As our senior students experience semester examinations, some for the first time, we would like to remind all that this is a normal process within the education and further education sectors. Exams provide a good learning experience for students of our college to develop study, exam and other management strategies that will help them in later life, including in the workplace. Exams provide a safe environment whilst at school for our children to normalise the “butterflies” and understand that we all may feel a little anxious about tests, however there are ways we can help ourselves and each other through what can be, but doesn’t need to be, a stressful time.
Here are our top 5 tips for the lead up to your exams.
- Prepare. Use your study and in-class time to learn the topics and material. Preparation is key to helping reduce anxiety and increase confidence in the subject material and your knowledge and understanding of key points.
- Revise. Use the help of your friends as study partners, to test each other’s knowledge. One of the best ways to check if you understand something is to teach it to someone else. Give it a try! Perhaps use the library at lunchtime to get in some extra time to study whilst feeling more relaxed about it with your friends.
- Ask for Help if you need. Asking for help rather than getting upset and feeling like things are getting too hard is one of the best ways to combat anxiety. Start with your teachers and then family and friends. They are the people who are also invested in your future and want to see you succeed.
- Eat and drink adequately. Your brain and body need to be hydrated and energized to process complex information. Ensure your nutrition is giving it what it needs. Not only will you have more energy, you may lose those headaches and jitters too that can accompany low or peaked blood sugar levels, or a dehydrated state.
- Sleep. Getting adequate sleep is vital for you to feel rested and able to walk into your exams with confidence and the brain power you want to perform at your best level.
Here are our top 5 tips for during the exam.
- Breathe. Remember to breathe, slow and deep. It has been proven that 5-10 deep breaths can reduce your anxiety by relaxing your nervous system. You may find this works really well with your eyes closed.
- Make use of the reading time. Reading time allows you start thinking of responses. For some people, this is where their anxiety may increase if they feel nervous about time as a factor in completing the exam, or if they feel like they are not well prepared to answer the questions. Allow yourself to consider you will do your best and the results will provide good information about where your strengths are and the areas where you can focus more energy after the exams to improve your knowledge and understanding.
- Answer the questions being asked. This may seem like a logical statement; however you may be surprised to know that many students rush through exams and do not actually answer the question that is being asked. By taking your time and making sure you understand the question, you give yourself the best chance to answer appropriately.
- If you go blank, avoid panicking. Panic, another form of anxiety, often perpetuates our flight or fright symptoms, making us shake, have trouble thinking clearly and is a normal response to outside stimuli for survival. In an exam, we are not in danger like we would be if we were hunting our evening meal. Remind yourself that you have prepared and nothing bad is going to happen if you do not answer this particular question. Take a moment to center yourself, have a few deep slow breaths and then move on to the next question. You can come back to this question once you have settled and started to answer other questions again.
- Results are not always the goal. Results from your exams are information. Getting a certain score at year 7-10 is not going to decide your future. What those results will do is help your teachers and yourself to see where you understood the material really well, and where you need more help and work to gain better knowledge and learn more skills. Thinking about your results as a starting point from where you can improve may help you to learn the experience of examinations and the process of learning coping strategies for anxiety reduction, study methods and how to ask for help when you need it are all skills that will help you grow as a person and prepare you for life after school.
Make the most of this experience and understand that we are here to help you, and exams are just one way of many to gain information about how you are learning. Miss Curnow.