Material on "the pressure from exam and grades"

Overview of material

The material in this section will problematize the myth of the ideal CBS student from the angle of the pressure and insecurity from exam and grades. It will be addressed from different perspectives  - that of of students, a teacher and Pernille Steen Pedersen's research. Below you will find the following material:
  • Two videos (in Danish) "Eksamensusikkerhed - hvorfor faen snakker vi ikke om det?", where Pernille talks to a Master student, Gry, about insecurities around exams, lessons learned from exams, and good advice for others.
  • Three short videos (in Danish) "At lære at studere og gå til eksamen", where Pernille talks with second year Bachelor student Anders about exams and grades, how it was as a new student at CBS, reflections on when topics are difficult and exams hard, but also about the important human skills developed through being a student.
  • Video (in English) "A teacher's exam advice", where Pernille discuss with post.doc Jannick Friis Christensen, in his capacity as a teacher, about practical advice for exam, and what teachers can do to mitigate the students pressure from exam and grades - which includes rethinking what the consider success.
  • Video (in Danish) "Når dit bedste ikke er godt nok - at lære at fejle er vigtigt" where Pernille shares an unusual post from LinkedIn, which evoked great responses and holds some essential points about how to think about exam and grades. Pernille elaborates on the post in relation to findings from her research and statements from company leaders on the important competencies they look for in new graduates.
  • Video (in Danish) "Hvad siger forskningen - pres fra eksamen og karakterer", where Anne Sofie, who is a part of the research team on the project, asks Pernille some questions into her research findings related to the pressure from exam and grades. Pernille elaborates on survey results, insights from interviews and put it in the context of her work on stress and shame - and what it means for students at CBS today.



"Eksamensusikkerhed - hvorfor faen snakker vi ikke om det?"

In these two videos Pernille talks to Gry, a first year student at Cand.soc. Human Resource Management, about her experiences with exams and reflections about the importance of grades. They talk about exam preparation, the worries before an exam whether the preparation is good enough, and the tendency to compare oneself with others. They also discuss grades, how it can be a pressure that influences one’s sense of confidence, and that in today’s work market grades are not what matters most. Gry shares how to approach exams as a learning experience and instead of focusing too much on the grade, use the feedback constructively. Pernille follows up on this with reflections about the ability to being able to not perform at the highest level all the time is an important skill in modern work life, where compromises and good distribution of resources are essential.  

As Pernille and Gry finished the first video, Gry had an "aha" reflection on their dialogue, which Pernille found important to share here. Gry realized how normal it is to experience these insecurities, but wondered, why then is it that we do not share it more often and naturally? This leads to a discussion about normalizing difficult emotions and experience, both for students but also at job market, and what in the end truly creates value. Pernille shares from her research that being able to speak about difficult emotions helps people to better manage and control their emotions, which gives greater well-being but also enables many to actually perform better under pressure.

"At lære at studere og gå til eksamen"

In three short videos Anders, as a second year HA.(almen) student, shares in dialogue with Pernille important insights and reflections from the perspective of being a new student at CBS. In the first video Anders shares how it was difficult at first to figure out how to prepare for exams and demonstrates the point that indeed it is a learning process how to study and do exams. He experienced some classes and exams as difficult, for example finding motivation to begin the preparations, but also realized that new students comes from very different backgrounds, everyone has different skills, strengths and challenges, and therefore also different prerequisites to how well they manage a given class. Anders experienced getting grades that were better and worse than expected, and discusses with Pernille how to manage less good grades and classes where one cannot perform so well. They discuss how to manage expectations to oneself and to be realistic about one's skills, which also is an important asset in the work life. In the end, Anders reflects about how fellow students best can support each other - which includes to be open and dare to share also when things are difficult.

In the second video, Pernille and Anders zoom in on the study environment and ways to dismantle the performance and perfection culture. How to manage expectations, break with ideals of perfection, and share honestly about it? How to create a movement towards a more relaxed and open culture? Pernille adresses some of the demands students can expect from the modern work market, which is more about human skills than grades, for example abilities to navigate in a rapidly changing environment, including managing disappointments, mistakes, difficulties, and failures. 

In the last video, Anders shares an interesting conversation has had with his father, which concerns to consider being a student as a process of cultivation. Anders and Pernille discuss the learning that takes place at higher education that forms you as a person and develops strong human skills. Pernille emphasize the importance of meeting people who are different than you, and having to learn to collaborate with people of different backgrounds and skills. It is a much needed competence to know how to collaborate across different levels of skills, being able to make others feel good enough and see the value they bring.

A teacher's exam advice

In this video Pernille talks to Jannick Friis Christensen, post.doc at MPP on this experiences with taking students to exams, preparing students for the exam in class and his advice for the exam situation itself. Jannick has noticed an increasing focus among students on performance and narrow sense of what it means to be successful, purely centered on top grades, which he finds unfortunate and explains why we need to rethink success in this context. He shares how he celebrates failures and when thing doesn't work out as hoped with a group of colleagues, because as he says "there will inevitably be failures that are part of the journey towards success." Towards the end, Jannick gives some practical advice for the exam situation, which includes to not overthink the examiners' questions, trying to find motives behind, and to be aware, that you are never in control of everything and many things play into an exam experience on a given day.

"Når dit bedste ikke er godt nok - at lære at fejle er vigtigt"

Pernille saw a post on LinkedIn that received loads of comments and likes, which nailed a very important point: sometimes we fail, sometimes our best efforts are not enough in a given situation, and that is natural, human, and okay. However, we tend to not share it with others. In this case, a guy called Daniel shared on social media that he had failed his final exam to become an accountant - that he did his best, but it was not good enough. In this video Pernille draw on her research to discuss Daniels message, which is about the importance of learning and accepting when things do not turn out as well as we had hoped. It is a much needed antidote to the perfection culture that only celebrates a narrow understanding of success. Surely losses, failures, mistakes, and difficulties are still there and a natural part of learning and life, but because they tend to remain hidden, it leads to an environment with excessive expectations and increases the pressure on people to always perform well. Pernille explains how learning to fail is an important competence in the modern work life.

"Hvad siger forskningen - pres fra eksamen & karakterer"

In this video Anne Sofie, who is a part of the research team of the stress and well-being project, asks Pernille some questions into what her research has shown regarding the pressure students feel from exams and grades. Pernille elaborate on some survey results and insights from interviews with students, and relate the findings to her research on stress and shame. The video underlines how these experiences are common and natural, but also that it is related to a certain culture and study environment - in other words, that it is a collective challenge that needs collective solutions.

Last updated by: Anne Sofie Fischer 01/12/2021