A Therapist’s Guide To Dealing With Exam Stress

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Have you ever felt so stressed and anxious about an upcoming exam? You know you have spent time studying and pouring your heart to a specific course, but that dreadful feeling about this particular exam just won’t go away. Familiar, isn’t it?

“The worst thing for stress is trying to take control over uncontrollable things. Because when you inevitably fail — since it’s beyond your control — you only get more stressed out and feel helpless,” wrote Margarita Tartakovsky, MS.

Here are some tips from therapists that talk about how you can deal with exam stress to achieve the best possible outcome.

While your time and effort are a natural part of studying and answering exams, too much stress can damage your ability to do well. These methods will help you how to stay in control and how to obtain grace under pressure.

Reviewing Techniques

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For some students, exams are sometimes just like a breeze, and they can review and revise with their eyes closed. But for others, it is just a difficult thing to do. Here are some handy tips you can follow for reviewing before an exam.

  1. Make a timetable. It will help you organize the subjects and topics you would need to study. Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, PhD, LPCS, advised, “Plan out a time each day to study, even if you don’t have an assignment due. By being one step ahead, you’ll be better prepared and feel more in control.
  2. Try to read and memorize entirely. Memorizing gets way smoother, especially when you fully understand the context of what you are reading.
  3. Create summary notes. Rewrite and reorganize them to a shorter version. You might think it’s a waste of time, but rewriting notes can be an effective way to clarify what we understand. Also, try listing keywords for each topic that would make you remember its meaning or context. Post-it notes usually help a lot.
  4. Review with a friend or join a group study. It does not work for everyone, but for some, this method helps them exchange ideas and understand topics more.
  5. Similar to the third tip, you can ask your friend to do a Q&A with you. This approach will help you recall information and answer questions just like an exam, but verbally.
  6. Make flashcards. Write specific topics per card and write a short definition that would be easy for you to memorize or recall. Flashcards are handy and time-efficient because you can bring it with you even when you are just walking, on a bus, or just killing time.
  7. If you are uncertain about a particular topic or subject, you may go directly to your professor for further explanation. At the same time, if money and time allow, you may hire a tutor to help you prepare for an exam.

Exam Preparation

  1. Get a good night sleep. Your brain will need to rest to be able to absorb and digest all the information you have put to it.
  2. Prepare all the things you would need the next day. Sharpen the pencils, and make sure your pen has enough ink. Arrange any other specific things you would need for a particular subject like calculator, compass, ruler, etc.
  3. Set the alarm clock because the last thing you would want to happen is to be late on your examination day. In addition to that, eat a hearty breakfast. A full stomach helps you concentrate.
  4. Before the exam, try putting things in perspective. Remember that it won’t entirely decide for your future and it will serve as your stepping stone.
  5. To calm your nerves, treat the exam day just like any other typical school day. Don’t feed on the thought that this day is a different one and try to go with your routine.
  6. Anticipate the end of the day when you will finally finish your exams. The thought that you won’t have to do any reviewing anymore will lighten your mood and calm your nerves.
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Managing Stress Levels And Mindful Breathing Exercises

  1. If you are feeling stressed and anxious, don’t take it out on yourself. What you are feeling is normal. Give yourself what you would give to your friends – support, understanding, and love.
  2. Try to maintain a mindful way of breathing. “Mindfulness can be of great aid in promoting self-compassion because rather than teaching us to ignore painful or worrisome thoughts and feelings, it encourages us to be mindfully aware of them – this enables us to be more self-compassionate with ourselves. At the same time, we learn to avoid being swept away by these emotions, so we can find positive outlets for them,” wrote Barbara Markway, PhD. When we get tensed or stressed, we tend to breathe in a quick and shallow way. Sit comfortably and bring attention to the way you breathe. Inhale and exhale slowly. If you focus on it, you would be able to have a sense of awareness of yourself and your surroundings.
  3. With relaxed breathing, you would be able to feel the relaxation and calmness. It will help you focus more on how to answer and tackle the questions on your exam.

Remember, different reviewing techniques work differently for some people. It also depends on what subject is on the line. Try to develop your own set of method or approach that you think would best suit you.