Whilst this is aimed more specifically at learners who really struggle with exam nerves on the day, the tips below are equally worthwhile for those of you who feel you have your emotions under control on the day. A calmer you is a clearer thinking, more rational you, and that’s what you want to achieve the best in your exam.
Put away the folders/notes
If you are getting anxious it might well be because you feel you aren’t prepared for the exam and don’t know the syllabus well enough. This is probably an irrational thought given the hours you have put in up until now. Having your notes in front of you immediately before the exam will only act as a trigger for your anxiety. You will inevitably find something in there 30 mins before your exam that you don’t remember. This will cause you to question your knowledge for the whole paper. Put your notes away well in advance of the exam and ideally don’t bring them to the exam centre.
Listen to some music
We all have some music that either gets us feeling positive or reminds us of a great memory where we were either really relaxed or very happy. The power of triggering those memories and positive thoughts with music is well documented. Therefore ahead of the exam why don’t you create a playlist with all these tracks on? That way on the journey to the exam on the bus or in the car you can listen and get your head in a great space. If you can, feel free to belt out a bit of a sing-along as it will also help to relieve any built-up tension (might be a bit awkward if you’re using public transport though!).
Get some fresh air and take in some big breaths
If you can, arrive early enough to have a walk near to the exam centre before you go in. Plan out if there’s anywhere nearby with some green space that you can take yourself to so that you can have a brisk walk, take some deep breaths and again help to remove any built-up nervous energy. The fresh air will be perfect for your brain and you can even maybe listen to your playlist on this walk too. Alternatively use it as an opportunity for a bit of mindfulness by really listening to the sounds you can hear around you and have some time being present in the moment. If the negative thoughts come back into your brain, then note that they arrive but let them pass through without stopping as you refocus on your surroundings instead.
Use positive affirmations
There’s a common phrase that people use which is “Whether you say you are going to fail, or you say you are going to pass, you are probably right”. Positive affirmations are a very simple and quick way to help improve your chances of performing at your best. Some examples would be:
- I’ve done my best to study for this exam and am well prepared
- I’ll use any nervous energy as a positive force
- I feel relaxed and confident when sitting exams
- I’ve passed many tests before and will pass this exam
You might read those statements and think they don’t apply to you. But that’s the point of positive affirmations, you saying them over and over again starts to change your subconscious voice that doubts you into one that supports you. They are great for exam day and useful as a tool during your revision phrase.
Use power poses
Some people really get strength and confidence from striking a commanding pose. Whether it’s having your arms up high in a star position or standing with your hands on your hips like a superhero. It might be worth doing these before you’re waiting outside of the exam room as your fellow students could well give you some funny looks. A quick trip to the toilet is a great place to know that you won’t be seen when getting your inner superhero ready.
Take a break during the exam
Many exams are time-pressured but sometimes asking to have a loo break in the middle of your exam acts as an excellent reset button for your emotional state. If you feel a bit overwhelmed in the exam then taking 5 minutes out of the room and maybe trying some deep breathing or power poses or positive affirmations as noted above can give you that pick me up to finish the rest of the exam strong.
So next time you have an exam coming up why don’t you plan to try and use some of the above tips. None of them should negatively impact your performance and if you find one that works for you then it will be a tool that you can keep on using throughout your career at any point when you have performance-related anxiety.
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