Last updated:

November 4, 2022


 min read

How to deal with exam anxiety: A professional’s guide

Has this ever happened to you - exams are two days away, you are almost done preparing, but suddenly ask yourself “have I studied enough?” or ride an emotional rollercoaster thinking “I am forgetting everything” or just freeze during exams. Seems scary, doesn't it?

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If this scenario feels too familiar, you might be experiencing anxiety related to exams. While some nervousness and anxiety during the exams can be helpful, excessive exam anxiety can be truly nerve-wracking. If you know how that feels, don’t worry. We got you! 

This article will walk you through how to get started with managing exam anxiety.

How to know if you are experiencing exam anxiety

A lot of times, you do not even realise you are nervous until it becomes debilitating. Relatable? Relax, it is totally normal to feel this way. 

Exam anxiety usually begins with racing thoughts, losing focus, or a negative thought spiral about the worst-case outcome. These are sometimes coupled with physical symptoms such as butterflies in the stomach, increased heartbeat, or a heavy head or chest. One can also experience sweaty palms, shaky legs or hands. 

You can experience these symptoms before and/or during the exam.

How to manage the experience

Strategizing ahead of time

While almost everyone has an exam prep strategy, what really matters is how effective the strategy is for you. Planning an effective routine and strategy can help you feel more prepared and motivated. 

Every individual is unique. Reflect and look at what are some of your strengths and weaknesses. Some points to ponder upon can be - how long are you able to focus, how often you need breaks, how long would it take you to study and then revise the same later. Also factor in the time you would need for sleeping and relaxing.

Practising in a similar environment

Research has shown that exposure to similar environments constantly helps in experimenting with different techniques that may help in reducing anxiety. This can eventually allow a person to be more prepared for the D-day. 

Practising designed test papers in a timed format helps recreate some aspects of the exam environment. Constant practice (probably once or twice a week) can help in tweaking the preparation and anxiety management techniques for an easier experience.

Trying a few relaxation techniques

Practising mindfulness-based exercises can help with maintaining focus. You can start by simply acknowledging that you are experiencing fear or panic. Next, you can use certain breathing techniques to ground yourself and redirect your attention to the present moment. You can do this by touching and feeling some of the objects present around you or by keeping a familiar object (such as a favourite handkerchief or a pen) near you. 

If you feel the panic is too much to handle, take a pause, put down your pen for a couple of seconds, take a moment, move your body a little, shake your hand, legs, and wriggle your fingers and toes. Then, start again. 

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle

Amidst all the pressure and planning, we can forget to pay attention to basic things like eating and sleeping. Maintaining a fit body is as important as paying attention to little details while studying a chapter. Inadequate sleep or irregular eating can make you feel lethargic and tired. A healthy lifestyle supports the brain and body to be more focused and alert.

Need help?

If you feel the panic and anxiety are so high that it is getting increasingly difficult for you to bounce back from it, you can always get help from a professional. Exploring your anxiety and fears with the right therapist can help you develop an effective personalised strategy for conquering these intense experiences. The right therapist will also help you identify and understand your triggers, facilitating better stress management. 

Remember, you are not alone in this journey. Our team of experts are always there to help you out. Book a consultation to seek help with your exam anxiety today!