Hoe om eksamenstres te vermy

SKOOLWERK is lank nie meer wat dit sowat tien jaar gelede was nie. Ouers kan vandag nie meer net hul skouers optrek oor Jannie en Sannie wat mos nie graag leer nie. Want wie deesdae nie op skool reeds skouer aan die wiel sit en ten minste ‘n paar uur per dag voor die boeke deurbring nie, gaan eenvoudig nie die eise kan hanteer wat die toekoms aan vandag se jong mense stel nie. Leer moet kinders leer, soos hul ouers voor hulle en dié se ouers toentertyd. Dit is die enigste beproefde metode om te verseker dat jou naam teen die einde van matriek tussen jou klasmaats s’n in die koerant sal wees. En nie net ‘n uur of wat voor elke toets nie. Ook nie soos ‘n papegaai nie, want vir vandag se kind kan dit sy hele toekoms beïnvloed.

Dr Deon van Wyk, sielkundige, akademikus en skrywer sê hedendaagse kinders moet reeds twee keer soveel inligting verwerk as wat hul ouers moes. Daar bestaan dus nie meer die moontlikheid dat ‘n kind wat jare lank soos ‘n papegaai geleer het, dié taak gaan bemeester nie.

Gegrond op sy studiehandleiding, Study without Stress, gee hy wenke oor die korrekte studiemetodes en hoe om eksamenstres te vermy.

The words “examination stress” or “exam tension” probably bring back bad memories for many people and are reason enough for them to develop a sinking feeling in the pit of their stomachs.

Stress is experienced as unpleasant and therefore something to be avoided at all costs. Because we care for our children, we consciously or subconsciously seek to assist them to avoid such situations. This is not the right attitude to adopt. Stress is part of life and we should rather assist our children to cope with it. Stress, for example, plays a major role in how our children perform at school, whether in sport or at schoolwork and it is important we understand stress levels as well as how they impact on performance.

Strictly speaking, the title of this book should have been “Study Without Abnormal Stress” rather than “Study Without Stress” as a certain measure of stress or tension, which is used interchangeably in the following paragraphs, is needed to enhance performance.

People have their own unique tension levels at which they perform at their best, in other words their minds are fully focused on the task at hand, they think clearly, their reaction time is the quickest, etc. Think for instance of participants in a television quiz show or a tennis player waiting for his opponent’s serve. These people are definitely not relaxed.

If we relate the above to the test or examination situation, it is clear a certain amount of tension is a pre-condition for peak performance. Your child should not be alarmed if he experiences higher tension levels than what he normally does. It is normal to be slightly tenser during an examination than one usually is. One can call this a “normal abnormality” and is nothing to be worried about. Children sometimes get upset if they experience tension and this awareness most likely creates even higher tension levels. When this happens, a “normal abnormality” can mushroom out of all proportion resulting in disappointing outcomes.

Apart from physical symptoms such as sweaty palms, an upset stomach, accelerated heartbeat and a feeling of dizziness, abnormal high tension levels also impacts negatively on memory, thinking processes and especially on creativity. Facts your child knew earlier while at home, now slip his mind, and he cannot recall what was learnt, especially those that were memorized parrot-like. This is naturally a very frustrating situation and heightens the tension levels even further.

Normally children’s tension peak just prior to the test/exam and especially during the short period just before the papers are handed out. This is the period when children who cannot handle their anxiety levels torment themselves with “What if …….” questions: “What if I can not remember?”; “What if I fail this test?”; “What if I disappoint my parents again?; They allow the “What if…..?” Spin Doctor to clog their braincells. Asking or thinking these “what if ………” questions with all the possible imaginary negative outcomes serves no purpose at all. It only drives tension levels way above line A in the diagram below, which represents the tension levels for the best performance, and in doing so impedes his ability to perform at his best.

It is extremely frustrating to study hard, to know the content, and have it at the one’s fingertips, but then to obtain low marks in an examination paper. This may discourage a child in the long run to such an extent that he loses the motivation to perform at his best. This is why a child’s approach to the paper and what he does in the examination room are so important. The tips provided below, should be especially useful for children in higher grades. The information should also serve as criteria for children in the lower grades and show parents what to aim for.

Tips when writing a test or examination

No new work should be learned shortly before the test or examination. This will only confuse your child and increase tension levels. The last study session, which will most probably be early morning on the day the test/exam is written, should be spent revising the main ideas and schematic summaries.

The last hour or two before writing your child should be doing something that helps him relax and stay calm. For instance a good friend of mine who was a top-performer at university preferred to wash her hair before writing a test or exam. This, she said, helped her to be relaxed, calm and prepared when entering the test/exam venue.

Do not start writing straight away. Your child should read through the whole paper first deciding how much time to spend on each question. The estimated time spent answering a question should be based on the number of marks allocated to each question.

Questions in which top marks can be achieved should be answered first. It is not necessary to answer the questions in the same order as they appear in the test/exam paper.

When reading a question. Your child must make 100% sure he understands exactly what is being asked and gears himself to provide a detailed and accurate answer. He should approach the question from the perspective that the teacher is totally unfamiliar with the topic and needs to be fully informed.

He should read through the question several times to ensure the instruction is clearly understood. There is a world of difference between “analyze”, “comment on”, “compare”, “contrast”, “criticize”, “discuss”, etc.

A few tips more applicable to children in higher grades:

Structure the answer. The answer and content provided should be 100% relevant to the question asked and should not include inconsequential information. It is therefore wise to spend some time planning the structure of the answer, while simultaneously jotting down the main ideas, facts and sequence of content to be included. A well-structured and logical answer, from which the examiner can conclude your child understands and knows the content, will inevitably result in higher marks.

It will please the examiner if all the questions are answered and are in neat and legible handwriting with proper headings and sub-headings. Your child must bear in mind the examiner is only human and therefore should not hand in an untidy answer, or one that has words scribbled in between lines, parts that have been crossed out or illegibly written. He should strive to win the favour of the examiner and gain an extra mark or two by handing in a neatly written answer paper in which certain main ideas are underlined, so his line of thought is easily followed.

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