What is Exam stress?

“Don’t limit your challenges ,challenge your limits.”

Imagine your life without any challenge—– doesn’t it appear so boring?????? In fact, challenges are the spice of life. Throughout one’s life an individual faces different challenges at different stages, each of which has the potential of helping one evolve into better and more competent individual.
During school years one such challenge that we all face is handling examination pressure. Some see exams as a part of healthy competition, whereas, others view it as an ugly, scary, stress evoking monster. Well, examination stress has actually to do more with the attitude one carries towards it. Thus, knowing what it is and how to handle it, shall help one to turn these stumbling blocks into their success stories.

What is stress?

Stress is considered to be subjective in nature as what may be stressful for one may not be for the other. We say something is stressful if it requires our body to perform beyond its normal capacities and disturbs one’s healthy mental and physical well-being. According to Hans Selye (1956), there are two kinds of stress—– Eustress (refers to stress caused by positive situations such as marriage, promotion etc.) and Distress (refers to stress caused by negative situations such as exam, competition, death, divorce, loss of a job etc.). Though both eustress and distress tax an individual’s coping skill and resources but distress has more potential to cause damage.
In fact, stress is not all that bad. Too little of it leads to boredom or lack of motivation, whereas too much of it results in anxiety or panic or burn-out.

However, an optimum level of stress can be a significant motivator, or a challenge in one’s life or it can be quite rewarding in itself. It has several advantages as follows:

• Stress often acts as a motivator and seems to underlie all creative and constructive activities. An optimal level of stress is necessary to perform better.
• It quite often increases our efficiency and makes us search for new coping resources.
• It improves our adaptive system and thereby makes us better equipped to deal with such situations in future. It is seen that individuals who have not experienced any stress in their lives have a poor adaptive mechanism and may succumb to even mild forms of stress. On the other hand, there are people who thrive on stress and show greater efficiency in handling crisis. In essence, intermittent stress (ie., occasional exposure but with recovery periods) leads to enhanced stress tolerance.

Thus, it is natural and healthy to maintain optimal levels of stress and success achievement, higher productivity and effectiveness all call for stress.
If this is the case, then why does examination appear so stressful to many of us. Some possible reasons could be:
• In some students, exams evoke fear and shame associated with failing or getting low marks.
• Anxieties and over expectations (without taking into consideration the child’s competence level and abilities) of the parents get passed onto the children
• Negative self-statements such as “I will ruin my paper”; “I will forget all that I have learnt”; “My future is over”; “People will think I am stupid / worthless / lazy”; “I will be letting down my parents … and so on” also make exam appear stressful.

Common reactions to exam stress

Different children react differently to exam stress. Some of the common reactions to exam stress are:

If any of the above features of stress increase in intensity and frequency, it would be wise to seek opinion of a counselor or a psychologist.

You can also read our blogs :

  1. What is exam stress- ‘Don’t limit your challenges, challenge all your limits.’
  2. Exam Stress: Facts and Myths
  3. Management of Exam stress-‘ Manage stress before it manages you’
  4. Preparing for the D-DAY- Exam Stress
  5. Suicide Prevention- Exam Stress

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