HIGH achieving students, who have a strong track record in their past examinations, prescribe that having a presence of mind can sooth jittery nerves so a student can concentrate on the exam paper at hand.
They are able to meditate, shut out distractions from their minds, block out white noise, and turn on the thinking cap to excel in their papers. However, students in the grip of exam anxiety have the opposite reaction.
Youth Today went to Chey Thavy School, where teachers provide private tutored classes, earlier this week to examine Grade 12 students‘ concern and preparations for the national exam which takes place on August 19-20. Coming from different public and private schools, some hundreds of students actually turn up to stand in queue two hours ahead of the tuition classes, just waiting to collar a seat.
That frenzied scenario at the private tuition centre is a reflection of EXAM FEVER, anxiety disorder which affects most children, adolescents included. Stress level goes up. Youth Today randomly talks to some students at the centre.
HANDLING EXAM FEVER
Seventeen-year-old Meng Kimchhy feels pressured because she is unsure of what subject she is strong at. She said: “I keep memorising and reading on what I have learned. But as we cannot predict what topics and lessons (test questions) are going to happen, I really feel concerned and anxious.”
With the dreary past few days of rain, Ms Kimchhy caught a fever. She shared: “I try to follow the doctor’s prescription and instruction to make sure that I can recover fast. I am getting better now. Based on my observation, some students cannot manage to sleep early. They study until 2am or 3am. So I think all the 12th Graders should study hard from the very beginning, so then they don’t worry much about the national exam.”
A student from Mohasastra School, Chea Pisethdychoronai, disclosed that she has been intensively preparing for all the subjects. Though she has put a lot of effort into revision, she is still not confident of her own ability to obtain good grades.
Even though she has to learn tirelessly before the exam, she still prioritises her health. She stressed: “No matter what, my health and life always come first. I try to sleep early and sometimes I cannot fall asleep because of anxiety. I am more careful when driving on the road and I definitely don’t go out when it is raining.”
History student Tae Seavpheng feels uneasy over a few subjects including math, chemistry and physics. That apprehension led him to not eating regularly and sleeping on time. However, he cleverly connected with friends who are good in Science for instance, and initiated a peer study group to ensure that he can absorb knowledge on his weaker subjects.
“Sometimes we all forget our lunch and breakfast, yet we always try to make sure that our health is okay. Nonetheless, peer study is really helpful to improving my understanding so far,” exclaimed Mr Seavpheng referring to the study club he started with his friends since the early year.
A student of Bak Touk High School, Keut Seanglis, told Youth Today that she prioritises on what subjects that come first. As it is a national exam that determines the journey into college, she said she is more concerned than usual.
“I somehow feel pressured as I have to come here to study two hours ahead because I need to make sure that I can have a seat since there are many students,’ Ms Seanglis emphasized.
Nonetheless, she sets a sleep time table which she adheres to. She said her brain also needs to rest. She fears that without proper and sufficient sleep, she may get headache on exam day and forget what she has trying to memorise.
What a psychologist says
The experience of feeling an intense moment of fear or panic before or during an exam is common placed for students in general but it can yield a great impact on each individual if no solutions are raised to help.
Yim Sotheary, a psychologist at Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation Cambodia (TPO) stressed on the symptoms of experiencing anxiety and its huge bearing on performance.
“Generally, people who have anxiety can be observed through the symptoms of a speedy heart rate, damp hands, shortness or rapid breath and feeling queasy,” said Ms Sotheary, adding that having an anxiety has a “potential to shut down your thinking and ability to achieve a well performance”.
However, feeling anxious when sitting in an exam is a common phenomenon which happens to everyone but research shows that some people are more likely to suffer from exam anxiety than others.
How to calm a bad case of nerves?
There are number of different techniques to calm down your exam nerves. According to Ms Sotheary who has seen many patients, emphasized that mindfulness is a key to help student focus more on the present moment while calmly acknowledging and accepting the truth about their anxious feelings, thoughts, and physical reactions. Meanwhile it is vital to understand the nature of their own anxiety so a student can cope with the case of nerves more effectively.
As exam anxiety is excessive worry about the upcoming exam, therefore, learning to control your anxiety can have a positive effect including improved academic performance, increased sense of control and confidence and a decrease in stressful thoughts.
Tips from Grade A students
Three Grade A students from 2016 share their tips today on how to get your well prepare with the upcoming exam and ways to overcome exam anxiety.
Ngov Chihor, a grade A champion in his baccalaureate exam 2016 elaborated that setting a strong commitment and be well preparation are the keys to eliminate your anxiety and to deal with the unexpected tests in the exam.
“Going to Chey Thavy School [The most popular tutored school in Cambodia], I studied five subjects in the morning and added four more in the afternoon. I took Math, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology twice a day, and history once a day. I sometimes even spent my lunchtime studying Khmer Literature”
Roth Sethamony, the former grade A baccalaureate recipient also shares methods to practice a memorizing skill through the available social media platform and materials said that
“Just reading straight off textbooks couldn’t cut it for me. I still struggle to memorize the important details. So, I go to YouTube and search for videos about Cambodian history then watch them. The videos are more helpful than texts. I can hear and I can see so it’s better for me to understand and memorize.”
Teo Soucheng, one of the outstanding grade A also addressed the important of consuming a healthy nutrient foods and getting enough sleep to maintain a better condition before and during the exam.
“You feed your brain with so much information, so you should also feed yourself enough nutrients for your body. Eat good food and try to get as much sleep as you can. It will keep you going when your body is healthy.” (Additional reporting: Ouk Sovanlyda)