Examophobia: The Exam Stress in Teenagers – Reasons | Remedies
By Ahmad Amirali
Last week, I was reviewing ‘Parent Reflections’, which I collected from parents during parent’s One-on-Ones, and come across a reflection that caught my attention. According to that parent, her kid’s classroom performance and lesson engagement are quite satisfactory; however, she believes that her kid takes examination and class tests too seriously than anything else in his routine. The term which she used to explain her kid’s stress is ‘Examophobia’, the most common and interesting fear among students since the ‘advent of examinations’. Every year, students and their parents share similar kind of concerns to me about how they plan their time table to manage and prepare for their mid-terms and finals. However, the question which I ask every year and especially after reading this reflection is what triggered in students to developed such exam/test-related stress that sometimes it even becomes a ‘Phobia’ in some teens?
We all experience anxiety in some part of our lives and especially when we prepare or sit for an examination or an interview. Among teens, the anxiety for finals (Previously Article: Finals Stress | 6 Ways to Reduce Anxiety During Final Exams) develop a sense of fear in their minds that hinder their decision making and management skills. Usually, when exams arrive, students become anxious and make plans about how to study, how to perform better and get good grades. Some students find exams so tricky that the phobia makes them sick as they simply find themselves unable to cope up with the exam fear.
The primary symptoms of exam phobia can be: (Source: Adaa.org)
- Physical symptoms: Headache, nausea, diarrhoea, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, light-headedness, and feeling faint can all occur. Test anxiety can lead to a panic attack, which is the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort in which individuals may feel like they are unable to breathe or having a heart attack.
- Emotional symptoms: Feelings of anger, fear, helplessness and disappointment are common emotional responses to test anxiety.
- Behavioural/Cognitive symptoms: Difficulty concentrating, thinking negatively and comparing yourself to others are common symptoms of test anxiety.
Reasons for Exam Phobia
Following are some reasons that can trigger fearsome feelings in teens for exams
- Environmental Causes: High expectations of parents, Parents imposing their ambitions on children, Parents competing for higher social status through child’s scores, Constant comparison with other kids, Fear of teachers, Insulting remarks from teachers
- Poor studying styles: Irregular coverage of the entire syllabus, trying to memorise the coursebook, 3. Binge learning, studying all-night right before exams
- Ineffective: Reading without understanding the topic, Unable to recollect the material, Not making revision notes, Not revising
- Psychological factors: Feeling little or no control over the exam situation (rather than knowing and applying exam strategies), Negative thinking and self-criticism, Irrational thinking about exams and outcomes, Irrational beliefs “If I don’t pass, my (family/boyfriend/girlfriend/friends) will lose respect for me”, Irrational demands “I have to get at least 98%, or I am worthless.”, Catastrophic predictions “I’ll fail no matter what I do there’s no point.” Low Self-esteem, Fear of failure.
How to overcome the Exam Phobia
There is no specific way to overcome any fear except to face it. However, following some of the ways that can help teens to overcome their anxiety and stress.
- Develop good study habits. Study at least a week or two before the exam, in smaller increments of time and over a few days (instead of pulling an “all-nighter”). Try to simulate exam conditions by working through a practice test, following the same time constraints.
- Read the directions carefully, answer questions you know first and then return to the more difficult ones — outline essays before you begin to write.
- Remember that your self-worth should not be dependent on or defined by a test grade. Creating a system of rewards and reasonable expectations for studying can help to produce effective studying habits. There is no benefit to negative thinking.
- Concentrate on the test, not other students during your exams. Try not to talk to other students about the subject material before taking an exam.
- If you feel stressed during the exam, take deep, slow breaths and consciously relax your muscles, one at a time. This can invigorate your body and will allow you to better focus on the exam.
- Get enough sleep, eat healthfully, exercise and allow for personal time. If you are exhausted—physically or emotionally, it will be more difficult for you to handle stress and anxiety.
The above pointers are general guidelines for teens and parents to help and address the fear of exams. However, it is essential to keep in mind that fear of anything can only hurt us upon our own will. Never give fear a chance to enter your mind and it is only possible through proper planning and time management. Only then you can defeat any fear of our lives 😊 Good Luck