Anyone who has ever prepared for an exam in their lifetime is familiar with that twisty feeling in the pit of their stomach as the big day approaches, or the urge to throw up right before the exam. In addition to stomach aches, exam stress can also cause insomnia, fevers, headaches, nightmares, loss of appetite, and even depression.
Furthermore, exam stress can lead to people blanking out during the test itself and outright completely forgetting the material that they’ve studied previously. The bottom line is, exam stress can be a real pain, and it can also severely affect your performance if it’s not managed effectively.
Finding ways to better manage your anxiety, though, can lead to improved performance and better grades. Today we’ve rounded up a few tips for anxious students to help them get a hold of their nerves and manage their exam stress effectively – without constantly having to fear impending doom!
Take Breaks (And Don’t Overdo It!)
The last few days before the exam are the time frame during which you should revise the material you have previously learned, practice recalling it from your memory, and write it down. However, this doesn’t mean that you’re going to revise the entire syllabus in one go.
These days call for plenty of rest and rejuvenation so that you can feel calm and confident before the exam. Be sure to time your revisions in a way where you are able to cover about one-third of your syllabus in one day, and pick out the most important questions.
These questions that you single out will be the only ones that you should revise the day right before the exam. Take at least an hour of rest in between each revision session, too, or have three revision sessions that last for about two hours each, split throughout the day.
Practice Active Recall Techniques
A major source of exam stress is the fear of forgetting what you’ve just learned. Your brain’s feeling anxious that it’s not going to be able to reproduce a single thing that it’s learned so far, so convincing it that it won’t blank out on you is a good way to calm it down.
Active recall is a great technique to flex your memory muscles so you can memorize and recall the things you’ve studied. While revising for the upcoming exam, don’t just read through the textbook. Bring out a notebook and solve some practice papers, or write down your own questions and answer them from your memory.
Eat Smaller, Snack-Style Meals
You need to eat to get enough energy and nutrients so as to not pass out even before you take the exam. The twisty feeling that we talked about earlier, though, can often reduce your appetite or even increase your urge to get sick. Large meals can seem impossible to gulf down before an exam, though.
In order to try to get some food into your system, you should instead opt for smaller meals that don’t look revolting. Try going for six small meals a day rather than three larger ones. Be sure to get a balanced diet, however, and eat plenty of carbs to give you energy for the upcoming day.
Listen to Guided Meditations or Music
Sleeping well the night before the exam is an important, but often overlooked, step. Not only do you need to feel energized to do well on your test, but a good night’s sleep also strengthens your memory and allows you to feel more relaxed, alleviating all signs of stress.
Sadly though, most people suffering from exam stress complain about insomnia. A great way to overcome it is by calming yourself down through guided meditations or relaxing music to help you feel more drowsy easily. You could also try other sleeping techniques, too, like taking shorter power naps throughout the day.
Consider Professional Help
If exam stress has been plaguing you for a long time and none of these methods have managed to help, then this might be a sign of underlying trauma that you need to heal from in order to feel better. Don’t be afraid to seek a professional’s help, and feel free to join trauma counseling sessions.
Your therapist can help you overcome your fear so that you can even start to look forward to exams, without that crushing anxiety. Of course, conquering your stress response to tests isn’t going to happen overnight. But with a little bit of awareness – and by practicing these five tips – your next exam just might be a breeze!