Even the most seasoned students can experience exam nerves. This is a perfectly natural phenomenon, and usually a good sign that the adrenaline is flowing, and you are getting ready to face the challenge of the exam room.
Apprehension and anticipation can be uncomfortable, and you may experience this in advance of the exam and on the day itself.
There are various ways to deal with this although it is important to begin by accepting that the feelings of nervousness may not subside totally, at least until after the exam has finished.
It helps to look at this whole issue constructively and “tap in” to your feelings. Usually, raised anxiety levels create focus and awareness of a situation. Far from being destructive, this can aid your performance in the exam room and give you added impetus and stamina.
Having a revision timetable will certainly help control nerves up until the day of the exam because it will make you feel in control of your work. If you are feeling nervous because you know there are gaps in your knowledge you can build extra sessions into your revision timetable to address this.
To avoid the build-up of stress over the revision period, give yourself time to relax each day. Exercise is a good way of relieving stress and sleeping and eating well are more important than ever.
We have already identified the importance of finding out what is expected of you in the exam. This means there will be no surprises and you can be confident in your preparations.
Evening before the exam
The evening before the exam is a good time to organise your mind and prepare yourself physically. It is not a good time to be staying up late or socialising but it is the time to arrange everything ready for the exam day so that you know you do not have to worry about finding equipment or your season ticket or putting petrol in the car.
Some people benefit from certain techniques such as visualising the exam going well, imagining a feeling of relaxation and confidence. Others prefer to imagine how they will feel at the end of the exam when the pressure is off and the opportunity to relax returns.
On the day of the exam, you may or may not wish to re-visit your revision notes. For some, there is no benefit or need to do whilst others like the reassurance of one last skim through.
Give yourself plenty of time to get to the exam venue and make sure you have with you any personal items you might need, like a bottle of water, chewing gum, handkerchiefs, inhalers if you use them and so on.
You may not feel like having anything to eat on exam day, even if you are not sitting your exam until the afternoon. This is a common experience and it is best to accept that this is a time for eating out of practicality rather than enjoyment.
So, find something plain to eat that will give you energy for the day and make sure you have plenty to drink, avoiding high caffeine drinks that might exacerbate feelings of nervousness.
With all this advice, you should be able to cope with your exam nerves and quickly get into the swing of answering the exam paper. We will move on in our next topic to look at how you can overcome exam room challenges.