Overcoming Exam Anxiety

Updated: Sep 13

The majority of us will experience varying degrees of anxiety prior to and during a situation that requires us to perform, such as in an examination. It is a natural response to stress and challenges. The truth is, a moderate level of anxiety is vital to doing well! That is because the human body releases adrenaline – a type of hormone - to help us react more quickly when we are faced with a stressful, exciting or dangerous situation. Adrenaline makes our heart beat faster and elevates the level of blood flow to the brain and muscles, allowing us to cope with the situation more effectively.

For some students, the level of anxiety can increase beyond the optimal level and become too intense. They may find it hard to focus well during revision and experience difficulties in learning and remembering information. This can interfere with their daily lives and eventually affect their performances in the exams. Fortunately, there are some effective ways of managing this anxiety before it is too late.

The very first step is to identify the factors contributing to this anxiety. Inadequate preparation for the exam is a common reason for all the negative thoughts running through a student’s mind. In this case, there is no alternative solution other than putting in more time and effort way prior to the exam. This means avoiding any last-minute revision at all cost. For a student preparing for the PSLE, there are many resources available such as assessment books and free test papers for P6. It is always beneficial to start revision early. That being said, preparations for the PSLE should begin in the upper primary levels. When a student starts early, there is time to clear any doubts and reinforce concepts using resources like free test papers for Primary 5. Being well-prepared will substantially boost a student’s confidence and this will greatly cut down exam anxiety.

A student’s own expectation could also be one of the reasons for exam anxiety. Some students aim for the perfect score or to be the best-performing students of the cohort. This aim, though commendable, could bring about an immense level of stress. During the PSLE, it is inevitable to come across hard PSLE Math questions in Singapore that are set to differentiate the best students from the average ones. Students should not aim to be a perfectionist and put undue pressure on oneself. Instead, it is important to recognise that consistent effort is all that is needed to perform well in the exams. As long as one has tried his or her best, it is all that really matters. With this mentality, exam anxiety will be eased.

A student who has had a distressing experience in an examination might develop a fear of the subject or of examinations in general. Getting entangled in a web of negative thoughts can be debilitating and prevents one from taking positive actions. It may help for the student to connect with peers or tutors who are supportive and encouraging. For example, a Primary 6 student who feels overwhelmed by Science may find that studying together with peers in a similar situation helps. They can practise on PSLE Science questions and help one another along the way. Most importantly, they can motivate one another to conquer the negative thoughts of exams.

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