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Managing the anxiety of exams – Part 1

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Exam season usually brings intense feelings of anxiety for many students, parents and even teachers. It is important to note that normal levels of stress can help you work, think faster and more effectively, and improve your performance. If you find your anxiety overwhelming, your performance could be badly affected. Becoming aware of what causes your anxiety will help to reduce the stress. Then you can manage it better and do yourself justice. Remember most of us may suffer from anxiety around exam time. It’s normal.

Anxiety reduction

The key to reducing anxiety is to make an early start with your revision.

Take enough time to do yourself justice. Remember revision is just that – it’s about seeing something again and refreshing your knowledge. It’s not about new work. If you have worked at a steady pace throughout the year, revision will be relatively straightforward. If you have less than six weeks available to you, be realistic about what you can do. For a start, you only need to know a limited amount, so consult with your teachers who will be able to identify core material. If you feel that stress is seriously going to affect your exams, or make your life a misery in the run-up to exams, do something about it now.

Plan your revision

o Set aside plenty of time for revision.

o Sift through your notes, and focus on essential material.

o Be active: restructure and condense your notes.

o Plan answer outlines.

o Rehearse questions you might expect in your exams. Get copies of previous exam papers.

o Seek help and guidance from teachers if you don’t understand something.

o Don’t sit reading for long periods! It quickly becomes boring and your concentration will start to wander.

Take proper breaks

o Studying 24/7 will wreck you long before the actual exam.

o Divide the day into three periods of 150 minutes each and revise for two of them. When you are not revising, get well away from your desk.

o Plan one day a week to be completely free of revision.

o Break up your day with other activities. Domestic chores are really useful!

o Keep up with some of your other activities.

o Get the support of your friends and your family

o Relax and keep a healthy lifestyle.

o Avoid any substances that promise limitless energy! There’s usually a downside, and revision time is not a good time for experiments.

o Exercise regularly! Find something you enjoy (swimming, jogging, walking or hiking, etc)

o Your brain needs energy and also rest. Eat little and often.

o Go for quality food, e.g. whole-wheat bread, pasta, nuts, fruit and lots of vegetables. Avoid sodas.

o Make sure you wind down after your revision for a couple of hours before hitting the pillow.

Dr Miller is Health Psychologist at theMilton Cato Memorial Hospital.

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