4 questions to ask ourselves that will help alleviate exam stress

Examinations are an important part of our student’s education journey during their formative years. And losing sight of the reason why they sit for examinations often lead to stress.

How then can we make exams less stressful for students?

According to Education Minister Chan Chun Sing, that will depend on Singaporeans’ perspectives on four questions: why we test, how we test, when we test and what do we do with the results.

He was speaking at the ministry’s Committee of Supply Debate on Mar 7.

“If we are not clear of the answers to these four questions, then exams will always be stressful. Never mind if it’s PSLE or year-end exams,” he said.

Why we test?

Exams, said Minister Chan, are opportunities for children and parents to learn about the children’s strengths and weaknesses and, ultimately, it’s about self-improvement rather than competition.

“If we see a test or an assessment as an opportunity for us to know ourselves better, to know our children better – where they stand, where they are strong at, where they are weak at – then this self-assessment should not be stressful. It is about surpassing ourselves rather than surpassing others,” he said.

How we test?

In the future, assessments will be less to do with rote memory and more to do with problem solving.

“Going forward, it will be about how our children can apply the concepts they have learnt to solve tomorrow’s problems,” he said.

When we test?

Minister Chan then emphasised on the timing of the assessment. Too early – it will be detrimental to late bloomers, too late – schools will not be able to apply interventions in time to help children to progress.

That is why our education system is one of continuous meritocracy – no single exam will determine one’s future, he added.

What do we do with the results?

And finally, what we do with the results is dependent on the answer to the first question.

“If our attitude and answer to the first question of why we test is: this is a self-assessment to find out the strengths and weaknesses of our students, so that we can best apply the resources to help them fulfil their potential, then what we do with the test results, the definition of success for that is that we apply the correct resources, apply the correct pathways to the students that require the necessary help,” he said.

You can watch the video of his speech here.

The correct mindset

Indeed, having the right mentality is important: every student is different and has different strengths and weaknesses.

That means, there are different, multiple paths to success; there’s no one size fits all path.

By understanding themselves, surpassing themselves and receiving the right resources, students can excel in Singapore’s continuous meritocratic education system.