Coping with exam anxiety

Coping with exam anxiety

Examination stress is a perfectly natural response to what is a very important event, but you must keep things in perspective. Over-anxiety is unproductive - it makes for bad revision, and bad exam performance. So how can you keep stress under control? Cambridge International Examinations offers some practical advice.

Good stress, bad stress

Stress is not always a bad thing. It can keep you sharp, encourage you to study, and can help banish complacency. Don’t try to control stress completely, but channel the energy it gives you into positive revision and good preparation. Recognise when you’re feeling over-stressed and then step back.

Learn to slow down

When stress levels rise, close your eyes for a few moments whilst breathing slowly and deeply. Wait for your thoughts to calm, and then take stock of the situation and carry on. A few moments is often all it takes to get back your perspective. Examiners often say, when commenting on student performance, that students will often answer the question they want to see, not the question on the exam paper. This is often caused by stress - of rushing to read the paper, grabbing at questions, and not slowing down enough to read things properly.

Take control

Stress is often caused by the feeling that things are going out of control - so you need to reverse this. If you are really struggling when revising certain subjects then get extra help, as early as possible. In the exam, if you don’t understand a particular question, or can’t remember the answer, simply move on and come back to that question later, when you might find that your understanding has improved.

"Set realistic goals
Don’t raise your stress levels further by setting yourself unrealistic targets, especially when you revise. Get to know your abilities, and your limitations, and aim to do the best you can. If you know that you revise best in short bursts, then don’t set yourself hours of continuous study every night.

Healthy diet

Diet can affect mood and energy levels, but it can affect stress levels as well. Many students consider caffeine - whether from tea, coffee, cola or even chocolate - essential to their revision routine. But too much can make you jumpy and nervous, and hamper concentration, exactly the opposite of what you want. Instead use sleep, exercise and fresh air to stimulate a tired brain.

All work, no play

Keep stress at bay, and keep things in perspective, by giving yourself some time to let of steam. Make sure you have at least one free evening a week, and use the time to do something completely different - play sport, visit the cinema, go out with friends. Your brain needs time to deal with all the information it has been processing, and you need time to relax and wind down.

Things you can do and can’t

Stress often comes from a fear of failure, and dealing with possible failure is all part of setting realistic goals. In other words, don’t over-reach or set yourself up to fail. Know what you can do, and make sure can do this to the best of your ability on the day of the exam. If you are sitting more than one exam don’t let your performance in one session affect your performance in the next. It’s easy to think you did badly, when in fact you did as well as you could. If you revised effectively then you should feel confident in your ability.

Role of parents

It is natural for parents to have high expectations of their children. However, keeping this in perspective can go a long way in mitigating unnecessary exam related stress. In this respect it is important to have a reassuring presence and an openness that tells children that their relationship with their parents will be fundamentally unaffected by their exam performance.

Encouragement and proper guidance to support children will see them excel more often than not! Parents must also take the lead in creating the right environment at home to help children concentrate on their studies. It is for parents to build camaraderie with their children, be a guide and a source of confidence to help them beat the exam blues.

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