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How to stop your exam nerves


You thought school was over but here you are again. Maybe it’s university,  work training, a new qualification to move you up the career ladder [3 Reasons you need to set career goals today] or just a passion you’ve discovered recently that you wanted to learn more about, but now it’s time to assess what you really know.

If your heart is doing backflips at the thought of messing up, don’t panic. There are ways you can prepare your mindset for an exam that you’d be wise to follow. Here’s how to avoid exam nerves…

Know your rubric

You save yourself a lot of panic if you’re fully clear on the structure of the exam. Think about the rubric as a whole and do not focus on the parts that scare you, such as volume of content you need to cover or the time-frame you have to finish. In order to fully know your rubric, do test papers beforehand to get a measure of how quickly you write and practice techniques to easily put in all the requirements your answer needs, especially if they’re essay based questions. You’ll then have a good idea of how to approach the exam and give the examiner what they want. Practice makes perfect. Try asking the examiner or a tutor how much you are expected to write for each one.

Work smart, not hard

Try to do some detective work into your exam. If you have to write two essays on a certain number of texts for example, only revise those texts and practice possible exam answers based on comparisons you can make. Look up past papers to see what areas have been covered and see if you can see patterns in how the questions are set. The chances are the next paper will include topics that weren’t in the previous one, so work hard on revising those. If you cover a good branch of topics in detail and master them, you can guarantee a good mark regardless. Remember that if you do a science, use allowed apparatus to its full advantage, even for the simplest sums.

Be realistic on what you can do

Exams are supposed to test what you can do under pressure. Your answers can’t be as perfect as pre-planned essays which you have months of time to research, write and refer to all materials you have studied whenever you like. Remember that the examiner is definitely not looking for that. Work hardest on the quality of your writing so that what you can recall is communicated strongly. Showing good composure in your work is impressive under time constraints and will be rewarded.

Don’t talk to others about it (before AND after)

It’s a sure-fire way to convince yourself you’re inadequate when you’re not. You’re taking this exam for a good reason, not because the examiner thought it would be fun to embarrass you. Concentrate on your achievements as they are the only ones that matter. Other people are probably thinking the same as you, so sticking to light hearted topics of conversation will keep you calmer.

Eat and drink well

Your nerves might be telling your body that your stomach is out of action for digesting anything, but your brain won’t think that running on empty in the middle of an exam. The mental fatigue you can cause means you should have a good meal and water beside you at all times to keep your energy levels up. Trying to do an exam otherwise can lead to poor performance even if you try your hardest.

Remember that panicking is the worst thing you can do in an exam. You are more likely to forget information than you are in a calm mindset. Take deep breaths and be proactive. You can’t stop exams so do just do the best you can. Even if things don’t go to plan, retakes are more than possible.

If you need some support with stress and exam nerves then visit our Video Moods section for some tips on the run. However, if you think that your anxiety [5 key triggers of anxiety] is a little more serious, contact your GP for advice and potential referrals. Either way, with the right help, there is no exam that you can’t pass.


Photo Credit: Copyright: serezniy / 123RF Stock Photo

Tags:nervous, worried


This article was contributed by Pink Moods.

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