Even before getting his ninth grade final exam results, 15-year-old Lourembam Sanathoi started taking coaching classes for the stressful 10th grade board exams. He says, “If I start preparing early, I will be able to perform better.” He is joined by 20 more students who take coaching classes for all subjects in the morning and evening. But the recent announcement by India’s Ministry of Education about board examinations for grades 10th and 12th to be conducted twice in a year from the academic session 2024-25 left Sanathoi and his friends shocked. Will the new move take board exam stress in students to a new level?
Sanathoi’s mother Devikarani thinks board exams twice a year means “double stress”. She says, “It’s not just the students who have exam stress, but the parents too. We have to be up with them at odd hours too.”
Positive and negative sides of two board exams in a year
Exam stress or anxiety connected with it can’t be taken lightly. Last year, the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) found that around 80 percent children studying in grades 9 to 12 suffer from anxiety due to exams and results. Conducting board exams twice a year can create additional pressure on students, says Suman Mittal, Headmistress, Kalorex Future School, Ghatlodia, Ahmedabad. That’s because they will have to prepare for and perform in two sets of board exams within a short span of time. She tells Health Shots, “This can lead to higher stress levels, especially among those children who already find exams to be very challenging.”
But at the same time, it can be seen as two chances given to students to appear for the board exams. The headmistress of the Central Board of Secondary Education school says, “Students might feel less anxious about the results since they have an opportunity for improvement in the next cycle and the syllabus will be divided into two halves. This could potentially reduce the stress associated with a single high-stakes examination.”
Dr Rituparna Ghosh, Clinical Psychologist, Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai also sees positive and negative effects on students’ exam stress levels.
Why two board exams a year may be good for children
1. Second chance
With two exam cycles in a year, students would have a second opportunity to perform well if they don’t achieve desired results in the first attempt. This could potentially reduce the intensity of stress associated with the fear of failure.
2. Improved preparation
The prospect of having another chance to take the exam could motivate students to maintain consistent study habits throughout the year, potentially leading to better preparation, says the expert.
3. Learning from experience
Students who take the first exam could use their experience to identify areas of improvement and develop better strategies for the second attempt. This might help them to manage stress more effectively.
The negative side of two board exams in a year
1. Higher frequency
Conducting board exams twice a year could lead to a more frequent cycle of stress for students. Preparing for exams requires significant time and effort, and the shorter intervals between exams might not provide enough time for comprehensive learning, notes Dr Ghosh.
2. Pressure to perform
While having a second chance is always good, it could also increase the pressure to perform well in both exams. Students might feel the pressure to excel in both exams, leading to higher stress levels.
3. Continuous exam readiness
The need to stay prepared for exams throughout the year might lead to a constant sense of exam-related stress, potentially impacting students’ overall well-being and ability to engage in other activities.
4. Impact on curriculum
The more frequent exam schedule might shift the focus of education towards exam-centric learning rather than holistic understanding and skill development, potentially increasing stress levels.
5. Limited breaks
Students might have fewer breaks between exam cycles, reducing their opportunities for relaxation and unwinding. This continuous cycle could impact their mental and emotional well-being, says the expert.
Tips to reduce exam stress in children
Exam stress can lead to headaches, nausea, muscle tension, rapid heartbeat, sweating and trembling in some cases. These are just some of the signs of exam stress. But if you don’t want your child to experience all this, there are a few things you and teachers can do.
1. Create a positive classroom environment
Teachers can provide relief from exam stress by creating a supportive and positive classroom environment, says Mittal. They can encourage open communication, offer study tips and techniques, provide regular feedback, and set realistic expectations.
2. Organise stress-relief activities
Teachers can also come up with stress-relief activities for students, suggests Mittal. So, the list can include mindfulness exercises, experiential learning, project-based learning and group discussions. All this can help students manage their stress levels effectively and have everlasting learning.
3. Set realistic expectations
You should avoid placing excessive pressure on your child to achieve unrealistic goals. Parents and teachers should set achievable expectations that consider the child’s abilities and learning style, says Dr Ghosh. A balanced approach to academics reduces the fear of failure and the resulting stress.
4. Encourage breaks and leisure activities
Both parents and teachers can emphasise the importance of breaks and leisure activities during study periods. Breaks allow the brain to rest and rejuvenate, leading to better concentration and retention. Engaging in hobbies, physical activities and spending time with friends can also serve as healthy distractions from exam-related stress.
If your child still has exam stress and has difficulty sleeping or frequently gets moody, you should consult a psychologist.