About the examination anxiety

Another year passed and another examination period has arrived. The closer to our examination dates, the more anxious we become about our prospects of securing a good grade and the more our worries go berserk. However, this year, as a final year student, I am able to remain calm and my full focus is solely on my graduation and the next path of my journey; the exam worry is shoved to the back of my thoughts. I am thankful for the calmness during this period but I know it takes time and experience to earn that focus and peace of mind during this stressful time.

Exams, in general, are nerve-racking. It does not matter whether we are about to sit A-level exams, first year exams or final year exams – there is always that trace of anxiety within us. Hopefully, most of us are calmer about exam periods now than we were during our secondary school years. We have matured, experienced life and can critically evaluate the real significance of exams in our lives. Examinations are no longer a matter of life and death; eventually it ceases to dominate our worries. As university students, we need to recognize the importance of exams but also understand that exams mean little in the real world. So, during this (another) exam period in our lives, let’s not forget that June will be over soon and we can look forward to summer holidays and/or graduation.

Exams represent a period of a great deal of negative emotions, it seems like our preparation is never sufficient and, thus, anxiety comes to be our companion and carer. We criticize ourselves and regret the previous weeks and months we spent unconcerned with upcoming assessments. Moreover, we oversimplify our abilities and downplay our knowledge and often are surprised at how well we did. How many times have we thought we will fail an exam and how many times did we actually fail one? None of us is alone during this period of stress. It always helps to talk to someone about how we feel and sharing our worries can help to alleviate the anxiety and make us more focused. We should not put up our defenses and regret our late revision sessions… How many peers do we actually know who complete their coursework early and begin their revision well in advance? The pressure and panic we feel now is temporal and seasonal. It will soon pass on its own, but we can also remind ourselves to head to our exams calmly.

University is a prologue to life, a bubble that gives us time and space to become ourselves before transitioning on to the independent adulthood. In my opinion, university’s primal role is not to award us with degrees (that we may use or not); not to assess us on the material we were taught that semester (but became experts the night before the exam…); not to give us the opportunity to live carefree and worry-free (because that is unwise) – the primal role is to give us a few years to learn and experiment with life, to get ourselves ready for that big scary, desolate wasteland they call adulthood.

Exam period is the time when we forget everything else but exams. Exams are important and should be taken seriously, but exams are not be-all and end-all. The final grade of our degree matters, but it is not the ultimate factor of our future success. It helps to have a 2:1 or a first, but a lower grade is not a catastrophe. In a few years, we will probably have forgotten the grades we received in the modules we worry about now and the significance of the final grade will fade. In other words, while exams may currently seem like the most important things in our lives, they actually are far from it. Most of what we learn during university years is learned outside the lecture theatres, tutorials and examination halls. There is too much stressful build-up and too much focus on examinations that causes so much unnecessary anxiety. Exams are build up to be this goliath-like creature whose significance is amplified only by the ‘unknown’ questions, waiting and subsequent stress.

I’m not urging to avoid or reduce our anxiety towards exams, because that is impossible. Exams should be taken seriously but, at the same time, there are other things to worry about in our lives. The 2 or 3 hour periods should not cause our emotions to spiral out of control. So, no matter how stressful these weeks will be, let’s remember that this period will once again pass, we’ll do well in our exams and life will continue.



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