Exam Anxiety

It is not uncommon to feel anxious about exams. Some anxiety before and during an exam can actually help enhance your performance. The extra adrenalin that stress releases can assist you in responding to demanding situations. Sometimes though, too much adrenalin is released and you may begin to experience fear and excessive anxiety. When this happens, your anxiety can get in the way of you doing your best.

In order to keep your anxiety at a level that allows you to perform at your best, it is helpful to learn to respond to your anxiety in ways that help you better mange it. The aim of this resource is to present some strategies for responding to and managing exam anxiety.

Assess your anxiety

To assess your level of anxiety, it is useful to ask yourself how you feel when

  • you are studying for an exam
  • on the morning of the exam
  • during the exam

By doing so, you can assess whether your anxiety is helping or hindering your performance. If you use words like focused, alert, excited to describe your responses to exams you are benefiting from the extra adrenalin that anxiety can bring.

If you use words like worried, nervous and afraid to describe your responses, your anxiety is getting in the way of you performing as well as you could.

Respond to your anxiety

Every student responds to exams in a different way. Some are energised by exams, some experience fear and some find it hard to focus. If your exam anxiety is a result of lack of preparation it is a normal response to a situation for which you have under-prepared.

However, if you are well prepared, but still over stressed about an exam then you can try to better manage your anxiety by working through your feelings, thoughts and behaviour. You may benefit from using some techniques designed to help you change thinking and behaviour associated with exams.

Change your thinking

The way you think about exams will affect the way you feel and how well you perform in the exam. Changing the way you think about exams can help you to enjoy studying more, plus improve your performance. The first step is to identify your thoughts about exams:

  • when you are studying for an exam
  • on the morning of the exam
  • during the exam

Students who experience exam anxiety often have good imaginations and tend to imagine all the negative possibilities. Your imagination is a powerful tool that can also help you think positively about exams and when your thoughts are more positive you are likely to feel more calm and optimistic.

Positive thinking needs practice and involves:

  • recognising when you are thinking negatively
  • identifying what the negative thoughts are
  • creating positive thoughts to replace them
  • focusing on what you can do and are doing well

Also, it is important to keep in mind

  • worrying about what you have not done is wasted energy
  • worrying about what might happen if you do not do well is wasted energy
  • worrying unnecessarily adds to your stress level and that is not useful
  • the exam is only an exam - it is not a reflection of your self worth nor does it predict your future success
  • you have had previous successes in exams otherwise you would not have gained entry to uni

It is also useful to incorporate some exercises, like deep breathing and visualisation, into your study program which will help your mind to focus and your body to relax. A change in your thinking will probably not happen overnight, but it is more likely to happen if you practise thinking positively, relaxing your mind and visualising yourself performing well.

Change your behaviour

Preparing yourself for an exam is like an athlete preparing for a major event. Not only do you need to feel committed to the event and think positively about it, but you also need to actively prepare for it.

Exams are physically demanding as well as mentally and emotionally demanding. You will need to look after your body too if want to successfully make it through swot vac and the exam period. This will require you to keep a good routine that includes daily exercise, eating well and maintaining good sleep patterns.

In conclusion

If you are still finding it hard to manage your anxiety around exam time, you may find helpful to talk to a Counsellor or Disability Adviser.

To make an appointment with a Counsellor or Disability Adviser contact Campus Central.

Useful online resources

Need further assistance?

Contact Campus Central

Your one-stop-shop for student services. UniSA general enquiries: 1300 301 703.