Exam time can be a very stressful period for many. It is only natural that some of us worry about whether or not we have done enough work or if we will receive the grades we need to pass the exam or to get into the school or university that we have our heart set on attending. We also worry about how we will be judged if we don’t do well in the exam, perhaps by our parents, school friends or co workers. Parents may also feel under pressure at this time as they want their children to do their best and to put proper effort into exam preparation.  As a result of this additional stress for everyone, family dynamics and relationships may be challenged at this time of year also.

It is normal to have some anxiety during exam preparation however too much worry can work against us. When we worry too much it gives a message to the body that the exam and everything to do with it is dangerous. This puts us in a very reactive state which is the opposite to where we need to be.

Some common symptoms of exam stress

  • Unable to sleep well
  • Negatively predicting how the exam will go
  • Crises of confidence
  • Inability to take in information
  • Inability to focus on revision
  • Anger outbursts
  • Upset tummy

Tips for effective exam preparation

As well as doing the normal revision for an exam and seeking support from your friends and family, the following will further enhance the process:

  • Make a timetable for exam preparation
  • Ensure the area where you are studying is comfortable and quiet even if this means studying in the library or in someone else’s home
  • Set your clear purpose before you begin studying. Be specific and write down what it is you want to achieve during the study session e.g. you might want to gain certain details such as solutions to specific problems. Drop and relax your shoulders. Take some deep breaths and let your body relax before commencing study
  • Take a twenty minute break every hour and a half
  • Get at least eight hours sleep a night in the run-up to the exams including the night before the exam.  (Our concentration reduces significantly even with the smallest dose of sleep deprivation therefore those considering pulling an all nighter to cram (or for any other reason) in the weeks before their exam might want to think again.)
  • Remember the way we feel when we are anxious is the same feeling we get when we are excited so change the interpretation and tell yourself you are excited
  • Practice spending a minute or two taking some deep breaths followed by a long exhale.  Do this a few times through the day and it will help reduce anxiety
  • Repeatedly, prepare mentally for the exam (in a positive way) so as on the day you are in your best possible state when you enter the exam hall and during the exam – how will you be as you walk into the hall and when you are sitting down (confident and excited to do the exam), what will you be telling yourself (I’ve got this’), how will you be feeling (confident and calm), how will you be sitting (upright with shoulders relaxed)?, what will you do to relax as you are sitting there (practice the breathing routine above)
  • Continue to exercise and eat nutritiously in the weeks and days leading up to the exam
  • Ensure there is some downtime scheduled in your timetable so as you can take a few hours break from studying
  • In the hour before the exam, walk, meditate, pray, or do something that clears your head – ensure you stay in a positive mindset and tell yourself ‘I’ve got this!’.  Avoid others who may be stressed or anxious prior to the exam

For more information on mentally preparing for the exam, dealing with stress/anxiety and getting a proper night’s sleep contact Ann Waters at The Mews Practice. Or click here for more information.