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Exam stress!

Wed Apr 25, 2007 8:31 am

I've feeling really stressed at the moment as I have four big exams coming up at the end of May that count for up to 80% of my grade. If I don't get at least 40% in these exams then that's it ... I can't go through to the second year. Uni is the best thing that's ever happened to me and I don't want to mess it up.

There are a couple of modules that I'm finding really difficult - whenever I go to revise for them I just can't concentrate because I get so stressed. A couple of the exams last for three horus - with my extra time that's three-hours-and-forty-five-minutes. I do really want to take the extra time because I feel I need it but I don't know if I'll be able to maintain my concentration for that long.

Statistics is another worry. I don't know how I'm gonig to cope as it gets harder. What's worse is that we have a SPSS exam coming up tomorrow which counts for 5%. SPSS stands for Statistical Package for the Social Sciences; the test is on the computer and I have to input fictional data from participants and then determine if the difference is significant with relevant statistical tests etc. I know this only counts for 5% but my slow skills is this area are worrying - as I continue with my degree the stats is going to get harder, I shouldn't be struggling at this early stage! I'm worried that I'm just going to get in there tomorrow and forget everything; I'm not comfortable about using the computers either.

Another thing that bothers me is that people will see me have extra time for the SPSS test. Every other test I've done those with extra time have sat it in a different room from the other students and so nobody has noticed. I think in my stats group I'm the only one with extra time. It's not that I'm embarrassed about dyspraxia I just feel it's a personal matter and I don't want people that I don't even know knowing. I've only really told a few people and that was months ago. It didn't really go well and it put me off telling anyone else. I'm sure they'll be plenty of comments like 'How come you get extra time?' and 'I never knew you had dyslexia!'

I should be revising now, while I've got the chance. I'm working twice today - at a Primary School this afternoon and helping looknig after my neighbours children this evening. It's hard to fit everything in! I thought that with lots of people have SATs, GCSEs, A-Levels, Uni exams etc. soon now would be an appropropriate time to start this topic.

rest breaks?

Wed Apr 25, 2007 4:57 pm

A couple of the exams last for three horus - with my extra time that's three-hours-and-forty-five-minutes. I do really want to take the extra time because I feel I need it but I don't know if I'll be able to maintain my concentration for that long.

Would you be eligible for a rest break, lets say every hour or two?

Vicky- help me on this! :D :D :D

Wed Apr 25, 2007 7:02 pm

I also have to use SPSS and I felt really self concious at taking longer than everyone else to complete tasks, so I know how you feel. Ive had extra time in uni exams before and nobody has said anything to me they probably didn't even notice because they were so pleased to have finished themselves. If you have irlen lenses wear them becuase its harder to read off a computer screen than paper.

Thu Apr 26, 2007 8:22 am

Try not to worry. I know that you want to do well. You've been getting good grades throughout the year: if you revise well and do your best there's no reason you won't be able to continue to do so.

You may be eligible for rest breaks, but if you aren't, here are a few things that may help:
1)Start taking fish oil or flaxseed oil supplements.
2) Make sure you get plenty of sleep (you should do this anyway).
3) Buy a stress ball. When you feel your concentration slipping, give it a squeeze.

I understand why you don't want people knowing you get extra time, but think of this way: when people know you have dyspraxia they may be more understanding.

I think you should ask for more help with statistics, but remember that nearly everyone has at least one paper they struggle with. I'm not sure if this is a good example, but in General studies I got an E on one paper but still got an A overall.

Fri Apr 27, 2007 8:17 pm

I understand that you wouldn't want people to know you have extra time because I feel the same way. I only let a few people know. It's kind of hard because people don't always understand. I hope your exams go well for you though! :) I'm sure it will be fine. :)

Sun Apr 29, 2007 4:49 pm

Thanks for all your comments. Elsa, it's nice to know that somebody else has heard of SPSS (most people are like 'SP What?'!!!) Asking for help with statistics is a good idea in theory but in practice I don't think I'll get any. Back in November last year when the Educational psychologist did my dyspraxia assessment she did reccomend statistics tuition, however this appears to have been overlooked. My study support lady said she couldn't give it to me.

The SPSS exam was awful! This may sound ridiculously stupid but in retrospect the questions were okay. It was just that I got myself into such a state of anxiety it was hard to think straight.

I was shaking a little bit before I went into the exam room. I wasn't particularly concerned about this because I often shake just before I sit an exam but as soon as I go in I'm usually okay. I lined up with the rest of my class outside of the room. That was weird because I'm usually in a separate room with only about five other people who also have extra time (and none of those people are in my stats group). Obviously all anybody was talking about was the exam and going on about t-tests and Chi Square analysis etc. Everybody sounded like they knew exactly what they were talking about. Then my Stats tutor, who was invigulating the exam, arrived and reminded us that we had more exams coming up which were very important and that panicked me even more! I walked into the exam room with all the computers set up on SPSS and my first thought was just 'get me out of here!'

I also got a shock when I looked at the exam paper because all the mock SPSS tests I have done were a lot easier. The exam (like the mocks) consisted of two questions with lots of little questions wihtin them. There were so many more questions and they all looked so complicated and I panicked again. This may sound like such a little thing - I think all of the things that panicked me were simple and had I just been calm and collected it would have all been okay.

I decided to do the questions that I wouldn't need to use SPSS for first. There were about two of these for either question. Even though I knew I was using this strategy - and that I had extra time as well - I still panicked when I saw other people entering the data before me. When it was time for me to enter the data for the first question, my hands were shaking even more. I could hardly type the data in! I completely blanked a question (which was an easy one) and spent ages fiddling around with the computer. We did the tests on MAC computers and I'm used to PCs, which are completely different. I kept thinking the computer wasn't working and clicking on things when in reality it was working, I just wasn't giving it time to respond! Anyway, I managed to go back to the question I blanked and hopefully I got the right answer. Being in the same room with everybody else was so distracting; the two tutors kept pacing around and I could hear everybody else clicking on the computers and I just couldn't bear all the noise.

The extra time started not long after I had just inputted the data in for the second question. Watching everybody else leave made me shake even more. I was the only person left so it was completely obvious that I was having extra time. I heard a girl behind me mutter 'that's not fair'; I can only presume she was talking about the fact that I was carrying on. I kept my head down and tried to concentrate. Doing the second question was where I really started to panic. The more I panicked, the worse my handwriting became. There were lines to write on but it was really hard to fit my writing inside the lines and I know some of my work was illegible but I just couldn't help it. All the writing was making me tired and my hand ache and me panic even more. It was like a cycle; I panicked, so I wrote badly and at the same time I wrote badly so I panicked!

By the time I got to the last question I was confused about whether it was significant or not because I forgot which part of the Pearson's correlation box on SPSS to read. First I wrote it was not significant. I later crossed this out and started to write it was significant (I think this would have been the right answer) but I didn't have enough space to fit it in so in my panic I just crossed the whole thing out. That's four marks at least I've lost.

Even the tutors looked like they felt sorry for me. One of them shouted over to me to 'stay calm over there.' It was a nice thing to say but I was just conscious they had noticed. I was telling myself the same thing; to 'keep calm' but the more I told myself that the worse that I got. In my mind I knew that the fear was out of proportion to the situation; I wasn't going to die, I was sitting an exam that, after all, was only worth 5% of the module! But by the end of the exam I was shaking so badly and just had to take big, deep breaths. I worried I was going to vomit, pass out, have a panic attack or all three. Even after the exam, it took me a while to stop shaking and calm down.

I'm worried because tomorrow I'm facing my stats group for the first time because I have a stats lecture and I'm scared I'm going to get some horrible looks or comments. I'm embarrassed to see my stats teacher again after her seeing me in the state that I was. I'm such a horrible person at the moment - my sister's doing her GCSEs so she's stressed too. I've just had a stress at my poor dad (who has a toothache at the moment as well!)

I don't know how I did on the SPSS exam. Maybe I managed to scrape a pass or even a good mark despite my nerves. However I am now extremely worried about how I'm going to cope with the main exams, which count for a great deal. Most of them are essay questions and I have the use of a computer and separate room for all of them so hopefully I'll be okay. It's the main stats exam that worries me the most. The three hour and forty five minute exams (stats is one of them) are going to be the worst - I felt like I had to get out in that SPSS test and I'm scared I'll feel like that again and I will actually end up having a panic attack or something if I can't escape the situation. If I do what I did then in a main exam then I won't pass. Sure, I get a chance to resit but if I don't pass the first time I'll be even more anxious and there's mroe chance I won't pass the second. Even if I pass this years exams, the exams for next year and the year after are even more important and I'm scared I'll get anxious for them too and make stupid mistakes and fail. I can then kiss my degree goodbye.

Sun Apr 29, 2007 7:07 pm

I don't know how I did on the SPSS exam. Maybe I managed to scrape a pass or even a good mark despite my nerves.

Knowing you, I think that is more than likely. This won't be much comfort to you now, but I can remember you getting quite worried over other exams and emerging with very respectable marks after all. Even if you have not done as well as you hoped in the statistics module, you will have the chance to make it up in other, more significant papers. This is not a terribly good example, but in General Studies I got an E (borderline U!) on the maths paper and came out with a B overall.

Practical advice for the exams themselves

It sounds as if you could really benefit from being placed in a room by yourself. This is not stipulated on my assessment report, but the university was happy to grant my request when I asked for the concession. They are going to let me do a practice paper in the room the fortnight before exams start so that I can get used to the environment. You must ask for the same thing.

Secondly, don't worry what people think about you.

It's easier to say than it is to do. But if we spent all our time worrying about what people are saying, we would never accomplish anything. Also bear in mind that the girl who muttered "It's unfair" is a psychology student herself. It's a pretty poor lookout for her if she doesn't understand that not all brains work and think alike. In a sense, you do have an advantage over the others - the advantage of knowing what it is to think differently, which is something that they will learn from an academic perspective but never fully experience.

Also, remember the reason why you want this degree. You will probably never see or hear from that girl again after you leave uni - but you will meet a lot of children with learning difficulties who need help. You're doing this for them. Nobody else. Remember that and you should be OK.

God bless. I'll add you to my prayer intentions.
Last edited by parnassus on Mon Apr 30, 2007 5:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Mon Apr 30, 2007 4:06 pm

(hugs) Vicky's given some good advice there.

The girl who muttered "it's not fair" may not even have been talking about you. She may have thought the questions were too hard or something. And even if she did, she's not right to think that. You shouldn't care what she thinks. As Vicky said, it's easier said than done.

Remember it's all downhill from here. You will be in a room on your own for the exams and the essay-based questions will be much easier for you than statistics. I agree that you should ask your tutors to make sure you sit all exams in a room on your own from now on. Also, I think it might make it easier to concentrate if you wore earplugs in exams.

You've confounded your own expectations by doing so well in your assignments throughout the year. There's no reason why you can't do the same in your exams. You are extremely intelligent and studious. You have nothing to fear but fear itself!

I also got a bordeline U in one of my General Studies papers & came out with an A overall, so doing badly in one paper doesn't prevent success. I also once got an Unclassified in one of my AS English papers, but got full marks when I re-sat it, so even if you have done badly you can re-sit.

Mon Apr 30, 2007 5:05 pm

Exam stress is half killing me at the moment, damned AS exams. All got a bit too much for me at the moment, as i've already used one of my resits, and I haven't had a grade higher than a C for a few months in any sort of test (most of them have been E's or U's). I've got no idea where i'm going wrong with this any more.

Wed May 02, 2007 7:22 pm

Thanks for all your advice and tips everybody. I had my last study support session yesterday and I tried explaining all of my worries. My study support teacher just told me to email the Disabled Students Co-ordinator (DSC) for the psychology school of study and not to worry. Then she said that because I'd been doing so well in my assignments and everything she didn't think she'd need to see me again. I agreed; to be honest I don't think anything we did was particulary helpful for me and I know I am getting good marks but to be honest I'd still like some support. Back in November, the Educational psychologist who assessed me recommended statistics tuition but none has been given.

Later yesterday, I sent the DSC an email asking if it would be possible for me to have an extra room for all exams and also if I would be entitled to rest breaks. She hasn't replied yet. At least I know that I'm sitting the main exams at least in a separate room, using a computer.

I was worried on Monday about people's reactions but nobody said anything about it so I was worrying about nothing. It's likely that a few people may not even have noticed and those that did (I suspect most, if not all people did really) just don't seem to mind. That's actually really nice. It's sad but true that you usually get at least some nasty comments. I suppose at Uni people are more mature.

Vicky and Esther, thanks for your comments. Am feeling brighter now. Dark Lord, all I can say is that I sympathise. I know I'm hardlly in a position to give advice but if you've no idea where you're going wrong you could try talking to your teachers?

Wed May 02, 2007 11:31 pm

if you're going to revise or anything do it bits at a time, daily, never ever do hell loads at once and forget about it, it doesn't work that way and your brain is pretty much on overdrive that way too. Revision helps, if you feel you've done enough revision and reading then think that the exams will be fine.

Thu May 03, 2007 1:10 pm

Have just received a reply email from the DSC. It reads:

Hi Charlotte
Thanks for your e-mail. I am sorry about the difficulties with in course
tests - it is always an issue when a computer is required.
I can't make any changes for the exams, including additional time for rest
breaks. All exam arrangements had to be confirmed before Easter.

The easiest thing to do regarding changes for the next academic year is to
meet with your disability coordinator at the beginning of the academic year to update and amend your SNA. I won't be your coordinator in September but you will be informed of who that is and you can make an appointment to see them.

[She then signed her name]

So basically, my study support sessions have been stopped now and I won't be entitled to any additional help until at least next semester, if at all. I suppose she's right; I ddi leave it too late to apply. Anyway, I'm just really grateful that I have a computer and a separate room for the main exams.

I'm finding it hard to maintain my concentration and revise at the moment... I suppose I should try to break it down a bit and do one thing at a time but it's difficult...

On a positive note I went to a stats workshop today with the two people who invigulated the SPSS exam running it. They were both very nice and it was good to be able to ask questions with just a few other people there. I've booked myself in for a last minute revision workshop next Wednesday as well as the stats session next Thursday.

Thu May 03, 2007 9:39 pm

Good luck weith the rest of your exams. I hope they go well. Remember it's important not to work yourself too hard. Take care and try to relax.

Mon May 07, 2007 9:31 pm

Thanks for your message. It's nice to know that people care :D

I know that a lot of people are in a similiar situation to mine; stressed and worried about exams; whether they be SATs, GCSEs, A-Levels or Uni exams. Good luck to anybody who has exams coming up

At the moment I'm trying to do little and often. I've previously been trying to do everything at once and ended up getting so stressed that I literally did nothing!!! Now I'm trying to break it up and do a little of everything at a time but it's hard to prioritise. It just seems ironic that I've been having these study support sessions and now, just when I have a problem and feel I could benefit from revision help they decide to stop them!

Tue May 08, 2007 9:44 am

i have exams. most peoples at uni started today, but mine dont start till a week on thursday. havent started any revision yet, (as usual), but dont want to leave it to the last minute (as last time), so am trying to start it todaay. Because when my exams come, they're all on days after each other - thursday, friday, then monday. its far too easy to get distracted round here though!
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