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How to deal with exam panic

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It is only natural to feel nervous in the lead up to exams because they are what you have been working towards all semester and the last thing you want to do is to sit down in your exam and begin to panic. So we have put together a list of our top 10 strategies for overcoming panic during exams to help you get through!

A female student reading a book
  1. Practice positive self-talk. When you are feeling stressed it is easy to have your head flooded with negative thoughts, which certainly don’t help during an exam. Instead try to make a conscious effort to think positively about your abilities and readiness for the exam. Even a simple “I can do it!” can make a big difference.
  2. Have an exam ritual. Just like a tennis player bounces the ball before they go to serve, creating a little ritual before you start your exams will give you something focus your mind and keep you calm. This ritual could be taking your watch off and putting it in the top right corner of your desk, placing your pens where you can easily get them, straightening the exam paper on your desk and placing your water bottle on the floor.
  3. Make yourself comfortable. Wear layers of comfortable clothing to the exam so you can adjust them easily if you become too hot or cold; sit with your back against the back of your chair instead of hunched over the desk; and take a few deep breaths to try and ease any tension. These little tricks will allow you to focus on the exam rather than worry about any physical discomfort.
  4. Take time to read through all the instructions and questions carefully. Make sure you utilise all of the reading time to thoroughly go through the instructions and questions to ensure you have a firm grasp of what is being asked of you.
  5. Don’t rush anything. If you can’t decide which questions you want to answer first, start with those that relate most to the revision you have done so you can get that knowledge down onto paper and clear your mind for the questions you need to tackle with a bit more time later on.
  6. Plan your answers. For answers that require a bit more structure, spend a couple of minutes planning out what you want to say as this will help your thoughts to flow out on to the paper.
  7. Manage your time. Don’t spend too much time on any one question. If a question is tricky or you are becoming bogged down in writing your answer, stop and move on. You can revisit the question at the end when your mind has had time to think over it for a while longer.
  8. Avoid perfectionism. While it is good to check spelling and punctuation, don’t get too caught up in it, no one is expecting perfection.
  9. Don’t fixate on what others are doing. It can be hard when you are surrounded by people to focus only on the exam in front of you. So just remember that there is no prize for finishing early and it doesn’t matter if you are the last one to finish an exam. Perhaps you are just the most thorough and someone who has finished early may not have known enough to finish the exam completely.
  10. Stop, put your pen down and relax. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, stop, put your pen down and relax. Breathe slowly, close your eyes for a few minutes, shake your arms, move your head slowly from side to side to release any tension.

Good luck!