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Nov. 30, 2012
CONTACT: K. E. Schwab

Faculty, students face exam stress

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - "Final exams are an electrifying time of year," said Patrick Burkhart, Slippery Rock University professor of geography, geology and the environment. They are also seen and remembered by many as a time of great anxiety and stress.

While students may see one form of anxiety as they prepare for finals, faculty too face stress as they prepare final exams and face the end of the semester. "They typically are very busy with grading, so we burn the midnight oil to prepare for the surge. In some classes, such as my courses in water science, I reuse extensive material from year to year. Such a plan requires that the course is delivered consistently, exam questions are reviewed for relevance and previous exams are sequestered to prohibit their circulation," Burkhart said.

"In other courses, such as many large enrollment liberal studies classes, new exams may be written every term. Everyone is encouraged to confirm the time and day of all exams, so that no surprises arise. Then, schedules must be planned to ensure adequate preparation and timely processing of class grades can be completed. One exciting aspect of higher education is that no matter whether a term unfolds well, or gets bogged down in the quagmire, they always end with a break," he said.

Carol Holland, director of the SRU Student Counseling Center, says among the top five things to do to avoid exam stress are:

  • Study in advance, don't wait until the last minute.
  • Get a good night's sleep before each exam.

  • Stay healthy and avoid alcohol.

  • Learn relaxation techniques to use while studying and taking the test, e.g., deep breathing, muscle relaxation, visualization and positive self-talk.

  • If you get stuck or start feeling anxious, take a mini-break to refresh yourself, e.g., get a drink of water, stretch or get some fresh air.

"Use encouraging self-talk and have a positive attitude toward the test. Reward yourself after the test for completing it and don't dwell on potential mistakes," Holland said.

The counseling center will sponsor a "Stress Less" event from 4-6 p.m., Dec. 12, in Watson Hall's Great Room. The event will offer such stress relieving tasks as making stress balls, crafts, coloring, games and cards. A number of pets will be on hand that students can play with to reduce stress levels.

Further ideas and helpful hits for dealing with test-taking stress may be found here.