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Exam stress causing anxiety and insomnia

Wednesday, 22nd May, 2019 4:23pm

With the Leaving Cert set to begin on 5 June, it's been revealed that the majority of young people have admitted suffering from either anxiety, weight gain, weight loss, insomnia and depression.

75 per cent of second-level students reported feeling a lot or an extreme amount of stress during the two-year Leaving Cycle with 57 per cent of sixth year students saying they developed a mental or physical health issue as a result of exam pressure.

The findings are contained in the 2019 Annual Student Sentiment Survey which is based on responses to a range of questions answered by more than 3,500 second-level students from across Ireland.

Meanwhile housing during university was also reported as a concern with 62 per cent of students saying the cost of rent will affect their choice of university.

But it’s exam pressure that dominates the Studyclix survey this year - much of the concern is caused by the sheer number of exams, with students wanting more continuous assessment, smaller subject choice and exams spread further apart to reduce the pressure they feel.

Commenting, second-level science teacher and co-founder Luke Saunders said the findings demonstrated why it was time to reduce the number of subjects needed for CAO points and lighten the exam timetable. But he also believes students need to spend less time on devices such as smartphones, saying it contributes to the stress.

He said: “I was shocked to see that more than half of students said they had developed a mental or physical condition in sixth year. We started Studyclix with the aim of simply offering study material, but over the years we have seen a need to offer more and more advice and support for students on how to cope with what for many will be the most stressful year of their lives. We recently launched a Studyclix podcast which deals with issues like exam anxiety and how to prepare physically and mentally for the exams.

“I think there are several practical steps we can take that would ease the pressure on students. Firstly, I think the exam timetable could be modified to spread out the more popular subject's exams over a longer period. For example, the Irish paper falls on the same day as maths and biology meaning that the majority of students will spend up to five hours per day doing exams. I also think a simple change would be to lower the number of subjects counted for CAO points calculations from six to five meaning that students would be able to take one less subject leaving more space in the timetable for the likes of physical education, career guidance and health and well-being classes.”

With social media dominating the minds of the majority of teens, the survey revealed that Snapchat remains the number one social channel of choice for second level students at 90 per cent, compared to 88 per cent for Instagram and 30 per cent for Twitter.

Facebook’s popularity among students is in steep decline with just 51 per cent calling themselves users of the platform in 2019 compared to 80 per cent in 2016.

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