, one who pulls an all-nighter will undergo the same effects as someone who is considered drunk by law. So students, please remember that studying is important, but sleep should also be a priority.

Aside from sleep, the pressure in general that students are put under can be striking. Exams and tests are always stressful, regardless of what the context. Except, in terms of universities and colleges, the exams are weighted much higher. The grades students receive on exams will determine whether or not they stay in a program or institution, make the honor roll, or pass their class. At the same time, I feel that not enough emphasis is put on the actual value of learning. In most cases on the exams I’ve written, I’ve realized either during or after the exam that I had a lot more knowledge in the subject than I had given myself credit for. Although there have been some instances in which I did not do as well as I had expected, the knowledge that I gained from the experience and the class in general seemed to make up for any disappointment I would have had. It is probably naïve to think that students are in post-secondary institutions because they enjoy learning new information and love education; most students are working so hard because of the degree, diploma or certificate waiting for them at the finish line. However, I must say, at the risk of sounding philosophical, that grades are not everything. Sometimes just an experience can be enough to both satisfy and please a thirsty mind.

The gist of what I’m getting at is that sometimes, pressure can be good motivation. However, a lot of the time, the pressure needs to be controlled, and you need to remember to come back to reality and prioritize. Sleep is a necessity and no one, not even students during exam time, should use the excuse that they are too busy to sleep. Furthermore, grades are inevitably an important aspect to any student’s life, but the reality is that sometimes just gaining the knowledge is valuable enough. This insight does not apply only to students; it can be used in any context. Remember, when you are studying or working hard at something, there is a reason why it requires so much time and energy; what lies beyond the finish line once you’ve accomplished something is inexorably worth it.

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