Managing Exam Anxiety

Written by Gemma Edgar (Student Counsellor for English Language and Foundation Studies programs)

Exams are coming up and that usually means that students start to feel stressed, anxious and a little overwhelmed.

Feeling some degree of anxiety and stress is natural when it comes to exams. This type of anxiety can actually be beneficial. If you can harness that energy, it can help you perform better!

If you haven’t already, start studying now. It is so important that you start to manage your exam stress before the exam period. Think about what the next few weeks look like… What do you have coming up? This may include social events, work commitments and continuing to attend class. Where can you allocate time to ensure that you have time to study and revise for your exams? It is best to make a study schedule now, to make sure you are not cramming in the couple of days leading up to exams. A little bit each day NOW, leading up to your exams, will mean you are not stressing and cramming in the couple of days before.

When you are stressed you may feel irritable, have trouble sleeping or you may lash out at the people around you. It might be helpful to tell family or friends that you are currently doing exams so they understand you may experience some stress or anxiety. It is also important to ground yourself and to find opportunities to relax each day.

Studying and cramming 24/7 is not going to help in this situation. A good strategy is to study for a period of time, usually 45 minutes to an hour, with a plan of what you want to cover in that time. Then take a short break to unwind and relax and come back to study later. The aim is to follow a study plan, and when that has been achieved you reward yourself and then come back to it at a later time with a fresh perspective.

Some suggestions for from other students include going to the gym, taking a walk, grabbing a coffee with a friend, or simply turn on some music.

Feeling overwhelmed at this time of year is completely understandable. Along with finding time to relax during the day, is also ensuring you are able to wind down at night and get a good night sleep. This doesn’t mean you have to go to bed at 7pm every night, but simple things like not watching Netflix until 3am will help. You may also want to consider not using your phone for the 1 hr before bed – Facebook can be checked tomorrow!

The night before your exam, you will have all of your revision notes done, and you will not be cramming, right?? If you follow these strategies, you will do great! The night before, look over your notes before dinner and then enjoy something nice and healthy for dinner, try and avoid alcohol.

It is important to acknowledge and accept the uncomfortable thoughts feelings you may have leading up to and during the exam. If you ignore them, they can become worse. Remember, these feelings will pass. Acknowledge the sensation and then focus your attention on your breathing, or your feet on the floor and say to yourself, “Its ok. I can do this”, then return to undergoing the exam. For more information about how to remain calm during your exam, check out the Exam Anxiety Tip Sheet.

Good luck!

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