September, being the month of Term examinations in most schools, sees an increase in the number of students visiting the staff-room ‘on purpose’. The scenario altogether remains different the rest of the year. As a teacher, I have noticed in the eyes of these students, who frequently visit the staff-room, something that troubles me a lot – ‘Exam phobia,’ popularly known as the ‘Exam Fever’. How many of us are familiar with these terms? I believe, almost all of us. Technically speaking, it is that feeling of nervousness, which most of us have encountered during our school and college-days. Even now, when a student comes and asks me his/her doubt before the examination, I can see the ‘testophobia’ and the associated nervousness – ‘what if?’

Why students get nervous before examinations?

It is a very common phenomenon among majority of the students when it comes to writing examinations. It may affect students and cause hindrance to their psychological, behavioral, emotional, social and cognitive developments. However, hardly any parents pay attention to this fear of examination and rather consider it as a common observable fact. History shows that even eminent scholars like Einstein and Churchill too suffered from the so called ‘exam phobia’. So, it has become a universal fact that students should remain nervous before an examination. Are we really talking sense?

Psychologists and behavioral counselors are of the opinion that students frequently get nervous before examinations as they are under excessive pressure to perform well and score better than their peers. Lack of preparation too adds up to this phobia. The negative thought of ‘what if I fail to perform’ in one’s sub-conscious mind always bothers his/her constructive thought. This so called ‘what if’ does not allow a child to think freely and muster up the courage to consider an examination as just a ‘check of knowledge’ and not regard it as the parameter of success. Students shell themselves up in the cocoon of apprehension and panic and then disasters happen. Scores may be either high or low but how does it justify the phobia that one has already developed? Why does each student need to score high? Why are we pushing our children to score the highest in all subjects they study?

What can you do as a teacher?

A classroom instructor should consider creating an environment that gives liberty to the students to taste ultimate success even after numerous failures. Encouragement from the mentor and reassurance on the fact that one can succeed even if he/she does not succeed at the first attempt has the power to enhance and boost students’ confidence. As a teacher I always praise and cheer my students even if they have shown negligible effort while trying. I believe true motivation can cultivate the students’ strength and bring the best out of them. In my classroom I always insist on the fact that children should not compare themselves with their peers. This may bring down their enthusiasm and their passion for learning and make them nervous, shy and introverted. They easily get into deep thoughts of being a failure. I also insist on an all-inclusive classroom teaching. As a teacher it is important to make differentiated worksheets and plan lessons in a way that all students, from the weakest to the strongest, are benefited. Students should be given the freedom to fail, to explore and to learn.

A true guide’s role

Love, affection, assurance and empathy have the power to solve the students’ fear of examination. As mentors, parents and guides, if we assure our children that whatever be the score, we are always there to stand by them, we are always there to hold their hands and show them the right path, their tension and anxiety drastically reduces. Students who aspire to be painters need not score the highest in science. A writer need not score well in mathematics or a dancer need not know what geography is. Each child is unique. Each one has his own way and pace of learning and is capable of succeeding in his own manner. Let’s assure our children that they have the freedom to fail – for ‘failure is the pillar of success’. Your scores do not measure your intelligence and capability. You are way beyond of what your result says. A true guide and mentor is always an inspiration. He is one who can uplift a child’s morale, inspire him of his true ability and guide him through his own dedication.

How to overcome Exam phobia?

In addition to the words of sympathy and assurance, mentors and parents should also suggest ways to overcome the so called ‘exam phobia’. One needs to prepare and study well before examinations; practice past papers; always seek for help if he/she is unable to understand a lesson; and most importantly, believe in himself/herself. Remember, “Sometimes the most brilliant and intelligent minds do not shine in standardized tests because they do not have standardized minds.” [Diane Ravitch]

Snigdha Dhar
English Teacher, Secondary (CBSE)

Who am I?
Well, this question can hardly be answered using these twenty-six letters of the English alphabet! I am the one who too doesn’t know myself completely! Perplexed, isn’t it? Well, I am a fun-loving person, a teacher by profession, a caring wife and a doting mother of a 7-year old. Professionally speaking, I began my career as a freelance content writer and then slowly climbed the ladder and joined a reputed finance organization as a Senior Quality Assurance Specialist. Always passionate about reading, I always wanted to be a teacher and after my son was born, I decided to follow my passion. And now, here I stand – a teacher of English, teaching in CHIREC.