When it comes to exams, do you get stressed, nervous and anxious?
Does the thought of having to complete an exam make you break out in a cold sweat?
Exam anxiety is real, and there are effective solutions you can use the next time you need to take a test.
1: Get enough rest
Although staying up late to study before a test is not uncommon, that would be a mistake. Your body needs rest so that you can focus and think clearly. Try to get eight hours of sleep the night before your test.
2: Eat breakfast
Don’t skimp on breakfast either. You need calories for your brain to function and to process information. Make sure to include protein for long-lasting energy. Also, bring snacks or lunch if your exam is later in the day so that you don’t “crash” in the afternoon.
3: Get to the exam on time
Being late to the test only makes your anxiety worse. Now you are anxious about your lateness, on top of being worried about the exam!
Instead, be mindful of the time and get there early to settle in. Become acquainted with your surroundings so that you feel more comfortable. This is especially true if it is a new testing location rather than your regular classroom.
4: Be ready
Have all the materials you will need to take the test. Nothing can aggravate your anxiety like not having a backup pen or pencil, scrap paper, or whatever. If you are unsure what materials you will need, check with your instructor. If in doubt, take whatever you think you might need. You don’t have to use everything you take, but if you didn’t take it, you don’t have a choice.
5: Remember to breathe
During the test, remember to breathe regularly and deeply. If you start to feel your anxiety creep up, try mindful, deep breathing—breathing in, holding the breath, breathing out, and then holding the exhale, too. Taking 5 slow, deep, controlled breaths will help you calm down and refocus back on your work. While taking a minute to breathe might seem like wasting valuable time, the benefit gained from being more composed will easily outweigh the time lost.
6: Think positively
Have you ever heard the phrase “Think happy thoughts?” It applies to test-taking, too. So, keep a positive mindset and think of a reassuring word or phrase you can say to yourself.
7: Don’t get stuck
It’s all too easy to get stuck on one question and run up against a wall. If the answer doesn’t come quickly, skip the question for now. However, make sure you come back to it later. Sometimes we just need to shift our attention to find the correct answer. Also, if you work through the questions you can answer first, you know how much time you have to spend on the more challenging ones.
8: Slow down
It’s tempting to breeze through the test as fast as you can, so you get it over with. However, don’t mistake speed for success. You need to pace yourself in a way to ensure that you finish the test within the allotted time. So, if you are going too fast, make an effort to slow yourself down so you don’t miss something important.
9: Double-check your work
Take a few minutes before you hand in the test to check your work. Did you answer the questions satisfactorily? Consider whether you want to change anything. Just don’t get too hyper-focused with whether or not to change a particular answer. If you find yourself on the fence, go with your gut.
10: Leave everything on the table
Well, not literally, of course! After you turn in your test, and leave the room, leave it all behind you. Avoid going over the test in your head, agonising whether or not you gave the correct answers. What’s done is done. Instead, move forward and leave any lingering anxiety behind.
While it’s disturbing, exam anxiety doesn’t have to override your brain when taking an exam. With thoughtful preparation and by practising coping skills, you can stay focused on your test. Just remember that when it’s all over avoid second-guessing yourself and try to move forward.
A bonus tip for exam anxiety
You might want to look at the Emotional Freedom Technique as a way to calm yourself before and during the exam.
Photo by Marie Aggie