Singapore Math Guru

Beat The PSLE Exam Stress & Anxiety!

stress-391654_1280It is stressful time for all parents and students. Exam stress affects both the parent and the child. The good news is that the PSLE is at our door step again and it will be over soon. The bad news however : It’s not over yet. You and your child would still have to go through it. For all users of, we hope that we have helped you to understand the important concepts and strategies through our 330 hour video solutions library and our exam question database. So hang in there! It is going to be over soon.

For many teachers, we realize that there are some students that can perform well under classroom, group study conditions or even tuition. During tuition and class, solving a difficult non-routine question is no problem. The student does it with ease and with speed. Although these students are capable during normal conditions, the stress and anxiety kicks in during exams and they are unable to perform. They lose 20 marks all of a sudden during exams due to careless mistakes although it is the norm for them to get above 85 for a Math exam paper performed at home.

“Blanked out”

head-806232_1280We don’t have all the answers. But, we are quite sure that for this group of students, the reason for their under performance is exam anxiety and stress. When a child experiences exam anxiety and stress, there are several symptoms to it. The first thing is shallow breathing. The child does not inhale fully and does not exhale fully either. Now this is bad. When this happens, the brain gets less oxygen and the ability to think and solve is retarded for some reason as we have seen.

The other symptom is sweaty palms. This surely is a more obvious sign. Touch your child’s hands and if you feel it to be moist, you can be sure that the internal psychological conditions of the child is not optimum. When a person is in a state of panic, the person is in a fight or flight mode.This response corresponds to the hypothalamus region of the brain which begins a chain reaction of chemical processes, nerve cells firing away, with stress hormones and adrenaline being released according to Harvard physiologist Walter Cannon.

When this flight or fight response is initiated due to extreme stress, a person tends to perceive many factors in the environment as a threat to his survival. This is instinctive. The rational mind is then cut off and disengaged. At this point, making rational decisions and weighing its respective consequences are affected. The child can no longer think clearly for himself at this point. He is practically in survival mode. The flight or fight mode has been very well documented scientifically. The adrenaline and stress hormones released into our bodies is designed to protect us and is responsible for mothers being able to lift cars off their trapped children and firemen running through the blazing fires to save lives. While it is good in those situations, what children need during exams is really the ability to be rational and have sound decision making. “If I solve this using systematic listing, it will probably take more time than if I solve it using assumption.” The rational student thinks this way and is able to weigh the pros and cons of a decision which is actually fundamental to math.

I think if you have read till this point, congratulations. There is no need to practice math questions so rigorously now. Knowing, recalling, summarizing and revising is what is needed right now. Perhaps, your child and you could watch and sieve out just some of the concepts that are weak, attempt a few of them and then watch our video explanations as to how our teachers solve them. Watch these video explanations with your child and try to reinforce it by just asking the what, why, when, if, how, who and whose questions and that would be sufficient.


Now, of course we don’t leave you without a solution to exam anxiety and stress. We recommend deep breathing exercises to every child out there taking the PSLE. It is not rocket science. Some call it belly breathing. Some of them call it naval breathing. Basically the whole idea is to just breathe deep. We have written about this before I believe.

Please refer to this site that teaches it.

This is what they recommend:

“Belly Breathing Exercise

1. Place one hand just above your belt line, and the other on your chest, right over the breastbone. You can use your hands as a simple biofeedback device. Your hands will tell you what part of your body, and what muscles, you are using to breathe.

2. Open your mouth and gently sigh, as if someone had just told you something really annoying. As you do, let your shoulders and the muscles of your upper body relax, down, with the exhale. The point of the sigh is not to completely empty your lungs. It’s just to relax the muscles of your upper body.

3. Close your mouth and pause for a few seconds.

4. Keep your mouth closed and inhale slowly through your nose by pushing your stomach out. The movement of your stomach precedes the inhalation by just the tiniest fraction of a second, because it’s this motion which is pulling the air in. When you’ve inhaled as much air as you can comfortably (without throwing your upper body into it), just stop. You’re finished with that inhale.

5. Pause. How long? You decide. I’m not going to give you a specific count, because everybody counts at a different rate, and everybody has different size lungs. Pause briefly for whatever time feels comfortable. However, be aware that when you breathe this way, you are taking larger breaths than you’re used to. For this reason, it’s necessary to breathe more slowly than you’re used to. If you breathe at the same rate you use with your small, shallow breaths, you will probably feel a little lightheaded from over breathing, and it might make you yawn. Neither is harmful. They’re just signals to slow down. Follow them!

6. Open your mouth. Exhale through your mouth by pulling your belly in.

7. Pause.

8. Continue with Steps 4-7. “

Too complicated? Well, to summarise : Breathe deeply, hold breath for a bit, then exhale deeply. That’s it! Do this and you will find anxiety and stress decreasing.

You can also watch the video here:

All the best for PSLE to our students!