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`Exams are not a reflection of your full potential`

Updated: Mar 26, 2013, 21:26 PM IST

It’s exam time and the pressure is back on children. This time is the most stressful period of the year for students, but it is important not to let this stress go out of control. In an exclusive conversation, Dr Gagandeep Kaur, Clinical Psychologist at Unique Psychological Services, tells Shruti Saxena of about how children can best deal with stress, how they can plan their studies well, and what the parents and teachers should do to help students.

Shruti: What is your suggestion to students on dealing with exam-related stress?

Dr Gagandeep: Stress in itself is a very subjective experience. So, what may be stressful for me may not be for you. Anything that I find difficult to cope up with or which I find is difficult to handle or may bring negative consequences for me is basically stress. Now, there are two kinds of stress - one is Eustress and the other is Distress. Eustress is basically because of happiness like will that happen or not? Or how will I manage etc. Distress is caused by things that you feel are likely to bring any negative consequences for you if you are unable to cope up with it. So, exam stress is a part of distress where you feel my result may not be that good or you may not be able to score good marks, so you feel exam stress. One should look at exams just as a part of their lives and believe they can handle them, then with such an attitude they won’t feel the stress.

Shruti: We see that parents have a lot of expectations from their children and many a times they push them too hard to achieve success. So, how can they contribute in helping their child beat exam stress?

Dr Gagandeep: Nowadays even a two-year-old child is very aware. So, now the kind of awareness children these days have, talks a lot about their own expectations also. So, it’s not just parents, who have expectations, children too feel the pressure that they have to score well. So, the pressure is from both sides. As far as parents are concerned, what they can do is to be there for child. They need to give him/her the assurance that he/she needs to do well in life but for that he/she doesn’t need to stifle himself/herself’. Every parent when they expect from their child, somewhere know that what calibre their child actually has and so while expecting, they should keep in mind the calibre and potential of their child and not succumb to societal pressure. Secondly, parents should keep realistic expectations from their child. They need to reassure their child that they are there with the child and tell them that all they expect is just do your best. Also, they should avoid comparing their children with others and passing negative comments repetitively.

Shruti: Suggest some activities that can boost self confidence of students and lead to positive thinking?

Dr. Gagandeep: The best thing would be to prepare right from Day 1 and prepare well. Secondly, they need to learn not to say negative things to themselves. For example, if asking questions to your friend like how much syllabus have your friend covered gives you stress, then don’t ask such questions. Another thing is students should focus on what they have read and what they know rather than thinking about what will come in the exam or how much will he/she be able to score? Basically they should focus on what they are capable of doing rather than what they are not capable of doing.

Shruti: We hear that there are students, who complain that they forget what they have learnt. How should such students plan their studies?

Dr. Gagandeep: There are various reasons behind failing to remember what we have learnt. Firstly, either he/she haven’t studied that well. Secondly, he/she is picking up a lot of new concepts at the last moment. We have to understand that our brain has a definite capacity to grasp things and if we feed it with too much of information, then it will not register the same. Third reason of forgetfulness might be that a student has not revised his/her concepts well. It means that he/she might have learnt everything, but if he/she has not done frequent revisions, then one tends to forget. Another reason behind forgetting is, if a student has not organised his/her content. Also, one should stop saying negative statements to oneself as the more we say that life is bad and things are not working, one realises that he/she feels the same. On the other hand, when one says positive things and have a positive outlook, things workout eventually. The more one says negative things, the more he/she feels negative and ultimately, his/her performance is bound to go down.

In order to avoid forgetfulness, firstly plan well. Secondly, do proper revisions like revise today, then after a day, then in a week’s time, then after a month and so on. With more revisions, one will notice that his/her revision time reduces. While revising, try using a bold marker. Another method to remember is that a student should associate himself/herself with that thing and learn it logically. For example, if he/she wants to learn about the Revolt of 1857, then one can learn points like why did this revolt took place? Who all were involved? What were its consequences? All these points are logically interconnected and hence easy to remember. One can also try acronyms as they are short cuts to memorise a topic. Children can also make flowcharts, make their own notes, mark pointers etc.

Shruti: Do you feel schools play a major role in increasing the stress level of students before exams?

Dr. Gagandeep: I feel schools have increased both the pressure on kids and the responsibility. Like today we see that a child’s admission to any college depends on points, so a little amount of stress in children due to this factor is bound to happen. Second reason is that there is a lot of competition and nowadays there are a lot of intelligent students around. Third reason is, after the introduction of in-house exams, some students feel that since its school’s own exams they will get good marks, or the school will not spoil its own result. Children have to understand that in the long run it is the concepts that will help them and not marks. Teachers should also tell students to focus on studies as a way of understanding and not as a way of marks.

Shruti: How to deal with a child who feels suicidal?

Dr. Gagandeep: See, first of all we have to understand that suicide is a result of impulsive reaction. There are two cases in this - one is when a child feels suicidal and second is when somebody else, say a friend, tells a child that he/she feels suicidal. In the case of when a child’s friend tells him/her that he/she feels like committing suicide, he/she will tell the child that see don’t tell anyone else, he/she trusts you so he/she is telling you and so on. But, it is a child’s duty to understand that breaking a promise is not bigger than allowing someone to lose his/her life. If someone tells a child this, then that child should 100% share this with a senior member taking him/her in confidence; for if the child don’t do this then he/she is bound to lose the single chance of saving his/her friend’s life. It is better to communicate and also convince the person that there is no problem in this world without a solution and life is not that bad and we can improve the situation. In the case when the child itself feels suicidal, then one needs to tell the child that it might be a difficult phase but then there are no end points in life, there are always U-turns. Secondly, exams are not a reflection of who one is and what his/her potential are. For doing well in life he/she need not require skills that are subject-based. One has to just figure out what is better and believe that erasers and second chances always exist in life.