Everyone feels nervous before an exam. That is only natural and normal. Everyone wonders if they will be able to answer the questions, if they have prepared enough, if they will remember what they have studied. In fact, a certain amount of nervous tension probably helps us perform to the best of our ability and produces a healthy rush of adrenaline that gives us what we need to stay alert and focused.
But too much anxiety can BLOCK thoughts, create a negative frame of mind and lead to panic and potentially poor exam performance.
1. Some students experience mainly physical symptoms, such as head aches, nausea, faintness, feeling too hot or too cold etc.
2. Others experience more emotional symptoms, such as crying easily, feeling irritable or getting frustrated quickly.
3. The major problem of test anxiety is usually its effect on thinking ability, it can cause you to blank out or have racing thoughts that are difficult to control.
There are a number of things you can do to help manage exam anxiety and turn uncomfortable, panicky thought into more creative tension.
1. Try to stay on a reasonably regular schedule of studying, eating, sleeping and relaxing. It is best to start preparing for an exam 1-2 weeks ahead of time. This may not always be possible but it is best.
2. Don’t attempt to study for long periods of time; your efficiency and capacity to retain material will rapidly decrease.
3. Don’t force yourself to study beyond your normal limits of concentration. Short and regular study periods are more productive than lengthy single sessions.
4. Eat a well balanced diet and drink lots of fluids.
5. Don’t use drugs or alcohol. They can decrease your ability to think clearly.
6. Be conservative and reasonable about the demands you place on yourself.
1. RELAX It’s hard to panic if you are feeling relaxed. Try to establish a routine that gives you time to relax, especially right before you go to sleep the night before an exam. This could be different for everyone so experiment until you find what works best for you (e.g. a long bath, exercise, listening to music, relaxation tapes).
2. PREPARE It helps to feel as well-prepared as possible. To do this, time management is important. Do your best to give yourself enough time to review the material. If you have difficulty knowing how to study, attend study skills workshops or meet with a tutor to get some tips.
Find out as much as you can about the exam. Your instructor will likely give you the format of the exam ahead of time. Then you will know what to expect in terms of how many multiple choice questions there and how many long answer questions there are. Knowing as much as you can will also help you to relax. You can also ask your instructor if there are any practice tests that you can use to help you study. Often they are available.
Preparing also means knowing what time the exam starts, how long you will have to write it, and where it will take place. Knowing this information will also set your mind at ease.
3. THINK POSITIVELY Put yourself into a positive frame of mind by imagining how you would like things to go. Imagine yourself turning up for the exam feeling confident and relaxed – try to picture this in as much detail as possible. If you practice this in your mind, you can replace negative, anxious thought with more positive ones.
4. DON’T Don’t work to the last minute the night or morning before the exam. Last minute cramming often leaves a person feeling muddled and anxious.
When you get into the exam room and sit down, the following can help settle anxiety:
Please contact Counseling Services if you need personalized help with test anxiety.