5 Ways to Beat Exam Anxiety
When I was a student, I always had difficulty with exams. But the exams themselves were never the real source of my problems.
Exams can be an overwhelming source of stress and anxiety. That holds true even for those of us who aren’t diagnosed with anxiety or panic disorders. The modern educational system is designed to gauge students based on test results. Students, young and old, are rated in numbers and letters, in percentages and in weighted averages. There’s nothing subjective about a GPA.
It doesn’t matter how well a student does in the classroom, if they aren’t able to perform well during a test or an exam, the school (and society in general) marks them as “unsatisfactory”. This makes exams a blatant trigger for panic and anxiety.
Exam anxiety is fairly common among students; so common in fact that it isn’t clinically recognized as a medical condition. However, students that suffer from panic and anxiety disorders can find themselves too paralyzed to perform when exam anxiety strikes.
However, I’ve discovered a good number of ways to curb the effects of exam anxiety, and they’re techniques that work just as well for students who don’t suffer from a diagnosed medical condition.
Whether you’re an undergraduate looking for a way to calm yourself down during finals, or a studying professional looking to ease the anxiety of a make or break test, here are five tips on how you can beat your anxiety… Read More
#1: Don’t Cram for the Exam
Cramming for an exam is a bad habit that most students pick up. As much as most teachers might try to rinse that out of their students’ habits, most of them can’t help but wait until the last minute to cram a semester’s worth of readings into the last few days.
However, cramming is a very potent trigger for exam anxiety.
Anxiety and panic is often triggered by stress and exhaustion. And those elements are always readily present during cramming. Burning the midnight oil leads to both a tired mind and a tired body. When anxiety sets in, you’ll be hard pressed to fend it off both mentally and physically. Most crammers are too worried about forgetting what they’ve studied to focus on anything else. Stress becomes a major problem.
Though it’s true that many students can only study as crammers, it isn’t advised for those who suffer from panic and anxiety disorders, in particular.
Confidence is also a big factor in warding off anxiety and panic, and walking into a test prepared can instill a big boost of much needed self esteem. Make sure to plan out your study schedules accordingly, and be well rested and refreshed for the exam. Not feeling tired will immediately help in warding of the stress of the exam itself, and it will help you focus on the questions and keep your mind off the anxiety.
#2: Take Your Time and Breathe
Although most exams put students under time pressure, it’s very important that you take your time and breathe.
A lot of students find themselves focusing too hard on a question they are stuck on. They end up overthinking the problem and begin to corner themselves in their mind. This can easily set off an anxiety or panic attack.
If you feel like you’re being overwhelmed by a test, or by a particular question; stop for a second, look up from your test paper and take a deep breath. You might find it particularly helpful to give your mind a moment to collect itself before plunging back into the exam.
Sometimes, two seconds to relax is a far better solution than staring for two whole minutes at a difficult question.
If you’re under strict time pressure, simply move on from any question you can’t answer immediately. This allows your mind to keep focusing on other things other than the impeding onset of panic or anxiety.
#3: Visualize Yourself in a Better Place
It’s hard to counteract the effects of exam anxiety once it begins to set in. It can completely ruin your momentum and force you to make mistakes that you otherwise wouldn’t have done. At worse, all your hard work during that semester is wasted simply because you couldn’t concentrate on the exam.
Visualization is a common technique to help people relax. Take a few seconds to imagine the end of the exam, and visualize it happening. It’s easy to endure even the most difficult of ordeals if you can imagine getting through it.
Remember, the only thing standing between you and the end of the exam is turning it in. You are not trapped in that exam forever. You are not held hostage by the test. Focus on the end goal, and visualize yourself exiting the room with your exam paper already turned in.
This will help you calm down and focus on the task at hand.
#4: Take the Test Early
When given the choice, it’s best that you take the exam as early as possible.
Although having the few extra hours of study might seem helpful, anticipation for the exam itself just might aggravate your test anxiety rather than help it. Most students aren’t able to study properly on the day itself anyway, so spending the early part of the day getting the exam over and done with can help you regarding a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety.
Like any other kind of anxiety, exam anxiety is only worsened by the anticipation of the event, not usually the event itself. If you can cut down that overwhelming feel of anticipation, you easily curb the effects of exam anxiety.
#5: Make Sure Your Professor Knows About Your Condition
Although most anxiety curbing techniques are all about taking control of yourself and your emotions; sometimes it’s best that you have some support on hand. If you suffer from a very serious case of anxiety and panic disorder, it’s best that you inform the test conductors and exam staff before hand.
Inform your professor of your condition and have your doctor write a formal note to affirm it. If your case is serious enough, you should be allowed to step out of the testing area should the anxiety become too much to bear.
A lot of exams don’t allow their takers to leave the testing premises, but there are a lot of cases where it is allowed should the need arise, so keep that in mind.