Exams. Yes, the dreaded word can make students palpitate … and their parents too.

Exam stress can affect students in different ways. For some students, taking exams is second nature to them. For others, it can result in sweaty palms and palpitations. Sounds familiar? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Health Ministry senior principal assistant director/public health physician Dr Karen Sharmini Joseph says there are a few predisposing factors for examination stress, such as pressure to obtain good results, peer pressure, negative thoughts, emotional immaturity and low self esteem.

“Schools have targets to hit so they have to encourage pupils to do their best in assessments. Children are also constantly compared and competing with others, not just at school, but even within their own families,” says Dr Karen in an interview.

Signs of exam stress to look out for include mood changes (being tearful, angry or withdrawn), not wanting to go to school and reluctance to talk about school and exams.

Some students complain about of stomachaches and headaches.

There are others who spend excessive amounts of time on homework or revision, or alternatively, hiding or avoiding schoolwork.

The stress that comes with exams can also increase risk to illnesses such as the common cold.

The stress that comes with exams can also increase risk to illnesses such as the common cold.

Dr Karen says systematic, planned and organised preparation for examination is essential for students.

Using time management techniques, keeping a healthy lifestyle and having adequate amount of sleep are essential to stress control.

“Students should not be afraid to speak up if they feel stressed. Always seek help when in need,” she advises.

The Year Six Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) exam and Form Three exam Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) start on Sept 24 and Oct 1 respectively. Form Five students will be sitting for their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia on Nov 13.

Here are some tips to lessen stress and help students can ace their exams.

Time management

Write down your schedule for the day and tick off one thing at a time. Be in control of your revision time. This will minimise last-minute cramming, which can triple stress levels as the exam date draws near.

Brain food

Vitamins, minerals and nutritious food are a must to help you ace your tests. Food that are good at nourishing our brains are the ones with high amounts of fats, nutrients, water, and just a little carbohydrates (or glucose). It includes nuts, apples, yoghurt and blueberries. Remember students, the more nutrition your brain gets, the better you will be able to retain all that you have studied.

Exercise is a great for stress relief.

Exercise is a great for stress relief.

Exercise

Maybe your mind is exhausted but your body will thank you for a good workout. Exercise is a proven stress buster which releases chemicals called endorphins (feel-good hormones). Exercise keeps your heart pumping and your blood flowing well. This means it increases your focus and alertness for another round of Algebra or Physics.

Short breaks in between studies can help rejuvenate and refresh the mind.

Short breaks in between studies can help rejuvenate and refresh the mind.

Have a break

Have a break and have a KitKat? No one is invincible and you cannot possibly study 24/7. Have short breaks (15 minutes to 30 minutes) in between study time. Allocate some time to watch your favourite TV sitcom or catch up with a friend for comfort food (think: roti canai and teh tarik). These little breaks can keep your mind refreshed to revise again.

It takes all kinds

Some students enjoy studying in silence while others prefer listening to classical music or the latest songs. For those who prefer group studying, ensure your mates are on the same boat to success. Make a commitment among each other to keep away from social media and focus on studies.

Some students prefer a quiet environment while revising while others prefer to listen to rock music.

Some students prefer a quiet environment while revising while others prefer to listen to rock music.