Exams Make Students Sick

Every March we run a two-week “Mock” exam session for our 12th-grade students. The goal is to simulate the IB DP exams in May, while also conducting leaving examinations for students who will not be writing the DP exams. It’s a stressful time. In some classes, time limitations have meant that the teachers were still teaching new material just last week. Given the stress and the time of year, it’s no surprise that the students are typically quite sick by the end of it.

Worse, perhaps, students come to school during the Mocks when they would normally stay home, which both exacerbates their own illness and spreads the contagion.

Today, more half of the students in the exam room were conspicuously ill. They took it in turns to sniffle, cough, sneeze, and blow their noses, creating a sort of auditory whack-a-mole of the common cold. One student spent a week in hospital prior to the exams, and will be returning as soon as they finish: such is the pressure we place on our teenage students.

Other than moving toward a holistic (ie: portfolios) or cumulative (ie: computer-based) assessment paradigm, I don’t see a solution. As long as there is high-stakes testing, there will be stress. And anywhere there is stress, there are physical repercussions.


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