Decoding the exams stress

Published April 27, 2024
Illustration by Sumbul
Illustration by Sumbul

Exams — a word that ignites fear and stress in most of us. Some people call it a nightmare, others compare it to a tormenting period in a year, while some are so afraid of them that they fall ill, both physically and mentally.

But why is that? If we study all year long, then what makes us dread these few days of the final exams each year?

If you ponder upon it, don’t you think that we take an exam every day, in fact, multiple times within a day too? Confused? Let’s dissect an exam paper and relate each section to our everyday lives. This way, we will realise it is something are used to doing and shouldn’t dread it so much.

Let’s start with the easiest and most popular questions section of a typical examination paper, which is “Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)”. They are short, sweet, simple and easy to score marks in. Wondering how we answer MCQs in our day-to-day lives?

Well, we wake up and the first thing we choose is our breakfast. For beverages, we choose from milk, juice, coffee and tea; and for food, we choose from fruits, eggs, cereal, etc. every day. Similarly, we choose many options throughout the day and reject a load of them, sometimes in the blink of an eye and sometimes by going by our gut feeling.

Wait a minute, that’s what we have been doing while answering MCQs as students. What a coincidence!

The next part of the exam, which too a tricky one, is “Fill in the blanks”. Well, how can we relate to it in our lives? We all have voids to fill from time to time. Some of the voids are permanently filled, while others are temporary.

For example, we fill the void in our lives with our family’s love and further fill it with some warmth and fun by the friends we make. Apart from that, our lives are filled with celebrations like birthdays, anniversaries, teacher’s day, friendship day and Eid, which are fixed and factual days to be celebrated, just like we need to write actual factual knowledge to gain marks in the ‘Fill in the blanks’ sections of a question paper.

Seems like we fill in the blanks and days of our lives with important people and special days around us, just like we fill in the blanks in our exams with important dates, names and locations, isn’t it? Now do you see how we are already used to this exercise of filling in the blanks?

Illustration by Sumbul
Illustration by Sumbul

One more part of the exam, a small number of questions fall into this category, is “True or false, with reasoning.” This is something we humans excel in. Our communication is a mixture of truths and lies, thus we tend to doubt others, and inquire for reasons and rationales of the decisions that others make. The slight difference between the real world and the examination world in the game of ‘true or false’ is that real-world, verdicts are based on guesses and intuitions, while in exams, we have to be definite with our facts.

The last part of an exam, but with heavy weightage of marks, are the questions requiring short and long answers. This again resonates with our inquisitive nature of questioning the people around us and even the laws of the universe. Hence, facing questions and giving elaborate answers to them should not be difficult for us.

What we need to do with regards to our studies is to just have a sound understanding of the chapters included in our syllabus and be aware of the keywords and formatting of the answers, and you are good to go. It’s as simple as communicating differently from others, for example you will be a little relaxed and would talk informally with your parents at times, but your tone will completely be the opposite of when talking to your principal. Apply the same phenomenon in your exams and you will crack the code to write perfect answers.

So does this convince you that all our lives, every single day of it, is comprised of components of exams and we are all acing them at our own pace, according to our situations? So why is it that we are afraid of these end-of-term exams? We have studied all year long for it, and we know the content and have practiced materials to prepare for them, unlike our lives, which throw us into many unfamiliar and uncomfortable situations for which we are unprepared.

So students, take a deep breath and dive into the pool of studies with utmost confidence. You face questions similar to those in the exams every day, and will continue facing different academic exams in the future. Have faith in yourself and it’s okay if you are strong in certain subjects and have trouble in some other subjects. No one is perfect and your parents and teachers are well aware of your capabilities. All you need to do now is, put in all your efforts, which will reflect in your exams and will make your loved ones proud.

But firstly, stop fearing exams because the more you fear them, the more they occupy your mind, giving you less energy to focus on your studies. Trust yourself, just like your parents trust you!

Published in Dawn, Young World, April 27th, 2024

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