Dealing with Exam Stress: 10 Tips on How to Stay Cool Under Pressure
Do the words ‘exam time’ put you in a cold sweat? As you approach your assessment week, are you experiencing symptoms like irritability, depression or a sick feeling in your stomach? You’re not alone. Worryingly, an increasing number of students in Australia are reporting high levels of anxiety associated with exams. That’s not okay. Exams are a part of every kind of education, and they’re not likely to go away anytime soon. You’ve just got to do them, but they don’t have to send you into a panic. With a few good strategies, you can survive exam time with your mental health intact. At MIT, we want our students to be happy. Remember, if you’re having issues, don’t be afraid to approach staff with your problems.
- Learn to recognise your stress
Exam stress symptoms can include confusion and indecisiveness, stomach upsets, ‘blank-outs’ in the exam and a whole host of nasty things. Have a look at this full list from Kids Helpline, and see if you can identify any of them within yourself. You can’t treat stress until you know you’ve got it.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
When you’re stressed out, you can feel alone. Remember, no one around you wants you to be having a bad time. Don’t be afraid to reach out to family and friends, student support staff or a helpline. At MIT we’ve got a team of staff on hand who care about your well being so please contact us for a chat whenever you need one.
- Keep it in perspective
Remember, your future employer is never going to ask you what marks you got in that test. Your grades only matter as much as you decide they matter. They’re not an assessment of your value as a human being and five years from now you’ll have forgotten you took this exam altogether. You have plenty of other skills that will determine your success in life, and an exam can not measure these.
- Don’t compare yourself to others
Everyone has a friend who always seems to be getting incredible marks, effortlessly. The thing is, you never know what they’re going through behind the scenes. There’s no point in comparing yourself because everyone has personal strengths and weaknesses. Try and avoid discussing marks altogether but if you do, remember to ask your high-achieving mates what their study habits are. Reframe it as an exercise in learning, and you won’t get so emotional about the results.
- Eat well, exercise and get a good night sleep
This point is pretty self-explanatory, but keep it in mind especially the day before the exam. Turning up to your exam tired is a sure way to stress yourself out.
- Remember to breathe
Hyperventilation can trigger panic attacks. If you find yourself in an exam feeling anxiety and experiencing quick, shallow breaths, take a moment to pause and consciously slow your breathing. Count slowly to five on each inhale and exhale until your breathing is back to normal.
- Approach your paper strategically
Scan through the exam at the beginning and write notes on anything that comes to mind before you start on full responses. You’ll get more critical information in this way, and you’ll feel more confident about your answers. If the exam is in an essay form, you can begin by drafting an essay structure and outlining some key points.
- Don’t let someone’s nose whistle distract you
When you’re trying to focus on an exam the smallest of noises can drive you wild with distraction if you let it. Practice breathing, and focus your attention on the page in front of you. Don’t look around, no matter what you hear.
- Plan out your exam morning and look up the building
This point may sound obvious, but you would be surprised how many students show up to exams late and stressed out because they couldn’t find their exam room. Look it up the night before, and double check with a friend if you’re not sure.
Of course, the other 9 points here are made with the assumption that you’ve been preparing for the exam for a month or so. Showing up to an exam without preparation is something people have nightmares about. Have a look at these helpful hints on the best way to manage your exam preparation, in the lead-up to exam time.
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