Thousands of students all over the world are facing the reality of exams looming over them. Yes, exams are a scary and a stressful thing to go through because we are assessed; it feels almost like being judged. To an extent, they also determine our future, or at least, the direction our future will go in, but does it mean sweat has to stream down our backs, our stomachs turn up-side-down, and our limbs hang limply about when we take them?
I’ve passed a fair share of exams and I can tell you with complete confidence that you can eliminate, or substantially reduce, the amount of stress that accompanies taking tests. Stress is no component of success. It can only hinder, not help.
Over the years, I’ve developed a healthy five step system of diminishing the amount of exam stress you experience. Here is what has worked for me. I hope it will work for you too.
1) Smart Study
It’s common to get down to work just before exams. Some people believe that it’s how you get a grasp of what you really need to know , and studying prior to exams is a waste of time because you will have forgot half of the material before the test. Well, sadly the reverse is true. There are two reasons for that.
Firstly, if you study a long time before exams, you get a general understanding of your material, so even if you forget the details, the concepts are clear to you, and probably already in you long-term memory, so you can quickly revise for the particulars. Studying right before sitting an exam leaves you no chances of remembering both the concepts and the details. Things will get lost. Secondly, studying plenty in advance gives you a certain confidence about what you already know, so you won’t be as stressed when you go in as you would be if you just had a glance at the books the night before.
2) The Holy 24 Hours
The day and night before an important exam should be the holy 24 hours. If you manage to put the pen and paper down 24 hours before the start of the session, you give your brain a necessary break in which it can store all the knowledge it had got in your long-term memory. You can listen to music on that day, go for a walk, go for a run, but don’t study. Twenty-four hours won’t change much and it will keep your mind in working mode, so you will get more nervous.
I know this sounds like a cliché that you’ve heard from everyone including grannies and doctors, but it works. Sleep is a scientifically proven way of re-energizing the organism, letting the brain rest to actually work more efficiently in any situation. And, getting enough sleep makes your body relaxed, so stress does not affect it as severely as it would if you were tired.
4) Realize that exams are here for you, not you for exams
At the end of the day, exams are supposed to show you where you stand with your learning. Once you’ve realized this fact, you will stop getting so nervous about them. The people who check them do not try to catch you out. If you approach both exams and examiners as being here for you, they no longer seem that frightening, do they?
Probably the most important thing to know is that important as exams are, they are not everything. You’ve tried very hard, but if it so happens, that you feel unwell on the day, or you get some things mixed up, or a white blank clouds your mind, where you are is in a sort of limbo with no questions and no answers, know that that’s not the end of the world. Some exams can be re-taken, for some it’s the sum of all assessments and not just one exam that counts… and most importantly, do not take it as a personal failure. It’s just an exam. Its result can change your plans, but it shouldn’t change who you are.
Do you have any other tips that work well for managing stress?
Share them with everyone else and comment below