Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better – Maya Angelou
Has this ever happened to you? You have been studying hard for an exam, but when you walk into the exam hall, your mind goes blank. As you sit to write your exam you notice your palms sweating and a pit in your stomach. Many people experience these feelings before or during exams. It is completely normal to feel a bit nervous before entering the exams and in fact helps you perform better. However, when this feeling of distress goes beyond your control it leaves a negative impact on the performance and has the ability to derail weeks and months of hard work. In situations where the pressure is on and a good performance counts, people can become so anxious that they are unable to do their best.
Symptoms of exam anxiety
- Physical Symptoms: This includes sweating, shaking, headache, feeling of nausea, rapid and loud heartbeat. In extreme cases falling ill before exams.
- Behavioral and Cognitive symptoms: Difficulty concentrating, thinking negatively and comparing yourself to others are common symptoms of test anxiety.
- Emotional symptoms: Feelings of anger, fear, helplessness and disappointment are common emotional responses.
Strategies to overcome exam anxiety
- Change your mindset
The problem lies in whether you perceive stress as an enemy or a friend. If you consider it an enemy, it creates mess in your daily life. In reality stress isn’t your enemy it wants you to perform better and excel at what you are doing. If you believe that the mission of stress is not to destroy you, it makes everything much easier.
- Create a study schedule
With too much to study you might feel lost and exhausted. Divide the notes to be studied into manageable sections so that you can prepare for the topics bit by bit. Mentally allocate how much time you will spend on each section and do not cramp.
- Frequent mock test
The fear of unknown creates havoc. Not knowing which question can appear in exams can be over whelming. Creating mock tests help relieve exam anxiety as you start answering unknown questions in a real examination format which makes a person feel prepared and ready to take up tests.
- Take frequent breaks
Although studying for hours is necessary it is also important not to overdo it. Studying for hours without a break makes it hard to retain the content which can cause anxiety. Taking frequent breaks gives a student time away from the material. It makes you feel fresh and helps increase concentration. Any activity can do. Try exercising, watching television or taking a nap.
- Plan your time
Instead of waiting until last minute chalk out the material that is to be covered and the time available to do so. Make a note cramping is not going to help. Firstly, keep your school work neat and organized that way, you will have access to everything you will require. Break the study material into chucks while making sure to give yourself enough time.
- Get a good night sleep
You may notice that having less sleep makes a person feel edgier and restless. Your body needs sleep so that the brain gets necessary time to restore back to action and during exams having a good sleep helps process memory and reduce anxiety levels. Having adequate sleep is beneficial than reading all night.
- Have a positive attitude
It is important to remember self-worth isn’t based on the marks scored in exams. There is no benefit of negative thinking. Try saying things like “I can do this”, “I’m ready for the exam” and you will start believing yourself, which will help you ace exams because positivity helps tame the fear and establishes a good measure of self-control.
- Focus on your self-talk and inner dialogue
Stay away from self-criticism as anxiety is sustained by inner dialogue. Rather than judging yourself concentrate on the positive aspects like the topics you have been able to cover, the mock tests you have taken up. This helps boost the morale and leads to a sense of satisfaction.
Remember Achieving everything you want is not possible in a day. Allow yourself plenty time to accomplish things and this helps build confidence. Exam Anxiety can be unpleasant but is also treatable. If you feel test anxiety is interfering with daily routine and disrupting your ability to perform well consult a professional (Counselor, Psychologist, Psychiatrist) they are aware of the toll exams can take and will help cope with anxiety.