Don’t Panic! 10 Tips for Reducing Exam Stress

For anyone who has had to write a test, it is quite common to experience some anxiety.  However, for some individuals, the feeling can be so intense that it interferes with memory, concentration and creates physical symptoms of illness.

Here are 10 tips on how to prevent and reduce exam stress:

  1. Study for the exam.  Knowing your test material goes a long way in reducing or eliminating exam stress.  Cramming the night prior only places more pressure on you and limits your memory recall.  
  2. Keep it real.  Create a game plan on how you will approach an exam, and how you will manage challenges should they arise.  Having a plan in place will help you to focus more on passing and less on failing.  Set a realistic goal for the grade you want to achieve on your exam.
  3. Catch your z z z s.  Proper sleep is essential for managing stress and maximizing wellness; it allows the body to rest and restore which optimizes functioning of your brain and immune system.  Adults need 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye each night for good health.
  4. Eat nutritious food.  Good nutrition feeds the body and brain.  Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and limit your caffeine and sugar consumption, which can place stress on the immune system and increase overall anxiety.  Drink water daily to keep yourself hydrated.
  5. Practice mindfulness.  The key to effective stress management is being able to recognize your own personal stressors and stress signals so that you can take appropriate action.  Make an effort to identify the underlying sources of your anxiety.  This means cultivating self-awareness, self-discipline, and self-compassion.
  6. Arrive early.  Nothing spikes stress levels like the prospect of being late for an exam.  Head out early so you can simply relax.  Stay clear of other students who exhibit nervous tension, speak negatively, or who will distract you.  Anxiety is contagious.
  7. Do not panic.  If you begin to feel anxious or experience a mental block during the exam, practice slow, deep breathing or other stress reducing exercises like self-guided imagery or visualization to calm your mind and stay focused.
  8. Budget your test time.  Estimate how much time you have to answer each question and allocate your time according to how many points each question is worth.  Spend more time answering those that will score the highest number of points.
  9. Read each question carefully.  Answer the easiest questions first.  If you draw a blank on a question, do not dwell on it but skip to the next question.  Chances are you will come up with the answer as you work on other items.
  10. Make a brief outline.  On essay questions, take a few minutes to organize your thoughts, make a brief outline, and then start with a summary sentence.  Use the SNOW strategy:
  • Study the question
  • Organize the information
  • Note important points
  • Write directly to the point

Remember; perfection is not the goal – simply focus on doing your best!


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