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Let's Talk LIfe: Exam techniques

Published:Saturday | March 6, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Dear Counsellor:

My son has difficulty when sitting examinations. He gets nervous and panicky and ends up with low grades.

- Felicia

Dear Felicia:

Examination techniques and study skills are very important to passing tests. Performance anxiety and blackouts often affect persons who have confidence problems.

You need to organise your son so that he studies effectively and efficiently. He needs a study schedule and clear revision tactics. He can write a summary of passages that he has read and must try to think like the teacher and quiz himself on the material. Your son could explore writing mathematics formulae or history data on cards and revise while travelling to and from school.

Keep all homework assignments and look back at these from time to time. As a mother-teacher, you can set multiple-choice questions or short essays and correct them in his presence. The objective is for him to become familiar with the material so that his anxiety will be less during exams.

If past papers are available, make use of them. Past papers will cover areas that are frequently tested and he will, therefore, know what topics to study in depth.

Many multiple-choice questions have tricks and twists to them. There is usually the distracter answer, an obvious wrong answer and two similar but different answers. Having studied previous multiple-choice questions, he will become familiar with the content of the subject and his confidence will grow.

Performance anxiety can be treated with deep breathing, which will relax the student. Tell him that when he is stuck in an exam room, he should think of himself in a nice place instead of panicking. Move on to more familiar material and return to the challenging ones later. For essays or mathematics, he should do the familiar ones first and aim for the highest marks.

Remember, the examination is usually about content, application and analysis. Try to relate the study material with everyday life and the material will be remembered best.

Sitting examinations successfully is a technique which all students can master. Pray before, during and after the exams. Opportunities smile on those who are well prepared.

Premarital counselling

Dear Counsellor:

I have been involved in a relationship for the last two years. We are talking about marriage and are planning to see a marriage counsellor. What issues should be discussed?

- Monique

Dear Monique:

Marriage is a commitment to care for each other for a lifetime. As the saying goes: for better or worse, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, until death do us part. Nowadays, as partners find fault with each other, they tend to separate, causing stress to the children.

During courtship, many partners hide things from each other, as spouses are on their best behaviour. Lies are told and partners are deceived. Premarital counselling is important as many issues are looked at, among them commitment, finance, sex, in-laws, household chores, working outside the home, friends, church, child-rearing and 'us' time.

Partners have to carve out time for themselves. You have to work on keeping the romance alive and care for each other. Even with children, you will have to make time for both of you.

Most couples work outside the home so they will need to budget time for shopping, cleaning, washing, ironing and cooking. These days most partners can't afford full-time helpers so they will have to share the household chores. Sometimes the partners are attending school and need to support each other academic endeavours.

There has to be sharing of expenses to run the home, maintain the vehicle and take care of other responsibilities. Money can be a sore point in a relationship. The couple will have to devise creative ways to save and spend. You will need to save together for this.

Individuals come from various backgrounds and child-rearing practices. You will have to decide on the church of choice to rear your children, as well as the disciplinary practices which will be employed.

Sex can be an area of challenge, as one party may want to have sex daily, while the other wants to do it once weekly. One partner may like to experiment, while the other wants to stick with the familiar.

All these issues should be discussed so both of you can set goals and make plans.

Email questions to psychiatrist Dr Yvonnie Bailey-Davidson at or call her at 978-8602.