Once again final exams for the semester are upon us. This is a critical time for our students. This week is dominated by intense studying, reviews, and test-taking. Although this is a difficult period, all of the hard work and sacrifice are worth the effort.
Our young people are the future of our society. It is imperative that we develop their skills, knowledge, culture, and religion to assure the Kingdom's continued success and development. Education necessarily involves a commitment to excellence and perseverance. These are the exact qualities our young people need to be successful in their personal and professional endeavors. It is incumbent upon us as educators to facilitate the continuing development of these characteristics in our young men and women. It is also incumbent upon the families of our students to provide encouragement and support during this challenging time.
One cannot overstate the importance of family support for students taking exams. Exams involve stress and oftentimes mental and emotional exhaustion for the student. Moreover, exams occur in a short period of time with multiple tests given in the same week or even on the same day. Furthermore, students have the additional and stressful burden of wanting to excel academically. In sum, students are under a tremendous amount of pressure during these examination periods. Educators and psychologists note the physical and mental side effects of examination-related stress. In addition, students often resort to stimulants and medications to ameliorate their adverse conditions. Side effects from these can result in even more unhealthy symptoms for things such as an inability to concentrate and sleep disorders.
The ultimate issue is how do we help students best manage the issues related to examinations. First, students must take the primary role. Preparation is the key to successfully managing obligations and stress arising out of examination periods. Students must learn to manage their time and work efficiently so that they have sufficient periods in which to study intensively for each subject. Also, students must eat well and exercise during the school year. A proper diet along with appropriate amounts of physical activity helps keep the mind sharp and increase endurance in studying. Having this positive atmosphere and orderly lifestyle will help students reduce the pressure they feel and anxieties that plague them during exam periods.
Families also have a significant role to play in helping students. Some young people are often distracted by mundane obligations or unimportant social activities. These activities waste valuable time that could be devoted to education. Families should encourage students to use their time wisely and make sure that frivolous or counter-productive activities are minimized. Also, families should monitor student behavior to make sure they are not resorting to artificial stimulants or other medications to deal with the stress of school. We should advise students to break their study activities into manageable chunks of time with sufficient rest periods in between. Avoiding 'cram sessions' and 'all-nighters' is important because these strategies most often fail. We should encourage our students to study in a manageable and consistent manner so that they do not burn out from exhaustion and/or anxiety.
We should be mindful that examinations are not a punishment, but merely a way of monitoring student achievement. The 'real-world' evaluates people based on results on a continuous basis. Examinations are a way of teaching students responsibility. Part of the benefits of tests is that it gives the students discipline to perform consistently under pressure. These are the exact conditions which they will face once entering the workforce and will live with for many decades. It is a best practice for students to take responsibility for exam preparation and overcoming the difficulties of being evaluated on multiple fronts in a short time frame.
By popular demand, the following is a list of practical recommendations for successfully - God willing - navigating the examination periods:
- Wake up early after a good night's sleep.
- Briefly review summaries of the main topics.
- Eat an excellent high-protein breakfast.
- Be sure to pray and thank your family for their support.
- Plan on arriving 30 minutes early to account for delays.
- Trust in God.
- Focus on your knowledge, not negative thoughts or fears.
- Remember that the test is a cumulative measure of what you learned throughout the year.
- Acknowledge that you have done, and are doing, your best.
Other Helpful Tips
- Begin by saying 'In the name of Allah, the most Merciful and the most Beneficent'.
- Legibly write your name and student number.
- Read through the entire exam before answering any questions.
- Relax and take deep breaths during the exam.
- Manage your time and try not to rush.
- Be prepared to skip difficult questions and come back to them once all other questions are complete.
- Check your work.