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How to handle your exam anxiety

Palpitations, trembling hands and sweats – at many universities, these symptoms can be observed on a regular basis by a whole host of students. The exam time is the time of exam anxiety, which is no longer a rare phenomenon. According to some research and surveys, about 40 percent of students describe themselves as feeling heavily burdened by exam anxiety.

Many students are mistaken. It is an expression of weaker or a generally anxious personality. In the vast majority of cases, however, anxiety refers exclusively to a specific situation – that of the exam. You have probably already suffered from exam nerves. To be effective against them, it is important to know what test anxiety is.

The fear of evaluating their own performance

It is ultimately a fear that in most cases has no disease value. Fear refers to a particular social situation. The exam situation is predestined to trigger anxiety, as the performance of the examinees is assessed. Such a social situation is fundamentally uncomfortable for most people. Here several factors play a major role.

The feeling of being delivered

You probably feel like you’re almost passed out to the examiner. Persons who suffer from test anxiety take the examiner as a quasi-omnipotent figure, who can arbitrarily and only judge at their discretion about the candidate. This usually does not correspond to the truth. A first step away from exam anxiety may be to clarify one’s own options for action. By learning enough and gaining knowledge, you gain the ability to act that you can use in the exam – you are not at the mercy of anyone if you have sufficient knowledge. You can acquire this. Presumably this does too – people with test anxiety are usually quite diligent. Make it clear that the knowledge gives you the ability to act and thus “power”. You do not depend on your examiner.

The test anxiety to fail

This fear is far harder to defeat. Even highly intelligent people, who have a very broad knowledge and should pass an exam from an objective point of view without problems and with flying colors, sometimes suffer from the fear of failure. Again, there are two factors to consider. On the one hand, there can be a fear of failure in the eyes of other people. On the other hand, you may feel that you are not fulfilling your own expectations. In almost every case, both components are involved in the fear of failure. Do not help rational considerations to defeat the fear of failure and test, may need to seek professional help.

Bad experiences

Some test anxiety results from negative experiences with exam situations. Are you exposed in the oral exam by your examiner? Such experiences can contribute to the development of an extreme test anxiety and here helps to work through the triggering events and experiences.

Circles of thought

Above all, the thoughts are centered around the negative aspects of the exam, indirectly animate yourself to test anxiety. If you associate the exam with “heavy demands”, “unfair examiners”, “too much learning material”, you will not be able to build positive relationships with them and leave your exam anxiety behind. Some test anxiety sufferers show physical symptoms, including panic attacks, which are often associated with dread. Of course, it does not help to underestimate exams and their contents. However, you should be aware that you have sufficient knowledge and mastery of the subject matter – so this is the case.

You must avoid the bad influence

Your fellow students tend to summon the gravity of the upcoming exam? Avoid these people because such conversations do not give you any advantage. They lead to unnecessary stress and increase your fear. In general, it is not very advisable to surround yourself with people who harm one’s own mood. However, this can be even more dangerous before exams. Think about it three times, if you want to participate in such conversations – they hurt you.

Also make sure that you are well prepared for the exam. For this it is useful to create a learning plan. So first make an inventory of the material and your knowledge and recognize where there are deficiencies that need to be worked up. Then you should start learning in time. Those who start learning one day before the exam will not be able to relax and go into it without fear.

Consider the situation realistically

How well do you master the subject matter? Are your claims realistic or a pure utopia? What about your time management and what are the requirements of the examiner?

Answer such questions honestly. They will give you a realistic view of the situation. As long as you take the university and the content you are learning seriously, you will probably be pleasantly surprised – it does not look bad. You should still not relax. Instead, create a realistic “training plan”. Write down what you want to learn, when you want to do it, and how much time you spend on it.

Suppress inner restlessness and nervousness

Already days before the test despite all these measures of strong nervousness or restlessness, you should take relaxing measures. It makes sense to learn relaxation techniques – for example, autogenic training. While this does not turn your head off, you will experience precious relaxation and learn to calm down. If no action is taken against the nervousness, the pressure will increase. It can sometimes happen that physical symptoms of anxiety show up.

Stuck intermediate goals

With regard to the “learning plan” described above, it is important to formulate intermediate goals. These appear to be within reach, unlike the final destination. Above all, this has psychologically strong effects. It helps to focus on one’s own achievements and thus strengthen confidence and self-confidence. In general, it helps to pay attention to the positive aspects of exam preparation. You will be able to go to the exam with a strengthened feeling.

On the day of the exam, a minimum level of anxiety can never be turned off. This is known to many as “stage fright”. It is much more about being able to deal with fear and use it profitably. A complete “shutdown” is not possible. The stage fright, the mild to moderate fear of the exam situation, is accompanied by positive effects. It has been shown that the performance increases with mild anxiety. Only with strong test anxiety the performance decreases.

Summary of the tips
  • Make a realistic picture of the requirements and your knowledge.
  • Ensure relaxation and do not let the pressure get too high.
  • Disable negative external influence. Do not let anyone unsettle you.
  • Set up a learning plan and set yourself intermediate goals.
  • Start learning in time.
  • Do not expect superhuman achievements from you.
In extreme cases, therapy is necessary

Nonetheless, test anxiety should not be taken lightly. Severe cases may well be pathological. In these cases, only one therapy can help eliminate the burden. Severe test anxiety is considered a sub-form of social phobia – sometimes it is defined as a phobia of its own. Psychotherapists – whether psychological or medical – can offer competent help here.