You can stress less by taking exams on time

26 September 2018 | DVC A/Prof Lis Lange

Dear students

In the past few years we have learned a lot about how students perform under stress and what the best conditions are for students to be successful in their exams. We have also identified lack of sufficient consolidation time as a defect in our academic calendar. We are working very hard to provide more consolidation time in the 2019 academic year. While we do this, I would like you to pay attention to this message.

We know that at this time of the year many students begin to feel anxious thinking about their final exams. Often they think that a way of solving this anxiety and the fear of failure is not to write all their exams in November. This strategy does not work well. I am writing to encourage you to take your exams in November, when the content of your courses is still fresh in your mind.

The following are just a few reasons why it’s important to take your exams at the scheduled time.

1. Students who take the final exams on time tend to perform better.

This is because the material is fresh in your mind and easier to remember. Results show that students who defer their exams tend to perform worse because it is not easy to find the time to study during the vacation, and the general atmosphere of the holiday is not conducive to study. Often you will find that you do not have the same access to libraries, web-based resources or quiet places to study. You will inevitably lose touch with the course material and may find it much harder to study alone.

2. There is still time to prepare even if you feel you are not ready to take exams in November.

If you feel you are not ready, now is the perfect time to get help. Faculty advisors, lecturers and tutors are available to help you revise course material.

3. Feeling stressed before exams is normal and it can be managed.

Everyone experiences stress when faced with a deadline and with exams. The trick is not to let anxiety and stress get the best of you. Getting help, joining a study group and talking about the course material are useful ways of managing pre-exam stress, but also of helping you study. Taking the exams on time in November means less stress during December and January.

4. If you have health issues that are interfering with your academic work, consider taking a leave of absence or dropping a course from your workload.

Anyone who is experiencing serious physical or mental health issues should consider taking a medical leave of absence (LoA) to recover fully. Fighting or supressing a condition, whatever its origin, on your own will only aggravate your stress. Obtaining an LoA will require a recommendation from a health professional. Please consult your faculty manager immediately if you are considering this option as there are cut-off dates for an LoA.

If you do not have health issues but just feel you have too many courses, I suggest you talk to your curriculum advisor about dropping a course and repeating it next year. This way, you can take the exams you are ready for, get a good rest during the vac and start fresh next year.

Universities around the world allow for exam deferrals only under exceptional circumstances, but they encourage students to take exams on time for the same reasons I mentioned above.

Finally, deadlines and pressure to perform are stressors you will find when you get a job. Training yourself to manage stress through planning, time management and taking care of yourself is a skill you need to learn to function in the world of work and in life.

Please give this message your careful consideration. Get help now if you need it. Plan your study schedule to give yourself the best opportunity to succeed in the November exams, and then enjoy a well-deserved break.

With best wishes

Associate Professor Lis Lange
Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning

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