Female students are more likely to report losing confidence in themselves and have problems concentrating, according to a new study by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
The study found that girls experience much higher stress levels than boys with 40% reporting “losing sleep with worry”, while over 50 per cent felt “constantly under strain or pressure” in the run-up to exams.
The study, ‘Your Whole Life Depends on it: Academic Stress and High-stakes Testing in Ireland’, notes that “stress may be passed from one student to another”, becoming “contagious among particular groups of (often high-performing) girls”.
Now we know that exams stress can actually spread among students like a virus, and the report lists specific action steps to stop this spread.
WHO’S TO BLAME?
The report points the finger, saying “teachers were frequently seen as a source of pressure as they constantly emphasised the importance of the exams.” But it also concludes that “the main source of pressure was the young person’s own desire to do well.” So students themselves can often be their own worst enemy.
Another stressor is the “ALL OR NOTHING” exam system. Rarely in life do we face situations that can change the course of our destiny forever, especially at such a young and vulnerable age. “All or nothing” exams are just that. They base everything on how a student performs on the day and studies have shown them to be a grossly unfair system to determine how well students know their subject.
The study, based on a survey of 900 students who completed their secondary education, showed that many students reported cutting back on positive activities, including sport, in their final year and this proved to be particularly harmful. Exercise is a cure-all remedy for stress, while also helping appetite and sleep patterns. It is the last thing that should be sacrificed for students wanting to do well in exams.
A THIRD STUDENTS SUFFER EXAM STRESS
The Irish Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy estimates about a third of students sitting the exams, or nearly 17,000 young people, suffer from stress during the Leaving Cert, but very few will seek help. The Association advises students to reach out to their families, friends and professionals for help and this is very sorry situation.
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Here are a few things that science shows will help you do well in exams.
- Set realistic, attainable goals
- Have a well-balanced diet
- Partake in exercise – 30 minutes minimum a day
- Get eight hours’ sleep every night
- Set aside an hour of social interaction/relaxation each evening.
- Learn and implement smart study practises.
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