As the examination period approaches, you may feel the pressure of the exams getting to you. This is not surprising — in fact it is quite normal to feel some anxiety about exams. Most people find that a bit of pressure spurs us on and enables us to get down and do some serious work.
General Exam Stress-Busting Tips:
- Believe in yourself
You wouldn’t have been given a place on the course if you didn’t have the ability to do it. Therefore, if you prepare for the exams properly you should do fine, meaning that there is no need to worry excessively.
- Don’t try to be perfect
It’s great to succeed and reach for the stars. But keep things in balance. If you think that “anything less than A+ means I’ve failed” then you are creating mountains of unnecessary stress for yourself. Aim to do your best but recognise that none of us can be perfect all of the time.
- Take steps to overcome problems
If you find you don’t understand some of your course material, getting stressed out won’t help. Instead, take action to address the problem directly by seeing your course tutor or getting help from your class mates.
- Don’t keep things bottled up
Confiding in someone you trust and who will be supportive is a great way of alleviating stress and worry.
- Keep things in perspective
The exams might seem like the most crucial thing right now, but in the grander scheme of your whole life they are only a small part.
Overcoming test anxiety: General preparation
- Building confidence
Review your personal situation and skills
Academic counselors can help you in these areas, or refer to our Guides on the topic:
- Developing good study habits and strategies (a link to our directory)
- Managing time
(dealing with procrastination, distractions, laziness)
- Organizing material to be studied and learned
- Take a step by step approach to build a strategy and not get overwhelmed
Outside pressures success/failure consequences (grades, graduation), peer pressure, competitiveness, etc.
- Reviewing your past performance on tests to improve and learn from experience
Test preparation to reduce anxiety: Approach the exam with confidence
- Use whatever strategies you can to personalize success: visualization, logic, talking to your self, practice, team work, journaling, etc.
- View the exam as an opportunity to show how much you’ve studied and to receive a reward for the studying you’ve done
- Be prepared!
- Learn your material thoroughly and organize what materials you will need for the test. Use a checklist
- Choose a comfortable location for taking the test with good lighting and minimal distractions
- Allow yourself plenty of time, especially to do things you need to do before the test and still get there a little early
- Avoid thinking you need to cram just before
- Strive for a relaxed state of concentration
- Avoid speaking with any fellow students who have not prepared, who express negativity, who will distract your preparation
- A program of exercise is said to sharpen the mind
Get a good night’s sleep the night before the exam
Don’t go to the exam with an empty stomach
- fresh fruits and vegetables are often recommended to reduce stress.
- Stressful foods can include processed foods, artificial sweeteners, carbonated soft drinks, chocolate, eggs, fried foods, junk foods, pork, red meat, sugar, white flour products, chips and similar snack foods, foods containing preservatives or heavy spices
- Take a small snack, or some other nourishment
- to help take your mind off of your anxiety.
- Avoid high sugar content (candy) which may aggravate your condition
During the test:
- Read the directions carefully
- Budget your test taking time
- Change positions to help you relax
- If you go blank, skip the question and go on
- If you’re taking an essay test
- and you go blank on the whole test, pick a question and start writing. It may trigger the answer in your mind
Don’t panic when students start handing in their papers. There’s no reward for finishing first
Use relaxation techniques
If you find yourself tensing and getting anxious during the test:
- Relax; you are in control.
- Take slow, deep breaths
- Don’t think about the fear
- Pause: think about the next step and keep on task, step by step
- Use positive reinforcement for yourself:
- Acknowledge that you have done, and are doing, your best
Expect some anxiety
- It’s a reminder that you want to do your best and can provide energy
- Just keep it manageable
- Realize that anxiety can be a “habit”
- and that it takes practice to use it as a tool to succeed
After the test, review how you did
- List what worked, and hold onto these strategies
- It does not matter how small the items are: they are building blocks to success
- List what did not work for improvement
- Celebrate that you are on the road to overcoming this obstacle