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Exam Fear – Reporting From the Battle Ground

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by Vincent D’Sa?

During my training programmes in schools students and parents ask a lot of questions about this topic, the fear of examination. Many persons write to my website raising many questions. I promised them to reply during appropriate time so that everyone is benefited. Most of the fears/ anxieties invade our mind primarily due to lack of knowledge about the problem itself and its possible solutions. Most of the times problem of not knowing the right things about the problem itself is a huge problem. Examination fear is one of them. Most of the exam related anxieties are irrational and unwarranted.

I have identified a few stages of this fear from the interaction with my students and personal experience .Let us focus on these few aspects in short about how to overcome these stages of anxiety in students.

When think about the examination itself. The word itself generates anxiety?This fear bothers?? you when you are not prepared in time.? We know failing to prepare is to prepare for failure.

This is purely self made anxiety. Develop the?? habit of finishing off daily work and you will find the difference. Self discipline help conquer this fear.

Remember we may be having 24 hours in a day. But we may miss the plane, train or bus by just one or two seconds delay!

Fear of forgetting well known answers: This fear attacks you when you are banking solely on your memory. Try to find logic behind every question and answer. Read the question carefully twice, it provides you the answer! Most of the times answer / clues lie in the question itself. Learn to correlate and study. Don?t jump the steps, write as many as steps possible. It helps you in getting more marks in case you can?t arrive at the answer fully. You have every right to question umpteen numbers of times about the steps that is not understood properly during school days. There is no stupid question. Do not pretend knowing a step that is not understood properly. Also it is very important to write and study.
If you have learnt the art of linking the answer from first sentence till the end, you won?t forget anything (If you feel that you are forgetting also, the logical linkage from the previous(first) sentence you wrote, should lead you comfortably to the conclusion without problem). Master this art, your academic success is guaranteed. This is where the brilliant students IQ lie!! When you lost don?t stairs at the ceiling instead carefully read the previous sentence to get the lost link!!

Eg; Let us do this simple exercise about how to think logically and find out something unique behind this 9th table. Once you find the logic neither you need to do addition nor multiplication! Simply you can write 9th table to any length within moments in either direction!!

Carefully observe Left Hand Side and Right hand side of the table. LHS is keeps on increasing and LHS is decreasing in a systematic way. That is to say keep adding 1 to LHS and deduct 1 from LHS .Easily you can write mathematical table of 9 to any extent without stopping, in seconds, in either orders; ascending or descending.
This is just one silly example of finding logic. Behind every problem of math?s and science lie these simple clues. We need to find out what it is. Little observation with curiosity helps you solve anything.

I hope nothing can make you forget writing 9th table henceforth.

Anxiety generated during distribution of question paper in the hall— When the teacher starts distributing question paper heart beat dances literally. Remember there is nothing in the question paper that you don?t know or not studied. It can?t be possible (If there is something not related to what you are taught also, it is everyone?s problem not only yours). Neither you can change anything in it at that moment. Then why feel nervous? When a text book is designed it is designed keeping in mind what you can digest at that stage and age. So be confident. You are going to write or answer ,what you have done already many a times during class exams.

Sometimes a question is being asked indirectly as we say, not the way it is asked generally, during your regular classes and class exams. These twisters you should note down during your regular studies. That is to say how many different ways a particular question may be asked. Try to go little beyond limits than what is taught. When you learn this you will be more confident. Other than this there is no logic in this fear.

Confusion / fear whether to read the question paper fully before starting answering: This is left to the individual capacity, how one deal with the anxiety. If you have high levels of anxiety I advice for initial half an hour just write well known questions. By then your fear would vanish and confidence builds up. Now the time to read question paper fully and design which one to answer wherever you have choices. This saves a lot of crucial time as well, that otherwise would have spent dealing with emotion/anxiety.

You know very well what triggers anxiety in you. Keep away from such things and handle it differently.

Designing of answer sheets/ Going Beyond usual text books — Cleanliness attracts everyone. Make better use of this psychology in the answer sheet also. Divide your answer sheet in to 2 parts;. right hand side narrow part should be for your ?rough work?. Divide properly using a scale. Go an extra mile while answering. Design a good answer Remember you can always do more than you think you can and taught. Adding diagrams as much as possible is one way of getting more attention and marks. Also adding one or two sentences those not in your text books but supports the answer is helpful score more marks. These things you should practice during your class exams so that you know how your teachers react and advice further on this.

This is what you do 11th onward. You may seek advice from your elder siblings on this. I advice to use colored pencils to draw diagrams (ask your teachers advice).

Fear of unknown premises/exam hall. During my times we need to go to other schools to write the public examinations. And we had that little uneasy feeling inside of not knowing the premises well. An unknown territory when already under anxiety may cause more troubles. So if you are writing the exams at some other school visit that place 2 ,3 times .Have a small round, check where the class room ,principals room, rest room? etc and get used to the territory.

Fear of time limits: Fear of time limits is going to bother everyone. For that you need to practice it during your class exams. You need to design your notes in such a way that short sentences convey the right and maximum answer needed. Add diagrams which convey maximum message to counter balance the size needed for the answer. Practice an old question paper many a times by answering fully even though it is a mock drill; so that you will come to know where you stand as far as time limit is concerned. Have a set time limit to answer different categories of questions.

On the examination day. Have a smiling face. Don?t pressurize your mind.Dont mix with people those give many ?valuable?suggetiosn at the last moment. Don?t even talk much with your own classmates. These last few hours / minutes are not for creating any confusion. You don?t need any suggestions at this moment. Remember this is not the preparation time at all; this is the time for relaxation! To be clearer no subject/examination related discussion with anyone when you are just 2 days away from writing the examination. What you study in last 2 days or so, which you haven?t done in the whole year? This is where we collect more fear triggers than anywhere during the course of examination time. Anxiety / fear may drive you toward many irrational things to do which you must avoid.

Environmental influence: Environment imparts a huge influence on human performance. Usually person who does well in the morning sessions won?t be able to perform in the afternoon as effectively due to various reasons. To counter this I would suggest doing? sudden checks?. That is to say, to prepare you to answer, when not in set mood, condition and environment. Like if you have just come home from an outing suddenly you take up a question and answer (write down and check).You can do this before even changing. Answer a particular question at different intervals of the day and check for any variation in the answer. Vary your study patterns of the subjects; like if you are comfortable studying maths in the morning, physics in the afternoon and chemistry in the evening keep varying this cycle. Kindly write down answers and check for evidence for end result. No verbal checking. This also helps in keeping time limits in the examination.

Very importantly, write down all the questions in a single plain sheet belonging to a particular chapter and then entire subject. Break down main question into as many as small questions (macro into micro, this process helps a lot in entrance exams).This exercise leads you to the core of the subject. Study in series as well as randomly picking any question from the question list you made at different time intervals. This will help you condition your mind to recollect answers at any point under any conditions and from anywhere in the subject.
If you master this art no question seems tough because you are catching the theme.

Play, Travel, Observe and Read. Dear Students (and parents) kindly see that you play enough. A tough body only can have a tough mind. If body is week mind cannot be tough. They are interconnected. Travel as much as possible. Read a lot. Read at least one news paper fully in a day. A sound general knowledge help build the confidence a lot. A clean observation help raise the curiosity which is very essential for student life. Curiosity is like oxygen we breathe to be alive, in student life. With just numbers you won?t succeed in life. I am shocked to see grounds have deserted look. Parents, if you want your child succeed in life and academics these above 4 things are a must. There is no shortcut.

No post mortem of the papers until you finishes all the papers?This is very essential. It is because when you do this and come to know that you might not have done well, results in inflicting more fear and anxiety in the future papers those left pending to answer and put additional pressure on you there by hampering your performance further. This exercise is unwarranted till you finish all the papers.

Best way is from the first paper until you finish off all your the papers, don?t discuss with anyone, including at home anything related to the examination. There is no rational in doing so.

Self belief and belief that life exists beyond these 3 hours?When? you have this confidence and belief in you, examination fear don?t? bother you much . Here where the parents teachers and peer role comes into help. The primary fear trigger comes from this category.

Pray and believe in God: Pray only after your part is done properly. Don?t pray before you study, no God listen you. God do not bless lazy students! And unsupportive parents as well!!

Remember students, we are destined by God to receive good things always and in all ways. Trust in him.
In my classes; whether it is coaching training or counseling sessions, I do not address problem directly with what the person has to say. It is because what they convey actually is not the problem!! Most of them don?t know what their problem is!! They usually approach us with confusion. We teach 9th students no subjects!!(We teach something else not related to subjects) And believe me, from class 10th onward, we need not teach them any subjects!! Because when they are taught what is the foundation and basics of learning and studying, they know how to build on it. This is what lacks in our curriculum, approach, study methods and system. We try to build without proper foundation. Most of the students don?t know what their actual potential is, parents don?t know how to advice and many teachers don?t know how to teach what they are teaching! Because we focus only on numbers and foundation is memorization!! I had been to a famous school in Dubai many a times and shocked to see the type of instruments the young children (8 to 12 years) handle there. It is the environment that makes or breaks.

Remember our brain is a computer. We get what we feed. So programme the mind with courage and the fear will not be there. Kindly don?t use the negative language (like word exam may be replaced with appraisal and fear with opportunity). Actually it is so, examination is an opportunity provided to the student by SSLC/ PUC board to prove that they are a successful student.

As we are crossing over to December month very soon, this is the time to check the above check list and practice.? Don?t go by suggestions and advices those crop up in February month!!Dont try anything new at the last moment. The type of hype and pressure on students parents and the schools is huge today, kindly don?t fall prey to it. All of you be relaxed. Have the right approach and win the situation for everyone involved. Best of Luck all of you.


1. There is no exam fear. There is only an opportunity to prove your talent.
2.?We are destined by God to receive good things always and in all ways. Trust in him.
3. Remember you can always do more, than you think you can.

For any help/ suggestions you need, feel free to write me at OR visit/contact my website

Vincent D’sa?is currently based in Dubai / Muscat. Studied Masters in Psychology and a master practitioner of neuro linguistic programming (NLP) and a counselor.


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