For most mortals, having an exam doesn’t exactly generate enthusiasm. But if it causes insomnia, dizziness, tremors or nausea, be careful! You have stress. Have you stopped to think about the reason why we don’t like the exams panic? It is not just because we have to study and prefer to go out with friends, that too! What makes us feel really bad are our own negative thoughts, mixed with our desires and fears.
Causes of test anxiety
If exams stress you out, or make you feel afraid or even panicky, the first thing you have to do is think why? If you can identify why tests make you so nervous, it will help you find specific solutions.
Here are some of the most common causes of test anxiety:
- Fear of disappointing: If you are concerned that important people in your life (for example your parents) will feel disappointed, or that they will get angry if you do not get good grades, it can be a major source of stress in exams.
- Fear of failure: If you see your grades as a reflection of your own worth as a person, the fear of not living up to your own expectations or desires can be a major cause of anxiety.
- Lack of preparation: Not keeping your studies up to date, or starting too late to study for the exam make you feel like you are not prepared. Going into an exam feeling like you’re not ready is often very stressful.
- Feeling of lack of control: You may think that no matter how hard you study there is no guarantee of getting a good grade. If you think that the grade you get will be somewhat random, it can demotivate you and be a cause of anxiety about the result.
Here are the techniques that work best to overcome test stress, depending on when it occurs.
How to control anxiety and fear before the test
Some people panic just when the teacher sets an exam date. For others, fear looms as the day approaches. Whatever your case, there are many things you can do to control your negative feelings and face the test with more confidence.
The first thing that will help us not to stress is to think that an exam is just an exam. Its objective is to measure our knowledge of a certain subject. It does not measure our worth as a person, nor our intelligence, nor does it even condition our professional future!
If what you are concerned about is disappointing people important to you, there are two possibilities. Most likely, whatever happens on the test, those people will not think less of you. If you’ve done your job and the test fails, they may feel bad for you, but it’s not normal for them to get mad at you.
And if not, you should think about whether it makes sense to let the expectations and reactions of others influence your happiness so much. Your life is yours, and after all, a setback in an exam can hurt you, but the important thing is to learn from it and keep moving towards your goals.
Must Read: Exercises to Power Your Mind
In the long history of your life, that exam and the possible outcome that worries you so much will be just a small anecdote. It is like that and you have to believe it. If you overemphasize and dramatize it, you can end up falling into the web of stress, even depression.
A little nervous before an exam is normal and even healthy, but it should never be so stressful that it prevents us from enjoying the study and the moments reserved to enjoy with your family and friends.
Once you really demystify the importance of tests and their results, it will be easier to face them in a positive way.
The better you prepare, the less stress you will have on exam day
In most cases, anxiety occurs when facing a subject that you do not master and the fear of achieving a bad result. Therefore, to combat the stress of exams there is nothing better than preparing thoroughly.
It is more difficult to be afraid of an exam that you have well prepared, and luckily it is something that is in your hands. We have three recommendations so that you arrive at the day of the exam with the confidence to the maximum.
Keep your studies up to date: This is the basis of everything. If you don’t do anything else, do your best to bring your studies up to date. If not, you will always be at a disadvantage at test time, rushing to learn when others are just reviewing. Don’t get into that situation! Do all the readings, exercises and work that the teacher asks you to do on the recommended dates and you will live much more relaxed.
Make a preparation plan: In most cases, you will know well in advance the date of your exams. Reassure yourself that you have time to prepare well, and make a plan. The same day that you find out the date of the exam, sit down to plan in your agenda the days and hours that you are going to dedicate to study that subject.
Do not forget to also reserve time to disconnect and have fun. We are not machines!
As part of your plan, also think about what you will do when you come across concepts or topics that are especially difficult for you to grasp or understand. You have many options, such as:
Take advantage of the tutoring hours you have
Ask a classmate to help you
Find explanatory videos or articles on the Internet
Go to support classes at an academy
Recognizing that it is normal that there will be topics that are more difficult for you, and identifying in advance how you are going to overcome them will help you not to block yourself and to overcome these situations calmly.
There is nothing better than having a plan and following a good study method to feel that you have the situation under control.
Take tests from previous years or that you make up yourself to practice: Taking tests from previous years or with questions that you make up yourself brings you many important benefits. First, they help you to know which topics you master, and which ones you should spend more time studying and reviewing. But there is more.
They also serve to get you used to the experience of examining yourself. The more you practice, the more confident and less nervous you will feel during the actual exam. You will also improve your ability to manage time during the exam.
To get the most benefit from a practice test, it is best to take the test in conditions that are as close to the actual test as possible. Take the test on the fly, and set the same time limit that you will have on the day of the actual test. Find a place where you can take the entire exam without interruptions. Turn off the phone and do not use any resources (books, notes, calculator …) that are not allowed in the exam.
Then you correct the exam and see how it went! Probably the first time you don’t get the grade you would like. But nothing happens, that’s what you’re practicing for! These exams allow you to see what you do not control as much as you thought, and thus be able to improve in time. If you take more practice tests you will see how you master more and more material.
Good habits to minimize stress while preparing for exams
Well, you already have your plan to prepare and that should give you a lot of peace of mind. But still there is a certain level of stress and pressure in the background that you have to control. As a student you have to maintain a balance between your studies, your friends, your family, your finances, your personal projects… And for any human that is stressful in itself.
But everything has a solution. To keep stress low and energy high, we recommend these wise tips:
Take frequent breaks: It is difficult to maintain constant concentration for more than 30 to 45 minutes. After that time, a short break of 5 or 10 minutes allows you to recharge your mental batteries for another productive session. You may be interested in reading about the productive Technique, which is, based on a strict programming of work and rest times.
Eliminate distractions while you study: And when we say distractions, there is nothing worse than social media! You know I’m not lying Checking the latest messages and posts on WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram … while studying is a glorious recipe for procrastination. If you need help to resist, there are apps like Freedom that allow you to block (while studying) the apps and websites that distract you the most.
Try to get about 8 hours of sleep each night: Taking hours of sleep to have more study time is usually counterproductive. When you’re tired, it’s harder to concentrate, and it’s easier to be in a bad mood. Both of these things make the time you spend studying unproductive.
Eat right: The brain uses more energy than any other organ in your body (up to 20% of all the energy you use!). If you don’t eat right, your brain won’t have all the energy it needs to function at its best. To avoid energy swings, avoid foods and drinks with a lot of sugar. It is better to eat foods such as bread, rice, pasta, fruits and legumes, which will give you energy more slowly and steadily.
Drink lots of water: Your brain is also very sensitive to your level of hydration. Even mild dehydration, such as 1 to 3% of your body weight, can cause anxiety and negatively impact memory, mood, and ability to concentrate.
Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol: Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that tend to increase stress. If you are sleeping 8 hours a day and eating well, and following the other tips on this list, you do not need stimulants to maintain your energy. Try not to drink more than one coffee a day. This will not only reduce stress, it will also improve the health of your bank account!
Exercise: It is one of the fastest and most effective ways to combat stress. Even a short 10-15 minute walk will help you relax and clear your mind.
Do activities that you like: We all have activities that work especially well for us to relax. It could be listening to music, taking a hot bath, writing, watching an episode of our favorite series… Make time for your favorite relaxing activities.
Study where and when you work best: Not everyone has more energy in the morning, nor do we all concentrate better in the library. Find the time and place that works best for you.
Use relaxation techniques: If at any time you feel that you cannot study because fear takes hold of you, use relaxation techniques such as lying on the bed and leaving all your muscles relaxed for a few minutes (you can play soft music in the background that help you relax). Leave your mind blank, using deep breathing techniques (take air through your nose until you feel your lungs and abdomen fill with air. Slowly, expel the air through your mouth and breathe in and out again for at least five minutes to reach a state of relaxation).
How to minimize stress during the exam
When exam day finally arrives, if you’ve prepared well, hopefully you’re not scared anymore. Another thing is the nerves that we all have and that if they escape from our control they can play a trick on us.
That is why when you enter the exam it is important to concentrate on the present moment, and try to answer each question to the best of your ability, without thinking about the grade you are going to get. He thinks “it’s just an exam, I’ll do the best I can and let it be what life wants.”
If you do well, great. If not, take note of what you can do better next time and keep moving forward.
Here are our top tips for keeping your nerves at bay during the exam:
Have a positive attitude: Take care of your inner dialogue. Just before the exam, repeat in your mind positive phrases such as “I can do it, I am capable” or “I have prepared well.” This will help prevent or extinguish negative thoughts.
Read the instructions carefully: Avoid the temptation to jump in as quickly as possible to start answering the questions. It is important to take the time to read all the instructions and questions thoroughly before you begin. It will help you focus and stay calm.
Start easy: Find some easy questions and answer them first to gain confidence, calm your nerves, and gain momentum.
Don’t listen to others: Seeing if other people are writing a lot or a little, or which page of the exam they are on, can only stress you out. Don’t compare yourself. Focus on your exam, at your own pace, and don’t think about what others are doing. You do your thing, as if you were alone in the room.
Control time: Take a quick look at the entire exam before you start to get an idea of how much time you can spend on each question. Being aware at all times of how much time you have left will help you not to waste too much time on a question.
Set aside minutes for review: Set aside a few minutes to review the exam before handing it in. Now is the time to review both the content and the possible spelling mistakes you may have made (watch out for accents!).
Do not stand still: If you are not clear about the answer to a question, or if you do not know very well what they are asking you, take a breath and move on to another question. When you come back to that question again, your doubts may have cleared up on their own. If you still don’t understand the question, ask your teacher if they can clarify it for you.
Take deep breaths to control your nerves: If you have a nervous breakdown, it is very useful to use the technique of deep breathing. You can resort to it at any time and well practiced it has almost immediate and incredible effects. You can go from a nervous breakdown to a peaceful state in just a few minutes. Concentrate only on your breathing (breathe in and out, several times and very slowly), until you feel yourself in control of your body.
What to do after the exam
When you leave the exam, do not think twice about your answers and the possible mistakes you have made. What done is done! Accept it! Worrying only serves to have a bad time, it has no positive effect. So make the decision not to worry.
Once you have the results it is always good to take the opportunity that most teachers give to review the exam. It is an excellent opportunity to discover where you are weak and what your teacher values the most when it comes to scoring. You will see that if you pay attention to their advice you will achieve better results in the future. But without stress! Your goal should not be to get the best grades in the class, but to get the best of you.
Don’t compete with others and try to surpass yourself.
Prepare for everything
Throughout your career as a student you will have to face many types of evaluations, positive and negative. And never, ever, should you give exams such an inordinate importance that you have a hard time and feel distressed. So be prepared for both good and bad results.
If you get a good grade: Congratulations! A good result can indicate that you have prepared thoroughly and that your study method is working. Keep working on that line and don’t trust yourself.
If you fail: Try to make a realistic analysis of what led you to fail to avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Perhaps you have left everything to the last minute or have been overconfident. Go to the review so that your teacher can explain what you have failed and ask for advice on how to prepare for the next exam. A failure is an excellent opportunity to learn and try to improve yourself. Always trust your ability to improve every day.
And very important: If after trying all these techniques, you see that you cannot overcome the burden, seek professional help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your psychologist can be the first starting point to learn to overcome the stress that we all go through at some point in our lives.