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Daughters anxiety about exams ruining her chances

(4 Posts)
Copperrcoin Mon 10-Dec-18 19:51:03

I've named changed for this as very outing.

My daughter rang me today hysterical about her exam tomorrow. She has had at least 3 panic attacks today in front of me and I've heard her being sick with nerves.

She is at a Russell group university doing her Masters and has done very well in other assignments scoring 80 in her research work this semester. She has a first class degree and is very able.. But her nerves are so deliberating.

She started her revision the day after her birthday in early october. She starts revising on kitchen table at 10am and finished around 10pm. Every day. I beg her to take time out to see friends and relax but she says she can't as she will fail.

She has missed now 2 exams because of her panic attacks. She has has them from around age 13 but seems to have got worse as she grew up. She is on antidepressants and diazepam but they aren't doing much.

She is crying now saying she is a failure.

I was wondering if anyone had experience of this? I read online somewhere that reasonable adjustments can be brought in so that exams can be swapped for coursework based tasks or smaller unseen tasks throughout the semester?

Her uni seems helpful I just want to tell her some options she may have

OP’s posts: |
chemenger Mon 10-Dec-18 20:58:41

It is possible to have a reasonable adjustment of alternative assessment. In my experience this would be extremely unusual and would have to come from the disability office of the university. At my university this would not be retroactive so would not cover exams already missed. Disability adjustments have to be reasonable without sacrificing academic rigour and degrees can only be awarded when there is sufficient evidence of attainment. Take home exams or alternative exam arrangements (such as sitting in a quiet room, time to read through the paper before the exam starts, extended or even unlimited time for the exam, allowing students to listen to music, eat, leave the room for periods etc ) are all possible. All adjustments have to be recommended by the disability service on the basis of medical or other evidence.

Right now she needs to get medical evidence covering the exams she has just missed. If she is already on medication she should be able to get this from the doctor who prescribed that. As soon as possible she needs to engage with the system for reporting mitigating circumstances to report the exams she has missed. We would not give very much weight to evidence from a parent, but it is probably still worth writing a letter as additional information about what is going on.

I have seen quite a few students with severe exam anxiety over the years, and the number has increased in recent years. For many of them things get progressively worse with each set of exams, even if they do well. Has she considered or been offered any therapy other than medication? Has she sought help from her university's counselling service? CBT and hypnotherapy could be helpful. University counselling services are stretched to the limit but if private therapy is a possibility that might be quicker to access, I've had students feel better after even one session with a counsellor who suits them (the opposite is true too, unfortunately, some students have found counselling very unhelpful). Our counselling service can advise students on private counselling. Breaking the cycle of exam anxiety leading to poor performance which increases anxiety is very difficult. Does she have a sympathetic tutor she can talk to at all, who would help her through the admin required to mitigate her missed exams?

Severe exam anxiety is an absolutely horrible thing for students to go through. It is frustrating and upsetting, they get angry with themselves for not being able to show what they know they can do. Channelling that anger into getting help can be doubly beneficial in that they can feel like they are regaining control. It is so easy to spiral into despair.

When it comes to the final assessment it is possible that if there is sufficient coursework which shows attainment at a higher level than exams that the weighting of coursework vs exam can be varied, but this depends on the university processes, there are variations in how these things are handled.

What adjustments did she have in place in her first degree, if she has a first she either coped with the exams or there was something in place?

chemenger Mon 10-Dec-18 21:22:40

I should add here that exam anxiety is particularly difficult for the system to allow for because often the student feels fine right up to the last moment and then has a major crisis, so we don't have time to put anything proactive in place.

Yohooo Tue 11-Dec-18 10:40:26

She did brilliantly to have been awarded for her degree. That’s a great accomplishment for someone who reacts so badly to exams. I hope she gets something sorted.

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