Battling Exam Stress

Around 20% of all children in America face a diagnosable mental illness during a given year, according to the US Surgeon General. Some of the most common include anxiety and mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder. Yet, despite it being highly treatable, 80% of kids with diagnosable anxiety and/or depression, are not receiving treatment.

The truth is that children these days face more pressure than past generations did. On the other hand, the existence of social media means that cyberbullying is far more rife than before the boom in mobile technology. This, in addition to the pressure to succeed academically or in sport, can make childhood seem like anything but ‘the wonder years’ for many. The good news is that there are many steps parents and kids can take to reduce exam stress.

Time Management: The Key to Beating Exam Stress

Staying up late cramming for exams is the worst thing kids can do since sleep deprivation actually results in poor cognitive functioning, impaired working memory, etc.

If exam preparation is carried out throughout the term, then by early afternoon of the day before an exam, kids can take part in a far more beneficial activity, such as yoga or meditation, to keep the ‘fight or flight’ response at bay, keeping the mind ‘in the present moment’ and enjoying a good night’s sleep.

Practice Makes Perfect

The very best way to make sure kids answer an entire exam, without leaving questions unanswered, is to print out past exams so they can complete them within a set time. This is especially important for older kids who are preparing for exams such as the ACTs and SATs. The good news is that free online ACT exams and revision materials can help kids to get used to mock exam conditions.

Breaking Down the Mountain

Parents can help kids learn the vital, lifelong art of time management, by helping them break study material into chunks. That is, they should study a specific number of units or themes every week, but also review previously studied material at the end of every week.

The Importance of Memory Games

Kids should also be enlightened on memory aids, such as mind maps, audio material, and songs. But apart from these activities which are focused on their curriculum, they should also be encouraged to play plain brain games like Dual-n-back, proven to significantly improve memory and attention.

Dual-n-back is a bit like the old 1980s game, Simon, in which players had to remember specific sequences of lights on a battery operated game. Dual-n-back increases the difficulty by showing players a grid of squares, which light up and make a specific sound. Any time you hear a sound you have already heard or see a square that you have seen before, you must click on buttons entitled ‘position’ and ‘audio’, respectively.

Therefore, it calls upon both your visual and auditory memory. Dual-n-back is particularly useful for honing the short-term memory, which is vital for things like following instructions during an exam.

Beating exam stress and keeping anxiety and depression at bay involves a multi-faceted approach. Time management, practice tests, brain games, and calming activities such as yoga and meditation will ensure your kids ace their tests but more importantly, enjoy optimal mental health.

Article provided by Jackie Edwards