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Managing anxiety before exams – Part 2

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You’re relaxed during the revision period. Panic sets in the night before, or on the day of the exam, but you can cope once you’re in the exam room.

  • Learn in advance how to relax; then you will feel confident that if you panic, or your mind goes blank, you can regain control.

  • Try using humour to beat the negative thoughts (I’m definitely going to fail; I haven’t the slightest idea what this is all about). Watch a good movie, read a comic or magazine, or remember your favourite jokes.
  • Do your best to be well prepared.

  • However anxious you feel, try to avoid working too close to the exam, like the night before or in the morning before. Take a walk, have a bath, talk to someone, go for a swim. Do something relaxing!
  • Eat something, even if you feel sick. Bread, crackers or cereals are good tummy settlers.
  • Make sure you know where and when the exam is. Try not to arrive at the exam hall too early, or too late. Seeing and talking to other anxious people will only raise your anxiety. Arriving late may also increase your anxiety!
  • Have everything ready to take with you. Does your calculator need a fresh battery?
  • Have some light reading to browse through while you are waiting to go into the exam room. Leave textbooks and notes at home!
Panic during the exam.

  • You have just sat down in the exam hall and you feel your panic starting to develop.
  • Make yourself comfortable. Have you been to the toilet? Check that you are not too hot or too cold. Adjust your clothing. Take a few deep breaths and sighs to reduce tension. Sit with your eyes closed for a little while. Then and only then, turn over the exam paper.
  • Most people feel tense at this point. Whatever your state of preparation, your task now is to do your best.

  • Take your time to read through all the questions and instructions carefully. Do it at least twice, to make sure that you get a firm grasp of the questions.

  • Pick out the questions that relate well to your revision. Don’t rush anything. Taking adequate time at this point will pay off handsomely. If you can’t decide which questions to answer, pick out those you can answer and come back to the others later.
  • Plan your answers. This is really important! Five minutes spent on a plan and rough notes will help your thoughts to flow.
  • Do your best to ignore everyone else while you are at the planning state. Not easy, but it helps.
  • Do you want to answer the “difficult” or “easy” question first? Doing an easier one can boost your confidence and relax you. Tackling a more difficult one while you are still alert may be best for you. You choose what is best for you.
  • Manage your time. Keep an eye on the time, so that you have enough time for your final answer. If you don’t have enough time, make a skeleton answer in note form. At least you have put something down!
  • Look after yourself. Do you need a snack? Are you getting enough fresh air? Feeling cramped?
  • If your panic gets worse: stop, put down your pen, and relax. Breathe slowly; close your eyes for a few moments. If it helps, put your head on the desk. Shake your arms. Move your head slowly from side to side to relieve tension. Say something positive and encouraging to yourself. Imagine yourself somewhere else (where you feel happy and relaxed).
  • If you feel unwell, ask the invigilator if you may leave the room for a short while. Taking a few deep breaths of fresh air, or a drink of water may be just what you need to calm down.

The VALEO Experience wishes all students success in the upcoming exams. Remember do you best and trust the Lord to do the rest. You got this!!!

Dr Miller is Health Psychologist at theMilton Cato Memorial Hospital.

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