Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Exam Phobia in School Children

 Dr Ruwan M Jayatunge 

A large number of school children undergo exam related fears. Sometimes these fears are overwhelming. It can cause low performance and failure in exams. As a matter of fact most of the children who are shattered by exam phobia have a good IQ and positive motivation. They show favorable performances in the classroom. But when they go to the exam these students become highly stressed, have fear and they are unable to face the exam with confidence.

Students with exam phobia feel extremely fearful and unsure. Following the increased fear they are unable to grasp theoretical material and find it difficult to remember. Exam phobia is a form of anxiety condition which is common among school children. In the verge of the exam the fear increases and some manifest psycho somatic ailments such as abdominal pains, vomiting,  headaches , dizziness, tremors, etc which have no apparent medical basis.  Some students with exam phobia manifest following anxiety related features during the exam period.

 Unable to relax
 Dizzy or light headed
 Heart pounding or racing
 Feelings of choking
 Hands trembling
 Fear of losing control
 Difficulty breathing or chest pain
 Indigestion or discomfort in the stomach
 Feeling Faint
 Feelings of unreality or disorientation
Amnesia or difficulty in remembering studied material

Self Revealed Story by Miss H 
When I was doing my O/L exam I had an unexplainable fear and anxiety. I was not a mediocre of course. I worked very hard at school and at home. I could understand the study material when the teacher was explaining. My teachers and parents thought that I was a bright student who would perform well in the exam. But one month before the exam I had headaches and loose motions. My memory was fading. I could not memorize the material that I had learned. I was extremely afraid of facing the exam. At nights I could not sleep. I was weeping and thinking of   giving a medical certificate without doing the exam.

Master L and his Fear
Two days before my A/L Chemistry paper I was confused. I could not recall the stuff that I had studied for the exam. I was frightened and helpless. The chemistry formulas were roaming inside my mind.  It was an unpleasant intrusion. I thought my life was over. Two years hard work and all the hopes my parents had about me would go for nothing if I had failed the exam.  I was blank, totally blank. I did not know what to do.

How Miss K Fought Her Fear
Miss K was a bright student who had lots of hopes for the AL exam. Her parents and the school teachers were so sure of her that she would enter the university at the first attempt. This premature hope on her became a big burden for her. Sometimes she had irrational feelings about her destiny. She often asked from her self what my parents and the teachers would say if I get a lower grade in the exam? This very feeling gave her fear and anxiety. Miss K had low appetite, suffered from headaches and experienced many sleepless nights. Sometimes she was unable to recall the studied material and write correct answers to the past papers.  Eventually her fear was liquidated via counseling and psychotherapy. Imagery techniques helped her to simulate the artificial examination room atmosphere and build more and more confidence. Relaxation therapies reduced her outpouring anxiety.  Miss K was able to pass the exam with excellent marks and today she is a Medical student.

 Treatment of Exam Phobia
Counseling and Psychotherapy are indicated in treating exam phobia. Counselors who work with children and adolescents who suffer fromexam phobia may be required to use effective counseling strategies to help them. These interventions may be required to allow the students to achieve a greater academic autonomous functioning ability and face the exam with confidence. Empathetic   listing to the student would ease his difficulties and create a growth promoting atmosphere. The client will begin to trust his abilities and challenge the fright.

In Psychotherapy it is necessary to establish a positive and functioning relationship with the therapist. The therapist should help the client to become consciously aware and able to express their anxiety and fear about exam and performance situations. The therapist should direct the client to fight his fear. Hence the student gets more confidence to face the exam. Simulating exam atmosphere in therapeutic sessions the fears and stresses can be reduced gradually. Implementation of positive self-talk to reduce or eliminate the anxiety is vital. Instead of negative coping skills (avoidance of the exam, expressing self directed anger, blaming others) healthy coping skills must be taught. While working with the student the therapist must increase client’s participation in educational activates, combating fear and building confidence. Appropriate relaxation and diversion activities would decrease anxiety levels. Therefore relaxation techniques (especially breathing techniques) are indicated in exam phobia. To enhance the therapeutic purpose parents/guardians and teachers support should be taken.

Some therapists perform Hypnotherapy to reduce the fear. Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness and heightened responsiveness to suggestions. During the hypnotic sessions positive suggestions are given to build confidence and illuminate the exam fear. The modern research indicates that EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is one of the effective modes of psychotherapy that can treat phobias successfully. These therapies should be performed by qualified and trained professionals.

Role of Medication
Some children who suffer from exam phobia go in to depression. Depression can cause negative self image, low motivation, difficulty in concentrating and remembering things that would affect the learning process. Therefore depression must be managed effectively. Sometimes depression and anxiety go hand in hand and students find difficult to cope.  If the anxiety level is high and difficult to control anti anxiolitic or anti depressants are prescribed by a qualified medical practitioner. These medications combined with psychological interventions accelerate the recovery process.

Exam phobia is a self damaging factor which negatively affects the students and their performances. The student is unable to give is maximum productivity and the end result would be critical.  Usually exam phobia is a slowly developing factor and sometimes early signs like physical and mental fatigue, irritability, difficulty in concentrating and negative self talk can be detected by the teachers and parents. School counselors can do a lot to help the students with exam phobia. Counseling and building confidence, educational therapy help the student to gather more strength and accomplish the exam.


  1. මේ ලෙඩේ මට ටිකක් ලොකුවට හැදුණා, විදේශ පුහුණුව ලබද්දී, ඒ විභාගයට බයේ.

    1. පරිසරය වෙනස් වීමත් හේතුවක් වෙන්න ඇති

  2. මට ලෙඩක් විදියට නැති වුනත් විභාග හොඳට පාස් වෙන්න හරි අමාරුයි. පාස් උනත් දශමෙට වගේ. හැබැයි එළියේදී ඒ තියරි කරුණු ප්‍රයෝගිකව යොදා ගන්න පුළුවන්..

    ගොඩක් වෙලාවට විභාග වලට ගියාම තියෙන්නේ බයකට වඩා මොකට මේකට උත්තර හොයනවද වගේ හැඟීමක්.. ලේසියෙන් give up කරලා දානවා හෙහ් හෙහ්....

    1. හෙහ් හෙහ් වෙන්න පුළුවන්.. හැබැයි මම වැඩ කරන්න කම්මැලි නෑ.. විභාග කම්මැලි කමක්.. :)


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