Dealing with Stress During Exams

As matriculants, your final year of high school is comprised of exams, exams, and more exams. Your Matric year is a formative event: it is a year in which you are under the most academic pressure you have ever encountered. You have a higher workload and less time to master the work. During this all you are aware that the results you achieve at the end of the year may very well be a determinant for your future. So what do all of these factors cause? A whole lot of stress.

Tales of Stress

During my Matric year and my first year at University, I was under immense pressure to perform well academically. This was brought on by aspirations to be accepted into a degree that requires good academic performance. Over these two years, I tried multiple tactics to stay afloat when it came to my workload. From sleeping 3-4 hours a night for weeks on end, and spending all my waking time working, to following a rigorous schedule of work and sleep, all with varying degrees of success.

One thing all my tactics did have in common: I was burnt out, and unable to work effectively and perform optimally in my academics. My inability to work effectively led me to apply more pressure to myself. This only reinforced this cycle of stress, until I one day decided that I had had enough.

exam stress matric

The Common Denominator

Most scholars and students at all levels of education experience academic stress. This stress, in the right amounts, can increase the physiological and cognitive functioning of a student, therefore improving their work ability and performance. Chronic stress and high cortisol levels, however, can impair brain functioning and suppress the immune system. Students with chronic stress may see a drop in their academic performance.

Students experience this stress for many reasons. It can be due to parental or financial pressure to perform well, pressure from educators to achieve good marks overall, or self-induced pressure to perform well. This stress can become debilitating to students. This is especially true in a year where such a large emphasis is placed on academic performance. It is, therefore, extremely important that this stress be managed effectively in students, to ensure good emotional well-being and, subsequently, good academic performance.

How to Deal with Stress

Managing your stress is a skill-set, and stress management differs from person-to-person. The following tips, however, can guide you in finding ways to effectively manage your stress:

  • Get enough sleep: Sleeping 6-8 hours a night is essential to maintaining the physical and cognitive functioning required of a high school student.
  • Organize: Make sure that you have a good schedule for keeping up with your work, and that you know the requirements of each subject before you start studying. Plan ahead for your Matric prelims and Matric final exams, so that you don’t need to rush through the work.
  • Practice self-care: Engage in activities that are fun, that make you feel relaxed and that distract you from your work. Whether it is to spend time with family, to read or to watch a movie with friends, guilt-free time spent away from your work will energize you and leave you ready to study as efficiently as possible.
  • Exercise: Take 20 minutes to do some light exercise during stressful times. Go you’re your dogs for a walk, or do a yoga workout on YouTube. The exercise will increase the release of serotonin in your body. In turn, this will improve your mood and leave you feeling refreshed.
  • Be kind to yourself: If you performed poorly, if you didn’t stick to your studying schedule, or if you feel like you didn’t work hard enough for a test, take a moment to consider how hard you have been working and use positive emotions as motivation.
  • Ask for help: Whether it’s something small like helping with a problem from a friend, or a cup of coffee from your mom, or asking help from a professional to help manage your stress and anxiety. Make sure to do what is necessary to manage your stress and maintain your mental health in your Matric year.

What BrightSparkz suggests to help lighten the load

  • A tutor can help you understand the work you’re putting so much pressure on yourself to excel in. Our tutors have been through Matric and know what it takes to do well. Whether you need to revise the basics or practice your logarithms, our tutors can help! They’ll fit around your busy schedule. This way you don’t need to worry about time spent getting to extra lessons at inconvenient times.
  • Our Study Skills Crash Course will help you get organized, and use your precious time most effectively. Most Matrics don’t know their learning style or which study methods work best for them. This can add hours on to your studying! Spend your time studying in the best way possible. Our Study Skills Crash Course also only takes 2 hours, and can be done via Skype – so it won’t take away from your study time!

Happy studies.

Written by Inge Ungerer, BrightSparkz tutor & blog contributor