Having a panic attack
Not finding any questions you can answer
Not having enough to write
Are designed purposely to test your performance under stress
Are a highly artificial situation – absence of normal resources: books, telephone, other people, food, drink, distractions
Are physically and mentally demanding – two to three hours in one seat without moving around, talking, etc
Do not test intelligence or overall academic abilities
Is entirely normal in the circumstances
Can be managed in relatively straightforward ways
Is caught from other people
Is probably necessary for an optimum performance
When the perceived demands greatly exceed your perceived resources, then stress is more likely to feel unmanageable and disabling.
Ways of making stress manageable
They are not highly complex and are easy to learn but require patience and practice.
Do remember it’s impossible to feel anxious and relaxed at the same time, so relaxation techniques will help reduce anxiety
Do approach the exams a bit like running a marathon and prepare yourself mentally and physically
Do approach your exams positively – focus on what you understand, what you have prepared, what you can do
Don’t make big changes to your lifestyle just before a stressful event such as the exam period e.g. giving up smoking, drinking too much coffee, drastically changing your diet. Change (including beneficial change) can add to stress and familiar patterns may be part of your immediate support system. This is not a time to throw away your existing support system. Such changes are best made gradually AFTER the exams while readying for next time. However, some small changes may be helpful immediately e.g. cutting down on coffee, eating more fresh foods (N/B: Carbohydrates are more likely to make you sleepy and proteins, less likely. Sugar will boost your energy quickly but is likely to lead to a sudden energy drop later)
Don’t approach your exams with a negative attitude – e.g. by telling yourself you always fail, never do well, always go blank, etc
Don’t dissect the exam with other people afterwards – take yourself off and give yourself a treat instead. Post mortems will only make you more anxious and uncertain
Become aware of your breathing and learn how to slow your breath down more by breathing deeply
Take regular, short breaks while revising
Exercise helps, including swimming, running, walking, yoga, dancing
Treat yourself occasionally to something special
Use lavender oil e.g. in your bath, in an oil burner, on your pillow, on a tissue
Imagine yourself in a dream land, a tropical island, a mountain top, a beautiful room and imagine it in as much detail as you can, using all your senses
Listen to relaxation tapes
First aid if panic strikes
Focusing on your breath
Taking time out
If you go blank, write down anything you can think of or remember even if it seems gibberish – try using spider diagrams, brainstorming or images.
Not finding any questions to answer? Read through the questions again and underline words, which relate to the material you already know. Read through the questions that seem most relevant, slowly and think carefully how you could answer them.
Not having enough to write? Taking too long to answer a question and writing too much is very common. Well, concise answers that really answer the question are likely to be more effective than writing pages and missing the question itself all together.