Exam pressure

‘You have got nothing to fear but fear itself.’ – Franklin D Roosevelt (First Presidential Inauguration address 1933)

Famous words, yes, but are they true? No! If you asked average teenagers what their greatest fears were, I am sure the word ‘examination’ would be amongst their worst fears. I would agree with that because when I was a teenager I feared being bitten by a snake, shark or crocodile, visiting the dentist, nuclear war, asking someone on a date, death, and examinations. Of all these fears, Carey is well-positioned to teach students to deal with most anxieties, and especially reduce the anxiety associated with examinations.

Sorry students, but you are accountable. Being accountable means, depending on your year level, you will soon undertake various end of Semester 2 assessments, tests or examinations. My straw poll taken over several lunchtimes last week revealed an almost unanimous student decision that ‘exams are awful’, but in the same sentence students will tell me, ‘exams are important’.

Examinations are one of many ways of assessing and evaluating the educational progress of our students. Many other tasks will have been carried out throughout the year, and so the examination mark is just one part of an overall assessment that includes tests, assignments, practical reports, presentations, and written comments by the teacher. I encourage all students and parents to look at the total package, not just the examination mark, as an indicator of progress or performance.

Examinations and assessed tasks give students an indication of their knowledge and progress. At Carey we appreciate that examinations require a range of skills and techniques. Under time pressure, students are required to read and comprehend material, evaluate, criticise, assess, reorganise, recall, summarise and reason. Therefore, it is no wonder that students fear examinations!

Invariably, students will make mistakes under the pressure of examinations. Mistakes are part of life. We believe by giving students plenty of opportunities to practice their examination technique they will have a competitive advantage via a well-rehearsed examination technique by the time they sit their public examinations in Years 11 and 12.

There will be other examinations: aptitude tests, job tests, interviews, and driving tests. The sorts of skills students learn through examinations will be needed in the workplace when they are faced with pressures, deadlines, promotional opportunities, presentations, or even being able to propose and defend a strategy at work.

I am sure the most effective way of overcoming examination nerves is through preparation. Staff will be informing students about the kind of questions that will appear on the examination paper. This allows the students to focus on the important items. Whilst examinations are not the be all and end all, they do provide a helpful way of measuring a student’s progress and achievements.

Unlike an encounter with a snake, shark or crocodile, examinations can be good for you. So enjoy!

Philip Grutzner