Stress, the student’s companion

What student or former student has never felt a moment of stress when hearing their teacher announce a pop quiz, saying “take out a sheet of paper and write your name at the top “? Even for “good students”, the heart starts to beat harder, the throat tightens and the black hole arrives at a gallop! The stress is there …

But why this stress?

Stress is an essential function to save your skin.

Let us go back in time to the origins of man. Our ancestors lived in a dangerous environment and multiple predators looked at each of them like a sandwich.

However, human beings are endowed with a great aptitude for thinking, analyzing, and examining situations before making a decision.

Imagine that when we saw a crocodile ready to feast, we started to think: “here then, I see a crocodile there who would like to eat me, I think that I should run away.” The situation is grotesque and absurd. Danger calls for an immediate and instinctive response, and under these conditions, thinking and weighing the pros and cons is far too slow.

This is where stress comes in. It is an extremely rapid reaction which “disconnects” the “brain-which-analyzes” to leave all the room for archaic reflexes and allow for saving one’s skin.

It is therefore a survival mechanism. It prepares us for combat or flight which, along with paralysis, are the automatic and instantaneous responses to danger.

Good and bad stress

The “good stress” is therefore the one that helps us to stay alive and in good health. In our modern societies, it is rare to come across a crocodile in the street, however other dangers exist, cars, obstacles, malicious people … Thus stress still helps us today to react quickly to emergency situations. In short, it continues to play its role of protection on a daily basis.

But like everything, excess becomes harmful. Numerous experiments show that repeated and powerful stress, even almost permanent in some cases, becomes harmful and creates serious physical and psychological problems.

The phenomenon of written exams

The modern version of ‘life threatening’!

Of course, in college or high school an examination does not put the student in danger of death. And yet, that is still how the brain experiences this surprise challenge.

And even if we put things into perspective by saying that “ridicule does not kill”, having a bad mark, even being thrown in the arena and laughed at by classmates can be experienced as a real death for the student’s ego.

Reasoning, arguments, promises of reward or punishment, nothing helps. In fact, we are not on the same level. We discuss with our “intelligence” and the pupil expresses himself through the oldest archaic emotional reflexes which obscure the rational thought processes.

So what to do?

Since we cannot easily “chat” with our internal stress generator, we will have to work around it. It’s actually a lot simpler than it looks.

In reality, we only have two possibilities: the student has either mastered the subject or has not.

Note that I am talking here about mastering and not just knowing the subject. A level of mastery such as what is provided by Davis® mastery is essential.

If the student is in control, then why stress? Only “positive stress” is useful, the one that prompts us to do our best by using our abilities to the maximum. And the three Davis ® tools learned in the Davis ® Dyslexia Correction program are a huge help.

And in the other case, if the student does not have mastery, well then the result is certainly a bad mark. It’s too late this time anyway, and testing time is definitely not a good time to learn. It only remains to try one’s best, and too bad for the result …

In summary

To paraphrase Jean de La Fontaine: “There is no point in stressing, you have to start with mastery.” 1 Just like the turtle, making haste slowly in learning helps us to arrive safely.2

Don’t wait until the last minute, doing a solid mastery is probably the best way to save time afterward and to be comfortable during the exams. With good grades as a bonus!

Finally, an important lesson is that everyone makes mistakes and that a mistake is a good opportunity to learn and improve ..

So, to your pens?

Bonus Video

Listen to this article (in French) – L’apprenant et le stress

This article has been translated from French and slightly modified by Abigail Marshall, with the help of Google translate. For the original French version of the main article, see

The drawings on this page are original artwork from the website — they are used with permission from the site owner.


  1. From the French, “Rien ne sert de courir il faut partir à point.” (“There’s no point in running, you have to start on time.”) From The Fables of La Fontaine (The Hare and the Tortoise)
  2. Le Fontaine wrote that the tortoise “with a prudent wisdom hastens slowly”.