With HSC Trials around the corner I thought this topic might be helpful for both students and parents.
If you have ever looked at a test or exam paper and thought, ‘I’ve studied and know this but I can’t remember anything’, if you have stayed awake in the middle of the night worrying, if you have ever felt sick in your stomach or get a headache whenever you think of an upcoming test, then the following might help.
1. Everybody gets Stressed
Everyone gets stressed during tests and exams, even the people who say that they don’t. Look around a room where people are doing a test or exam. Everyone there has to learn how to cope with these feelings. That is almost 200 girls in each year!! It is not just you... Unmanaged stress can block your memory, give you a queasy tummy, make you lie awake at night, give you a dry throat or a headache – less than ideal for entering an exam.
2. So then Get Stressed...
Stress feels uncomfortable but it is your body’s way of preparing to take on a challenge. Therefore we do need stress. Blood gets pumped to your arms and legs, your heart speeds up, and non-essential services like your digestion slow down – you are ready to take on the world. Understanding that it is your body’s way of revving you up and helping you to perform at your best, will help you to keep the stress feelings in perspective. In other words, stress can be considered functional rather than threatening. Discuss this concept with your girls.
3. Write Out Worries/Visualise your Achievement
Grab a piece of paper one or two days before the test and write down all your concerns about it. Write out an answer to the question, ‘What would happen if I fail this test?’ Then write out an answer to the next question, ‘If I did fail what would happen then?’ Read your written answers aloud to yourself. Even if doing well on this test or exam is really, really important to you, knowing your fears will calm you. Knowing the answer to the question, ‘If I did fail, what would happen then?’ helps you to make a backup plan.
I would also add in here on the flip side to practice visualising walking into the exam room, reading the exam paper and being able to answer all the questions easily!!
4. Chew Something
Eat or chew on something either before or during the test or exam. Check with your teacher that chewing something is allowed in test and exam rooms. If chewing is not allowed, at least chew something just before entering the test. Dried fruit is ideal.
Stress happens when we feel we are in a dangerous situation. It is an automatic process that we can’t completely control. Eating or chewing on something sends a signal to your body that says, ‘Well, if I’m chewing something I can’t be in total danger, so relax a bit.’
5. Focus on Now
Doing well on a test or exam means you need to focus on the question in front of you now. Keep reminding yourself, ‘What do I need to do right now?’
6. Breathe Out – S L O W L Y
When you feel stressed, one of the fastest ways to calm down is to breathe out slowly. We all have a calm down system that is controlled by our breathing. If you breathe in for 3-5 counts and out for 5 counts, this will lower your heart rate, and blood pressure immediately.
7. Stand Tall, Walk Proud
Superman or Superwoman stance...whilst your brain is incredibly intelligent it is also incredibly stupid. It believes what you tell it. This means if you stand up and maintain a powerful posture your body sends a signal to your brain that tells it you are feeling in charge of things and it can reduce the stress hormones.
8. Remember the 5 Ps
There is an old saying: ‘Perfect preparation predicts powerful performance’. The best way to prepare for a test or exam is to:
- study the whole area you have learned
- test yourself
- sort the areas into those that you answered correctly and those you did not
- re-study the areas you answered incorrectly; re-test yourself
- re-study until you are getting close to 100 per cent right
- test yourself on the entire topic.
9. Look after Yourself
Breakfast – eat ‘brain food’ the morning before a test or exam. Higher protein, lower carbohydrate mix at breakfast. That means less toast and jam and more eggs spinach and avocado.
Drink water – water lowers your levels of cortisol that causes stressful feelings. Avoid energy drinks as they rev you up and may interfere with your levels of concentration.
Sleep well – try to get a good night’s sleep the night before a test or exam. If you are feeling really worried, set an alarm so you can wake up early and do some revision.
Moderate Exercise- To be included in your study routine to keep your brain and body in top shape.
10. You Will Survive, Keep Breathing.
You have many, many skills that will NOT be assessed by school exams. Tests and exams are important, but they are not the big predictors of life success.
The above is adapted from Andrew Fullers article, which has been one of the most popular on The Parents’ Website accessed via: https://www.theparentswebsite.com.au How to Manage Exam Stress and Anxiety
Andrew is a clinical psychologist specialising in the wellbeing of young people and their families.
If you have any concerns about your daughter at school, or wish to discuss the above, please feel free to contact the College Counsellor, Becky Salter via firstname.lastname@example.org or ph: 0435 659 694.
Ms Becky Salter, College Counsellor
This article on College life meets The Archbishop's Charter for Catholic Schools -Charter #8