Exam Jitters

By Sihle Jack

Can you remember the day that you wrote your first high school exam? I certainly can. The stress and anxiety, the blood rushing through my veins, the sweat on the palm of my hands and the many prayers before, during and after the exam. And an additional prayer just before I had to go collect my report. And certainly a prayer for the person marking my exam scripts.

It surely was a nerve-wracking experience; one which I had certainly wished I could experience much later in life. Like in grade 10. The fact that I had written “exam-like” tests in primary school was not enough consolation for me writing my first set of high school exams. And thinking back, nine subjects was no joke. Knowing that Technology was one of those nine subjects was merely a reminder that I was doomed to fail. I however conquered Technology, the subject I feared most, and made it through to grade nine having passed all my subjects.

What I’m trying to get at here, is that exams are stressful! Exams have the ability to make you doubt yourself and that is what you want to get away from: self-doubt.

In order to free yourself of self-doubt there are steps you can take to alleviate the stress brought about by this period. While I certainly would like to share my tips to beating first-high-school-exam stress, I thought it would be more useful for you to see what your peers have to say about having to write their first high school exams soon.

Grade 8 Basadi Sithole says she is scared and does not like writing tests.

Grade 8 Basadi Sithole says she is scared and does not like writing tests.

“I think I’m scared. I don’t like writing tests. We’ve written big tests so far and it’s frustrating because you study something and then it goes out of your brain,” said Basadi Sithole of Kingswood College.

Her friends Emily Kingwill, Hannah Phillips and Rachel Strachen shared the same thoughts further adding that the whole process of exams was very stressful and made them very nervous.

The students at CM Vellem Health Promoting School were more optimistic saying that although they were nervous, they still feel like they can do well if they put in the work. “I feel very scared and at other times I feel very excited about writing exams because I feel like I will pass the exam. By thinking that I will pass, that makes me feel like soon enough I will go to varsity and be what I want to be in life,” said Okuhle Mvane.

This is the advice of some university students, who obviously negotiated their stress successfully.

  1. Stay calm at all times. If you see someone using a ruler and you don’t know what they are using it for, carry on your own path. Don’t let others around you get you into a state of panic.
  2. Prepare well in advance. What this essentially means is: study days before the exam and not the night before. This also stops you from cramming information therefore keeping it in your long-term memory longer.
  3. Ask for help. This is good when preparing for your exam. Ask teachers, classmates and anyone with the right knowledge to help you understand a section.
  4. Make good notes. By this, what they mean is don’t just take notes, take notes which will help you understand the content better. Make mind-maps, mnemonics, pictures and colour your work. Study smart.
  5. Do what works best for you! Don’t do what others are doing if it does not work for you. Only you know your strengths and weaknesses, do what you see is beneficial for you.

Below is what some other grade 8s thought about writing their first high school exams.

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