Keep exam fever at bay

Mallika Jhaveri
Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Don’t overwork yourself during exam prep. Instead try to follow a regular diet and get enough sleep and make the process less tiresome

The first few months of every New Year are difficult. The transition from winter to summer, the false promises held by false resolutions, the dreaded annual budget and of course, exams, especially for those who are appearing for their  Boards, graduation and other important exams. There are usually two rounds, prelims followed by the Boards, and you are almost dead when you are done with the whole process. To make the entire journey less stressful and not get worked up, we bring to you a few suggestions to allay your fears and worries.    

Many students crumble under exam stress that they bring upon themselves, and most of the time this stress has no legitimate roots. “I would concentrate primarily on studies, sometimes forgetting to follow a normal routine of eating and sleeping. I would exhaust myself thinking of how much I had to do or how much these exams meant,” says Vedika Kilachand, a student from Jamnabai Narsee School, Mumbai, who gave  ISC Board exam in 2017. 

“It was the thought of exams and how the marks would shape my future that gave me major anxiety,” says Isha Nandi, a student of Jai Hind College, Mumbai, who gave her HSC exam in 2017. In our country, how well a student fares in the exam, precisely the scores, makes or breaks a student’s future. His inclination or passion towards a subject hardly matters. 

“The scores differ from one stream to another, but it’s stressful all the same, since most students are expected to meet their parents’ unreal expectations,” says Lopamudra Sen, an Economics teacher at the Cathedral and John Connon School, Mumbai. And such massive stress can have very harmful consequences. 

“For exams, you need a fresh mind, but most of the time, students are exhausted and tensed. This is because they study till the last minute and most of them blank out while writing the paper,” says Sai Prasad Shetty, a media professor at Jai Hind College, adding, “The stress takes a toll on their health and marks.” 

To have a healthy body and mind, you need to follow a regular schedule and not binge on unhealthy foods or give up on your sleep and breaks. “I would binge on wafers, biscuits and basically all the junk food I could find while studying, and I would put on tonnes of weight which I would later have problem shedding,” says Shibanni Dave from Bombay Scottish, who gave her ISC Boards last year. 

Some students skip a few of their meals thinking that they can use the time for exam prep. Like Kilachand says, “I would skip meals because I thought I could utilise that time for revision. But I was wrong. Had I followed a regular schedule, I could have performed better in my exam.” 

Nandi would either overeat or not eat at all. The one thing all three had in common was lack of sleep. They, like several other students, barely got an hour’s sleep before each paper, and in retrospect that was the worst thing they could have done. 

To avoid exam stress in the coming months, here are a few dos and don’ts that you need to follow: 

Sen says, “Stress leads to students constantly believing that they are under-prepared, which leads to cramming the brain with information. If they understood the concepts and the basics, they would be more at ease.” She advises students to spend time understanding the foundation of the topics, instead of superficially memorising them. 

Students must give importance to sleep and diet. “A healthy mind and a well rested body is the key to getting good grades. An extra hour of sleep is better than spending it stressfully studying a few more pages. Maintaining your meal time and bedtime will pay off and show up in your performance,” says Shetty. 

“Most of my stress was because I had a large portion to study and barely any time to cover it,” says Kilachand, adding, “Had I started in advance, I wouldn’t have been even half as stressed.” 

To this Dave adds, “I left most of my portion for the days before my exam, and that was the worst thing I did.” They both advise to start at least a month prior to the exam and not struggle to complete portions in the last minute.

“Your Board exam will not determine whether you run a company or end up being unemployed. Sure they do have a bearing on what college you attend, but your future depends on how you make use of that college education. I have seen students with average marks do much better than the toppers on several occasions in the real world,” advises Sen. 

While studying, take some time off to cool down and distract your mind from definitions and formulae. “You need to learn to give yourself breaks without cursing yourself for it,” says Nandi. “After every two hours I would watch an episode of Friends and it helped me so much,” she adds. 

“I wish I had taken breaks, the momentary calm would have been therapeutic and helped me study better,” says Kilachand who avoided breaks at all costs. “Parents too should encourage their kids to rest their brain every few hours, the benefits are unparalleled,” says Shetty. He suggests that taking the pressure off yourself for a few minutes won’t harm you, but might just save you. 

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