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Tips for Managing Exam Anxiety

Updated: Aug 24, 2021

According to a recent ReachOut survey, exam stress in adolescents had increased from 51.2% in 2017 to 65.1% in 2018. Be assured, it is completely natural to feel a little bit anxious before your exam! Sweaty palms, inability to concentrate and a jittery feeling in the stomach is something we all have come across from time to time. The purpose of an exam is not only a way for teachers to see how much children know but also an avenue for observing how much effort they are willing to put in to improve. Here are a few tips to help you manage your exam anxiety so you can perform to your full potential on the day of your exam!

Tip #1: Build your confidence

The reason why we get apprehensive before the exam is because we are afraid of failure and lack confidence in our own abilities. We often say things to put ourselves down during stressful times. For example, “I can’t do this” or “I’m probably going to fail anyway”. This is not a practical approach, and you’re demotivating yourself. Instead, try to be positive and reassure yourself by replacing these phrases with “I’ve got this” and “All I need to do is give my best shot”. You will automatically feel alleviated and relieved because you are encouraging yourself to work harder.

Tip #2: Ensure a healthy diet and adequate sleep!

No matter how busy it gets, to perform well in exams, you need to take good care of yourself! Ensure you get enough sleep during your exam period. Adolescents must receive 8-10 hours of proper sleep to be able to concentrate during this critical period.

You also might have urges to consume fizzy drinks, chocolates and lollies but try and stick to nutritious foods. Jamie Oliver suggests different foods that help us concentrate and stay alert. This includes wholemeal bread, oats, yoghurt, nuts and green leafy vegetables. Also, don’t forget to stay hydrated! Our bodies need water for both cognitive and physical functions. Drink plenty of water to maintain focus and attentiveness during study and exams.

Tip #3: Be Organised

This one is definitely something you hear repeatedly, but cramming everything in, right before the exam will only add extra stress. Your brain will probably not be able to handle the overload of information if you’re cramming everything in the last minute. By giving yourself plenty of time and studying well in advance, you will have the opportunity to recite notes many times before the exam. This will ensure you are more relaxed and confident on the actual day of the exam.

The key is to make everything more manageable for yourself. Break down topics and content into smaller pieces, so it's easier for you to revise. Try to prioritise. When you have so many subjects to study together, you might not know where to start. Based on your strengths, weaknesses and the format of your exam timetable, create a schedule which works for you. For some students, creating a to-do list or having a weekly study schedule ensures they are more productive with achieving their goals.

Tip #4: Minimise distractions

This article by SBS suggests that on average teenagers spend 1200 hours per year on social media. You may think it sounds like nagging, but gaming platforms and social media apps such as Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok can quickly become a trap that get you distracted from studying. A quick ‘scroll through your feed’ ends up taking way longer than intended, and before you realise, precious study time will be wasted. In order to avoid the guilt that you ‘didn’t study enough’ try to increase your productivity by placing your devices aside for certain periods of time. After a long period of study, you can reward yourself with screen time. This will keep you motivated, and you will feel a sense of achievement after you have completed your desired study target.

Tip #5 Ask for help & build a support network

Some children feel embarrassed to seek help, but there is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, by seeking extra help, you can decrease your exam-related stress and be supported by the people around you! Parents and family members are always available to support you. Studying with your peers and friends can be motivating too. You peers could also be facing the same nerves as you, so in turn, can provide confidence and reassurance to you.

If you are finding the exam content too difficult or believe you have fallen behind, consider tutoring. A tutor can help reduce the stress associated with exams by breaking down all the content for you and coaching you in a way that things will be much easier for you to understand.