Under pressure: exam stress

 
 

Early mornings, copious amounts of coffee and long hours in the library – Bridget Fitzsimons looks at how some students are trying to cope as UCD’s attention turns to end of year examinations.

It’s that time of year again. Come April, the library is filled and a general sense of panic envelops Belfield. Exam time. While the majority of us can handle the imminent exams with a pinch of salt, for some students, it can be a time of real pressure. How do students really cope with exam stress?

The pressure we find ourselves under at this time of year can come from a variety of sources. Some people naturally stress about everything, while others feel that they may not have put in all of the effort they could have over the past semester.

Student Advisor, Aisling O’Grady says that “the end of term is a great wake-up call,” and that students tend to find this time of year far more stressful than any other.

For the majority of students, the pressure has been hugely lessened since the advent of modularisation. From the 2005/06 academic year onwards, modularisation and semesterisation was introduced to UCD and students entered exam halls knowing that, at least, they had already passed their modules if nothing else.

With the coming of modularisation came continuous assessment, which meant that the result of a class was not solely based on the final exams but came from spreading the percentage marks for a module across essays, assignments, mid-terms and final exams.
However, this varies from module to module, with some students having no finals at all and some still relying on the final for the full percentage of their grade.

O’Grady says that the number of students visiting her around exam time has been “hugely reduced” due to modularisation. She feels that the pressure has been hugely reduced for students, especially Arts students.

examsfeature1“Modularisation is less stressful because you have 50, 60, sometimes 70 per cent done and some people don’t have end of semester exams which makes a big difference.”

Second year Actuarial and Financial Studies student Joseph O’Malley says he isn’t feeling the pressure. As an actuarial student, he says that the majority of his results focus mainly on his finals, but he prefers it this way saying that “we have mid-terms but we only did two mid-terms. It’s all down to the wire really,” and that “I do feel pressure but I prefer it this way than having to do essays all the time.”

“Taking regular breaks and continuing a certain level of a social life is important”

Students from other subject areas are faced with the prospect of several essays, but this detracts from the level of pressure placed on them at exam time.

Third year Politics and Sociology student Eimear Brady says, “two of my modules are just based on projects so it is kind of better for me, but it is a lot of work.” While her projects and essays are hugely time-consuming, Brady prefers continuous assessment.

“I’m much better at continuous assessment. I’m not very good in exam situations. I’d be quite stressed and I wouldn’t do very well in exams.”

Third year Philosophy and Politics student Tony Costello is in agreement. “It’s much better to have continuous assessment because then at least you know where you stand with your exams.”

While opinions differ between students, Student Advisor, Aisling O’Grady is adamant that time management is the best technique for doing well in the exams saying “this time of year is all about balance.”
She advocates a good sleeping pattern, diet and exercise as techniques for coping, explaining that “you need to get sleep. You also need to get exercise. It’s really important to get exercise because if you’re spending eight hours a day at a desk you need to get out there and go for a swim, go for a run.”

Student advisors and lecturers are also available to help and guide students through what in undoubtedly a stressful time. Taking regular breaks is also essential.

Costello agreed that this is how he copes with huge amounts of study. “I take a lot of time out between studying. Every two hours I’m just taking a break, talking to people, sitting down, drinking tea. Keeping up a social life is also important.”

Some students use socialising as a method to get them through a heavier workload. O’Malley says that “if I do a lot of study I’ll treat myself to a night out. I do the study, then I go out and socialise afterwards.” Using an active social life as a reward for hard work is a great idea for students feeling under pressure as a night out can really relax oneself after a hard day in the library.

Eimear Brady says that “a lot of the time I’d go out and not drink,” which is also a good idea for students who wish to head to the library the day after going out. Costello says that he has “made a few sacrifices like cutting down in the past two weeks on partying, going out and drinking,” which means that he also can relax by socialising with his friends, but not to the extent he used to.

While a certain level of stress is understandable at the moment, it’s important not to let it get too out of hand. Taking regular breaks and continuing a certain level of a social life is important.

Students must realise that while their exams are important, they are not worth getting completely stressed out over. For those that feel that the pressure is just too much, UCD has several resources to help students cope. Relaxing is key to exam success so not stressing too much is hugely important.

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