The Infamous Exam Anxiety

Image by Walt Stoneburner, Flickr

Image by Walt Stoneburner, Flickr

You are either a regular or an occasional victim. Either way, that uncomfortable jittery feeling is not foreign to any one of us. I am by nature a quite nervous individual and exam time for me is, well…I’ll let you visualize that on your own. In brief, we can conclude that “cool, calm, and collected” are non-existent words in my dictionary come exam time.

With that being said, below are a few tips I would like to share. They are for fellow students who generally feel nervous no matter how much they’ve studied. Their anxiety does not depend upon how well-prepared they are for the exam; just the idea of an exam is enough to cause stress. I have become a champion of this feeling; all I need is to show up in the exam room and it’s as if a “nerves” switch has been turned on.

These tips have been life savers for me when managing my exam anxiety, and in my experience, have resulted in better grades. They have really given me a confidence boost, and a corresponding significant drop in my anxiety levels.

Talking to Myself

A method which I have found to be extremely useful is what I call the “talking to myself” method. We all know anxiety is a mental state, so this is what I tell myself to bring my thoughts back down to earth:

  • What is the point of feeling anxious? The only thing that it will cause is a bad grade. Is that my goal?
  • If I don’t take this exam, I’ll get a zero, and I won’t be able to get my grade back. Any mark is better than a zero.
  • I have studied the material and am ready for this exam and will receive a good grade as payoff for my time spent studying.

For those feeling nervous due to lack of studying (which shouldn’t happen!):

  • I don’t know how I’m going to do on this exam, but I have an hour (or several hours), and I’m only going to hurt my grade more if I feel anxious because I didn’t study enough. I should use this time to soak in all the content I can.
  • If I feel good about the exam, I will end up doing well on the exam.
  • This is just one exam, there is no need panic. If I don’t do well here, I will make sure to do well on my upcoming exams by studying more.

Practice, Practice, Practice

I cannot stress how important and beneficial it is to review and revise your study notes more than once. Every time I enter an exam after only reviewing study notes once, that unwanted friend of mine shows up right behind me: anxiety. He makes me feel like I don’t understand many (or any!) of the questions on the exam. Let’s just say those exams are never exactly what you would call “flawless” – and it shows in those marks.

I’ve found that whenever I make a proper routine of studying, with enough time to go over the material three times (even twice can be fine depending on your understanding of the material), I have managed to receive grades that I’m happy with.

Internalize the Content

I’ve been practicing this method recently. I wrote my exams with a lot of confidence due to the fact that not only did I memorize the material, I understood the concepts. This really helps with critical thinking questions. When you develop a concrete understanding of the content, you’re able to answer questions with knowledge – and knowledge means confidence.

Many students who attempt to merely memorize the material usually end up with bad grades because they miss something in their answers or do not answer the question properly because they didn’t understand it.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you’re studying. They have helped me with my anxiety – I hope they can help you with yours!

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