5 ways to cope with exam anxiety

Exam stress is normal. It’s the response from weighing up the challenge (the exam) and your perceived ability to cope (knowledge).  In some ways it can be a productive emotion, whereby if we think that the challenge outweighs our ability, we become more motivated to study harder and better.

Exam anxiety not the same beast. It’s where your perception of your ability to cope with the stress of an exam becomes distorted and your fears might become overwhelming. As a result anxiety has the potential to become disabling, so challenging those feelings and find coping strategies could really help you to combat your anxiety.

If you’re suffering from anxiety you might have you physical symptoms like a headache, nausea, diarrhoea, shortness of breath, or light-headedness. Emotionally you might feel angry, afraid, or helpless, have lots of negative thoughts and constantly compare yourself to others.

If you’re nodding your head to all the above, and you think you’re more than just a little bit stressed.

Here’s a few tips that could really get you back on top of your game:

Ask for help. Speak to your parents and teachers, or even make an appointment with GP and let them know how you’re feeling. They’ll be able to find ways to help you manage how you’re feeling and help you get through your exams more easily.

Practise positive self-talk. It might sound airy fairy but imagine how bad you feel when you’ve had an argument with someone and they’ve said some horrible things. So consciously try to tell yourself to “STOP” those negative thoughts, instead think about encouraging and positive things you would say to a friend.

Find relaxation techniques that work for you. Research a few of the most highly recommended relaxation techniques and practise them. The 4-7-8 breathing technique is one deep breathing technique you could try. Breathe in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds. It’s also handy because unlike some other methods you can do it anywhere, even in the exam room.

Be prepared. If you’ve studied, had some sleep, arrived at the exam on time, then you’re as prepared as you can be and there’s less to stress out about, you’ll just need to remind yourself that you’ve done the best you can.

Remember this exam is not the be-all and end-all. Life will go on after your exams. If you don’t get the ATAR you’re hoping for then life will still go on. You can still achieve your goals and dreams (or you might find new ones) if you don’t ace each and every exam.


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