Exam Guidance 2023.Joe’s Jotter: Practical Techniques to Help Those who get ‘Exam Anxious’

If the thoughts of sitting exams fill you with dread, the more aids you

have to draw on, the better chance you will settle and remain calm in

the exam hall. The following are five anti-anxiety techniques that will

help you maintain your zen on the day. Try them!!!

1. Visualise what you need to do: Visualisation is a technique often

used to reduce anxiety. In this context, a few days prior to the exam,

close your eyes and imagine yourself sitting in the exam hall. You need

to picture yourself going into the hall feeling calm and confident in your

ability. Imagine sitting down to read the paper and your mind going

into a highly focused state and completing the paper full of confidence

with many of the topics that you have prepared appearing on it. Imagine

putting your points across on your answer book in a clear manner and

being really content with your efforts made at the end. In general, you

are visualising yourself doing well on an exam paper you are concerned

about. You should reapply this technique then just before you actually

enter the exam hall.

This technique utilises and links with positive thinking. If you go into

a football game, for example, thinking you will at best draw with your

opponent, the majority of the time a draw will be the best result you

will achieve. In other words, you have almost convinced yourself that

you will not win this game. If you imagine you are going to do well in

anything, you have a much better chance of succeeding in it. I am a

firm believer in this type of positivity which ties in with visualisation.

Henry Ford once said:

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right”

2. Try Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP): Despite the complicated

looking title, NLP can be broken into some easy to complete steps. I

have tried this technique myself to reduce anxiety about something and

it brought me back to a place where I felt full of confidence, belief and

reduced my anxiety levels. To try this, close your eyes and take yourself

back to a specific situation in your life where you were extremely happy,

almost on top of the world. Every person will have their own unique

situation. It could be something major you achieved in life, something

big that you won or something amazing someone said to you to make

you feel great.

Think about the moment in detail, how good you felt during it, the surroundings

that day, the background, the smells, the feelings, and the

emotions that went with it. While doing this, take in big breaths, and

release them slowly. While keeping your eyes closed, press your thumb

against your index finger (the finger next to the thumb) retaining the

feelings and thoughts from your happy place. Practice doing this a few

times before exam day arrives. The next time you feel yourself becoming

anxious or if you are worried on the day of an exam, try it. It should

bring back those warm feelings of confidence and calmness to help you

deal out that winning hand that you know you have.

3. There’s an app for that: As you know all too well, there are apps for

everything now. Do a search for the words “calm”, “anxiety” or “stress”

on your app store and download two or three apps to see if they would

be helpful in calming you before an exam. You may even stumble across

other useful educational apps for your subjects, as there are loads of free

one’s available out there for foreign languages and subjects like Maths

and History.

4. Chat with your friends: A parent contacted me recently concerned

about their child locking themselves away from the world with the sole

focus of studying. Is this you? It is important that you keep in touch with

friends around exam time and talking through issues and problems based

around the exams is one of the best forms of therapy. If I am trying to sort

out a problem in my head, catching up with friends socially and explaining

what’s going on usually helps me simplify it. Almost immediately, I feel the

issues around the problem become clearer upon speaking to someone about

it. You know yourself that a fake reality can be created and grow in one’s

mind, so try and keep as much of it out in the open as you can, in order to

keep your anxiety levels balanced. Conversations in person are much more

beneficial than living in a sometimes false online world.

5. Train yourself to think ahead: Under stress, the brain releases a

chemical called cortisol which raises the heart rate and clouds rational and

logical thinking. We are all familiar with the “post-mortem”, looking back

and assessing a situation to see how we can do things better in the future.

An emerging idea is that of a “pre mortem”. The way this works is to write

down all the things that can go wrong and then you try to figure out what

you can do to try to prevent them happening or minimising the damage

from them. For exams, you need to think ahead to the potential pitfalls that

could occur on the day in order to be better mentally prepared. The reality of

any exam paper is there will be issues and surprises on it, in that it’s almost

impossible to predict it exactly. Good Luck. Joe.