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Overcoming Exam Anxiety

By: Stan Popovich

No matter how hard you’ve studied, you may still find yourself feeling anxious about an upcoming exam. While some amount of exam anxiety is normal for most students, exam anxiety can have long-term negative effects on some students’ daily lives.

Here are five tips on how to help exam anxiety.

  1. Know the signs and symptoms of exam anxiety. While anxiety is a natural psychological response to potential threats, it can take extreme forms for those with anxiety disorders. You may have exam anxiety if you experience the following symptoms before an exam:
  • Feelings of dread, worry, or fear
  • Headaches, stomach aches, nausea, and other physical symptoms of stress
  • Inability to focus or concentrate on coursework (especially “freezing” during an exam)
  • Feelings of hopelessness, self-doubt, depression, or anger

Note that it’s normal to feel these symptoms at many points throughout your life and during your studies. However, they could indicate an anxiety disorder if they continue to have a negative effect on your academic performance and daily life.

  1. Understand that exam anxiety is normal. According to sources compiled by Affordable Colleges Online, it’s estimated that 18 percent of college students experience moderately high exam anxiety, while a further 16 percent of college students experience high exam anxiety.

Further, anxiety has come to replace depression as the most common mental disorder among college students, with one in five surveyed college students reporting that they have experienced severe anxiety.

  1. Establish a consistent pre-test routine. A pre-test routine can help maintain consistency between exams and eliminate some of the uncertainty causing your anxiety. Try adopting some of the following routines before your next exam:
  • Get plenty of sleep. It’s widely known that a good night’s rest helps increase learning capacity and concentration.
  • Try relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and gentle stretching.
  • Eat and drink something before an exam. An empty stomach can worsen anxiety.
  • Give yourself positive words of affirmation. Assure yourself that everything will be okay, and that your value as a person isn’t tied to your exam performance. You can do it!
  1. Don’t ignore a learning disability. Learning disabilities such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or dyslexia can negatively affect your ability to study and concentrate, which can further worsen anxiety.

If you have a learning disability, seeking treatment should be the first step in tackling your anxiety.

  1. Take care of yourself physically and mentally. Whether you have a learning disability or an anxiety disorder (or both), there’s nothing more important than taking care of yourself. By taking care of yourself both physically and mentally, you can reap the benefits of a healthy body and mind.

One form of self-care is physical exercise, which can be an extremely effective way of improving your general wellbeing. To feel your very best, try performing light aerobic exercise (such as light jogging or swimming) on exam days.

Sources:

  1. https://www.affordablecollegesonline.org/college-resource-center/test-anxiety/
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/generalized-anxiety-disorder/expert-answers/test-anxiety/faq-20058195

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