As in many parts of the world, in childhood and adolescence students have to take many exams in our country. Exams are necessary to complete a certain education, and sometimes they are a stage that has to be passed in order to start an education. Furthermore, the performance shown in exams also determines the level of education to be achieved later, or the variety and quality of potential careers. All these reasons cause students in our country to face a high level of anxiety in the form of high school and university exams.


Stress is a natural part of daily life. When we can deal with it, stress may have a positive effect, causing us to work more fruitfully. A happy and healthy life is possible with levels of pressure that we can cope with. However, if the demands putting pressure on a person are more than that person’s ability to meet them, the negative effects of stress start to be felt.


Exam anxiety is an intense condition of stimulation that increases the student’s thoughts not directly related to the exam, causing heavy physical excitation and therefore dividing the attention and making productive study, learning and the effective application of what is learned very difficult.


Anxiety is defined as an obstructive condition that shows itself on three levels. These are physiological, thinking and behavioral changes.


       On the physiological level, palpitations, feeling hot, ringing of the ears, difficulty in breathing, inability to swallow, tremors, stuttering, stomach cramps, headaches, etc., are experienced. In this stage, the sympathetic nervous system is activated.


       On the thinking level, negative thoughts, imaginations, symbols and misgivings that may give rise to panic appear.


       On the behavioral level, the individual shows avoidance or escapism from the “event” related to the anxiety.


 


The anxiety of the individual related to how he/she and others see him/her influence the performance during the exam.


 


       The anxiety of the individual about him-/herself is due to considering the exam success of the person equal to his/her personal value.


       Anxiety about the future is due to the person correlating his/her future happiness and success with the exams.


       Anxiety about not being prepared is due to the individual’s belief of not being ready for the exam.


       Physiological reactions are bodily discomforts and irritations that are felt during the exams.


       Mental reactions are the conditions of mental disorders, lack of attention, over sensitivity to the environment, fear and panic.


 


It has been determined through research that extreme levels of anxiety negatively affect learning, and too low levels of anxiety make learning difficult. A medium level of anxiety positively affects learning. Generally, students with extreme levels of anxiety are less successful than students with very low levels of anxiety.


Individuals with exam anxiety are often perfectionists. They have the tendency to regard even the smallest mistake as total failure. They tend to avoid activities where they believe their performance will be less than perfect. Over criticism of themselves is observed frequently. In addition, they need more and frequent shows of approval.


In the development of exam anxiety, some basic factors are encountered. At the top of the list of anxiety producers are the expectations of the family, and the pressure they generate. Following this are the expectations and the policies of the school, and individual and characteristic features as important factors


 


What causes failure in an individual by generating high levels of anxiety is not the difficulty of the material to be learned, but what the event means to him/her. The individual thinks that the exam measures his/her personality and not the knowledge, and develops unrealistic beliefs.


 


In whatever manner, it must be kept in mind that exam anxiety is a phenomenon that adversely affects the emotional and academic life of the student, and causes psychiatric problems as the level increases.


 


As the Bengi Semerci Institute, we are working on supporting exam anxieties of children and adolescents with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, taking in hand and restructuring the meanings attributed to exams and the exam related negative thoughts of children, how to deal with anxiety felt before and during exams, relaxation techniques and time management during exams. In addition, one of the most important aims of the therapy process, besides an interview with the child or adolescent, is to interview the family to determine the faulty approaches of the mother and/or the father that add to the child’s anxiety, and to correct them. Learning how to deal with anxiety will reflect favorably both on his /her academic performance and on his/her quality of life.


Romina Kuyumcuoglu

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