Article appeared in Latest 7
“I just say the word exam and your heart rate will increase.” Those were the words spoken to me by a college psychology teacher when I was investigating prospective courses. He was spot on. With GCSEs looming around the corner there was a lot riding on the results – getting into my first choice college to study at A-Level for one.
Recognising the signs of stress and coping with exam worry is different for each of us. There are times when stress can work to our advantage as we feel spurred on to rise to the challenge and compete at our best. Other times, it can be too much. We’ve all had that moment when the mind draws a blank – we’ve seen it hundreds of times on a quiz show; the answer is obvious to the viewer/listener but when you are actually sat there, stress takes over. The same thing can happen in the exam room, which is why it is so important to recognise signs of stress and deal with them accordingly.
Whether you’re young or old, studying to get into college, university, or for a new career, examinations come at all points in our lives. They are there to test us, hence the name, but the real test may be our coping methods…
If you’re feeling bogged down with revision, stress can kick in. We can experience headaches, anxiety, poor appetite, difficulty sleeping, dizziness, blurred vision, and the aforementioned forgetfulness. To deal with your workload, plan a timetable for revision and stick to it. Study in short 15–30 minute periods, and never more than an hour at a time. Leave some free time in your day to do some exercise; yoga and meditation are great for reducing stress and anxiety.
Physical activity releases endorphins, helping you to feel less stressed. Keep a healthy balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables (sluggish body – sluggish brain!), and don’t skip breakfast the day of the exam, no matter how nauseous you are feeling!
Sit some timed, practice exam papers to grow accustomed to the exam setting and type of responses required. Try not to compare yourself to your friends and don’t agonise over the answers after the exam has been sat. You did your best and that’s all you can do. Once it’s done, it’s done, so don’t stress about it later on.
However, sometimes nothing is more intense than before sitting an exam. Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and hypnotherapy may help those who are really affected with exam nerves: “Exam stress was the reason I became a hypnotherapist,” says Jonathan Conway*. “After visiting a hypnotherapist and finding it helped my performance in exams I decided to train myself.
“Exams can be a very stressful and difficult time for students,” Jonathan continues. “However, the way we think about them can help to change the outcome. It is necessary to be in a resourceful state to learn well, for example to feel calm, relaxed and confident. Trust that you will recall all the information that is needed. Once you have established this resourceful state it can be useful to learn an NLP anchoring technique so the state is available when required*.
“An anchor acts as a bridge between the resources and the person’s unconscious mind, making it easier to stay calm during the exam period.”
Visualisation of success is also important and this could be helped by a visit to a qualified hypnotherapist or NLP coach. Self-hypnosis techniques can also help*. Planned revision, looking after your mind and body, and recognising the signs of stress will help set you on the path to success.
Coping with Exams
- Remember that you are more than just your exams
- It is not necessary to remember everything
- Think of another situation you are good at in your life and use the same skills that help you to be good at that thing