Examination Stress Guide
1. A Short Presentation on Stress
a. Stress is a biological survival phenomenon: it is normal and unavoidable.
When your brain perceives a danger (real or otherwise), it sends a signal to your body to mobilize and get you out of danger. For example, if you come across a threatening animal, your brain will sound the alarm and hormones will be secreted, sending signals to many receptors in your body to react appropriately. Your reaction may be to run or to quickly hide.
Stress allows you to survive, and it also serves as a motivator in everyday life, at work, in your studies and in recreational activities. Having too little stress is not good, because it pushes you toward boredom or depression.
But when you have too much stress, or it is poorly managed, too many stress hormones are secreted, which can lead to consequences on many levels: physical, psychological and social.
Good life balance allows your body to react as well as possible to stressful events like exams!
b. Stress factors (NUTS)
Stress Factors (NUTS)
|THREAT to the ego
|SENSE of control|
|Feeling you have little or no control in a situation
Example: Traffic jam, illness
|No way of knowing what could happen
Example: Surprise quiz, specific questions on the exam, storm
|Experiencing something new
Example: New course, new job, taking an airplane for the first time
|Feeling your identity or competence being tested
Example: Taking an exam, offering a workshop or oral presentation
The acronym NUTS can help you identify stress factors. The more factors are connected to an event, the more stress you will feel.
For example, for students, evaluations and exams connect with many stress factors.
- Sense of control: Not knowing how to approach the exam to do well on it.
- Unpredictability: Not knowing which questions will be on the exam.
- Novelty: Facing your first Cégep à distance exam.
- Threat to the ego: Earning a lower grade than the average may affect your vision of yourself and be a threat to your ego.
Knowing the NUTS factors helps you analyze the stressful situations you may encounter. Identifying the cause of your stress can help you develop strategies for weathering it. For example, one way to feel more in control is to study effectively and prepare well all term long.
2. Stress in Cégep à distance exams
- First, gaining a clear understanding of the role of and procedure for Cégep à distance exams can help you feel more prepared. The exam is written at the end of the course, when all the material has been covered and all the assignments turned in and corrected. It is very important, because it confirms that you have achieved the course competencies, which allows you to advance toward your professional goal.It is important to know that there is a dual pass threshold at Cégep à distance: you have to earn at least 60% overall and at least 50% on the final evaluations.
- All exams are taken online, and you can use all your course materials. This means you can choose the time and place that work best for you.
- Unlike the assignments, though, you have a specific length of time to write the exam. A timer is activated based on the maximum time allowed, so you really have to be ready, have studied well and be organized so you don’t waste time.
- After the exam, you have to do a short validation interview with your tutor. This meeting is crucial for passing the course, because it allows the tutor to confirm that it was really you who wrote the exam. For this meeting, you need to have all the exam documents on hand.
|Advantages: You have control over when and where you write the exam. This helps you feel more comfortable. It can be reassuring not to have to learn the material “off by heart.”|
|Pitfalls: Since the exam is timed, you have to be well organized so you do not waste time flipping through your notes. Your environment might not be ideal, or you may have technological difficulties.|
3. The importance of preparing well
Reduce your exam stress by preparing well (Part 1)
|As soon as you start the course||Before the exam||The day before the exam||The day of the exam||When you start|
Reduce your exam stress by preparing well (Part 2)
|During the exam||After the exam|
In case of panic:
4. A few strategies for managing stress
A few strategies for managing stress
|Visualization helps project you toward success and increase your self-confidence, the more frequently you use it (Leibovitz, A., 2019).
Visualization is putting yourself in the proper state of mind for the situation (for example, an exam) and imagining yourself behaving optimally in that situation, one step at a time.
Relaxation dynamique et techniques de visualisation (in French).
|Deep breathing slows the heartbeat and increases cardiac coherence, which adjusts mental balance, reduces stress and anxiety and makes us more serene (Juneau, M., 2017).
Abdominal breathing exercise, by Denis Fortier, physiotherapist, speaker and columnist (in French).
|Meditation allows you to keep your attention on your breathing, ambient sounds or sensations in the body.
Méditation pleine conscience | Mon équilibre UL | Université Laval (ulaval.ca) (in French).
Université de Montréal, faculté de médecine : méditation pleine conscience (in French)
Juneau, M. (2017) La cohérence cardiaque :
Université Laval, Méditation pleine conscience :
Université Laval, 5 bienfaits de la méditation :
Relaxation Dynamique, Techniques de visualisation :
La loi de Yerkes-Dodson: la relation entre rendement et motivation, Nos pensées :
Centre d’études sur le stress humain (CESH), – Sonia Lupien :
Leibovitz, A. (2019). Outil 32. La visualisation mentale. Dans : , A. Leibovitz, La boîte à outils de la confiance en soi (pp. 124-127). Paris: Dunod.