We all have exam fear. How to overcome it! We will discuss all about exam fear along with tips and tricks. It is nothing but natural for one to feel uneasy or distressed prior to an important event. A little amount of stress helps us remain more focused and alert, hence enabling us to improve our performance and live up to our actual potential.
However, it would be extremely counterproductive if said anxiety ends up hindering our capabilities even after preparing meticulously.
As a matter of fact, anxiety has surpassed depression as the most common mental health diagnosis among college students, according to a 2017 nationwide study of more than 160,000 students by the Centre for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State.
Here is a comprehensive guide to help to combat it.
How to Overcome Exam fear? Before the Test
We need to consume a balanced diet in order to function effectively. When stressed, our appetite often seems to die down resulting in a severe lack of desire to consume any healthy eatables.
It can also be very tempting to consume an unreasonably high amount of greasy junk food for some temporary comfort.
In extreme cases, this can also lead to binge eating, which can prove to be a symptom of a variety of tormenting eating disorders.
Some items of food such as chamomile tea, green tea, dark chocolate, eggs, nuts, fatty fish, etc. can be consumed when feeling unusually upset due to a lack of appetite induced by anxiety.
The biggest cause of anxiety due to work or study is procrastination. Each one of us does it because it is highly addictive. When we leave tasks for the next day, we are just being crueller and crueller to our future selves by piling on tasks for them to complete in an even shorter amount of time.
This pathetic habit can be challenged by means of planning early, dividing a daunting task into several small activities and tricking the mind to be more productive by giving small rewards in exchange for every minute part of a massive task.
The above-mentioned trick can be improved by means of scientifically proven psychological techniques or methods that make the brain more attentive and susceptible to observing even the smallest details.
- Colour Coding
It is widely known that associating certain concepts with something trivial such as food items, colours or dress fabrics makes it much simpler to remember them, which is why it is a great idea to group them together by linking them to such things.
- The Pomodoro Technique
This is a technique where the total time available is divided into a multitude of time intervals, traditionally 25 minutes long, separated by means of short breaks that usually last for 5 to 10 minutes. In these short breaks, it is compulsory to move your body around to break both the physical and mental monotony.
It is not allowed to look at a screen or social media since it lures you in by reducing your attention span. These breaks help us by providing a small refreshment and prevent us from sitting in an uncomfortable position for long periods of time.
- Flow charts
- Schematic views
- Highlighting keywords
These aids should obviously be utilised during studying but also while writing the answers in exams. This is because it makes it much simpler to comprehend and retain the information in the brain. This has two the following two advantages:
- It makes an impeccable impression on the examiner, who has to check a multitude of examination papers in a short amount of time. Making this tedious process easier for them is a great way to make sure that they reward you with leniency.
- It prevents them from delving deep into your paper. As mentioned above, the time restraints are already insane. If the examiner gets the content and keywords without having to search for them in a tiresome manner, they are going to spend even less time on your paper. This reduces the chances of them discovering trivial and silly mistakes in your paper and deducting 1 or 2 marks, which results in a significant decrease in the overall percentage.
- Mind Mapping: It can prove to be very helpful to have a chart depict the overall concept and various aspects of the topic at hand. It can make us feel more prepared as well as familiar with the sub-topics, hence making us feel at ease with them.
- The Feynman Technique: This is a common, efficient method where we review the topic and then, in order to test ourselves, pretend to explain it to someone with little to no knowledge on that matter. This can be executed with the help of a friend or even alone. It works because it encompasses all aspects of learning: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, etc. and forces us to use multiple sense organs simultaneously.
Moving around helps us release a variety of positive hormones such as dopamine, serotonin, etc. It can also help unclench our body, hence enabling us to focus better on the task at hand.
There is no doubt that a cluttered environment leads to a cluttered mind. Hence, one must make sure to at least clean their surroundings on the surface level if time constraints do not allow a deep cleaning to occur.
Visit the venue
Sometimes it can prove to be beneficial to familiarize yourself with a newer venue if social anxiety is something that impacts you a lot.
Get everything you need in advance
All sorts of stationery items, notes, devices etc. must be arranged a day or two before the exam because uncertainty only leads to more unnecessary worries.
Sleep is an absolutely essential function of the human body, without which survival would be impossible since it rejuvenates and refreshes us. Hence, it becomes even more necessary to get a great night’s sleep before an important event in order to feel fresh.
How to Overcome Exam fear? On Test Day
Have a hearty breakfast
Breakfast is the most important meal because it helps set the right course for the entire day. Many people make the grievous mistake of skipping it when they’re in a hurry or do not have time for it in their schedule altogether, which should be avoided at all costs especially on an important day. Basically, a good habit to build not only for examination but for the entire life.
Being late is the easiest recipe for an extremely disastrous day as it sets the motion wrong. It acts as a catalyst when you are already anxious about an important event in your life.
This can be prevented by developing a habit of punctuality in your daily life and being extra sensitive and cautious about it during exam season.
Do not be hesitant to ask for help
It might be daunting at first, but it is perhaps a great idea to ask for support. Your friends, family, teachers, etc. would be glad to be your backbone.
If there are extreme physical repercussions because of your mental stress, consider trying to warn your invigilator in advance.
Last-minute revision is a trap
This point needs to be stressed a lot. It might feel like a great idea to revise and have a last look at the subject matter, especially if you obsess over not having a decent enough grasp on the subject matter at hand.
Some students will also rush to clear doubts, learn some extra formulae and try to absorb random information in the hopes of miraculously coming across something that might fetch them a few extra marks.
However, it is important to note that if your preparation is up to the mark, it would not be necessary to be fidgety at the last moment.
Trust yourself, try to remain composed and limit contact with other students in the examination centres bustling with activity.
Figure out a strategy
It is nothing but obvious that you might come across certain questions that will render you confused and exasperated. Under such circumstances, it is crucial to follow a certain outlined path to keep the intrusive thoughts and anxiety-inducing spirals under control.
Intrusive thought patterns must be broken by coming up with a thought path.
This plan must be devised in advance and should be based on prior experiences in order to help you challenge every stressful thought with a calming counterthought. This helps you get a hold of your hyper-emotional state, move on to something else that you know perfectly and gain your confidence back.
- Intrusive thought: “I do not know this question! This must mean I know nothing. I am going to ruin this examination and that would end up forcing me to live a useless life. I am useless.”
- Counter thought: “I remember studying till 11 pm last night. This must mean I retained some information. Not knowing one question does not nullify that. Besides, it’s easier to skip a question I do not know instead of beating myself up and ruining my chances at the other questions as well. Also, let us not think long term. I have plenty of opportunities and this negative self talk will not be beneficial at all.”
This way, a counter thought based on logic and actual evidence will break the intrusive thought loop allowing you to make the best use out of your available knowledge regarding the subject matter.
Time management is essential
As mentioned in a point above as well, lack of time and running late is terrifying. It makes our brain switch to the emergency mode where everything becomes blurry, confusing and stressful.
This is heightened when you are already anxious due to your examination.
This proves that it is imperative to manage your time to prevent you from ruining your exam even after studying hard and knowing the perfect answers.
Always be to the point to use your time efficiently.
Remember to breathe
A common problem that people with anxiety face is forgetting to execute continual tasks essential for living. Something as simple as breathing also feels difficult and it takes a lot of effort to be able to do that.
Hence, one must remind themselves to unclench their jaw, release the tension between their joints, keep hydrating and stretch a little while taking a deep breath.
How to Overcome Exam fear? After the Test
Let it go
It is a common habit to keep thinking about how the exam even after it is over which is extremely unhealthy. It does nothing but increase your stress and hinder your performance in the next exam because what’s done is done.
Sometimes, it might be necessary to look at the answer key in order to figure some things out, in which case allotting a fixed amount of time might prove to be beneficial.
However, after that, you must stop obsessing over the small details for your own mental peace.
Rest and self-care are incredibly important because they are the most subversive acts of all. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it only helps you boost your productivity and improve your performance.
A lot of people forget this step in this toxic hustle culture which ultimately leads to their downfall.
Avoid the perfectionist trap
It can be very easy to want to compete with everyone and always be the best at everything. It is not a bad thing to want that unless it becomes an obsessive habit to the point that you start avoiding tasks unless you’re sure that you will be absolutely perfect at it.
One should keep in mind that extreme perfectionism is a definite recipe for an anxiety-ridden disaster and something is always better than nothing.
Get medications if necessary
Mental health has always been taboo in our society. However, this should not cause any sort of hesitation or shame in getting treated for it. Talk therapy is a great way to get in touch with your emotions in a guided, professional environment.
In extreme cases that have physical repercussions, hormonal therapy and medications can also prove to be extremely beneficial.
To conclude, exams are just a small part of life. They are, no doubt, significant enough to be given a lot of importance. However, your mental health should always be a priority.
By creating a healthy balance between work and rest and focusing on not only your physical but mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of fitness as well, great heights of success can be achieved.