From grades to greatness: Overcoming exam stress and focusing on knowledge

As I sit at my computer, anxiously pondering over the prospect of good grades and graduating with honors, I can’t help but wonder if all of this stress will be worth it. The constant pressure to perform well in exams can have a profound impact on our mental health. 

Society tells us to study hard so we can excel academically and secure a job or place at a top university. This only perpetuates a never-ending cycle of perfectionism. We become fixated on achieving high grades instead of gaining knowledge.

Striving for good grades is a source of motivation and drive for some. For others, it can lead to procrastinating and avoiding workexacerbating the negative impact on their mental wellbeing.

It’s important to remember that grades are a social construct. Their worth is assigned by society rather than being an inherent measure of our intelligence or abilities. Solely focusing on grades risks hindering our ability to learn and grow as individuals.

The narrative that our intelligence is dictated by a number is unfair to our self-worth and mental health. We must unlearn and relearn what exams mean and what defines how smart we areeveryone has different standards. Aim for the knowledge, not the number. 

The moment you open your book to study and stress about getting an A on an exam, let go of the idea that intellect is quantifiable and learn what you are reading. Grades and intelligence are not mutually exclusive. Let’s aim to separate the two and keep them as separate entities. 

Instead of fixating on test scores and assignment grades, we should prioritize the process of learning. When we enter the classroom, we should absorb the information presented to us by our professors, engage in discussions with our classmates and embrace the opportunity to expand our knowledge. 

As my father always says, “the brain is a terrible thing to waste.”

During finals season, it’s crucial to remain calm and remember that the purpose of taking an exam is to test our knowledge, not memorize enough information to pass. We should aim to  understand the material and understand how to apply it to real-world situations. The value of knowledge outweighs the validation of a good GPA. The real test is when you are dealing with real life situationsso study to be prepared for that. 

Education is something we do for ourselves, not for anyone else. It should bring us fulfillment and a sense of purpose. By unlearning the narrative of grades and embracing the journey of learning, we can achieve the grades we desire and the knowledge we need. It’s a process, but one that’s worth the effort. 

Your knowledge will take you places, not your grades. 


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