4 Mar

How to Prepare for an Exam and Avoid Stress: Strategies for Coping With Examination Anxiety

The most important long-term exam strategy is making sure revision is constant throughout the academic year so that the subject matter becomes familiar.

Long-Term Exam Preparation With Index Cards

Exam preparation should begin at the start of the academic year. Such a strategy will help avoid exam anxiety attacks.

During the academic year, whilst taking notes in lectures, or from books, it is also a very good technique to abstract the most important aspects of lecture/book notes and put them onto index cards. Index cards come in two or three sizes. Choose the relevant size to the subject being studied.

  • The most important points should be written by hand onto these cards.
  • Use only one side of the cards for speed when flipping through them for revision.
  • Writing notes neatly by hand and condensing them onto a limited space helps to reinforce them in the brain.
  • Draw miniature coloured Mind Maps (see below) and charts on the cards also, to help visualisation
  • Now flip through the cards, underlining in red marker the important points. This gives yet another means of embedding the information in the mind. Visually it is easy for the mind to recall a card with a couple of succinct paragraphs and points underlined in red.
  • Separate each set of subject cards with an elastic band. Remove the band and flip through the cards when stuck in traffic, eating lunch in a café, etc.

On the morning of the exam take the relevant set of subject cards and flip through them right up to the point of going into the exam room.

Long-Term Exam Preparation With Mind Maps

Mind Maps are invaluable for helping to remember information. They mimic the way in which the brain retains information. Any book by Tony Buzan, the inventor of Mind Maps, will be a great investment.

There are computer programs that help to create Mind Maps. These are great, but creating a Mind Map with coloured marker pens on large sheets of drawing paper will help to reinforce the subject in the brain.

During the academic year, create Mind Maps on every subject being studied and pin them to the walls of the study.

Read them at regular intervals, particularly before sleep, and especially the night before the exam. Again, like cards, these are visual patterns that are easy to recall in the exam situation.

Study Past Exam Papers

Find past exam papers in the school/college library and study them.

  • Create an exam situation at home.
  • Time the exam and answer the paper, repeating this process at regular intervals throughout the academic year. This will increase confidence and ensure that practically any question that may come up in the exam can be answered..
  • Take these mock exams seriously and the mind will become familiar with this situation.
  • As a result, the day of the real exam will be less stressful.

The Night Before the Exam

Some people feel that students shouldn’t revise the night before an exams, as the mind should be rested. However, having got this far, it’s probably just as well to keep up the revision. Tomorrow, after all, it will all be over. So why not continue with a calm, focused revision pace until those exam doors open?

On the night before the exam it might be a good idea not to go out for a drink with friends or watch too much tv. Definitely don’t stay up revising too late. Instead, eat a healthy meal and do some calm, last-minute revision. Study the Mind Maps on the wall and flip through the index cards.

Set the alarm and have a good night’s sleep.

The Day of the Exam

No matter how careless a person may be of his or her appearance during the academic year, the day of the exams should be different. It’s psychologically important to wear smart but comfortable clothing. Feel like a professional and have the attitude of being in a totally different zone today.

Hard as it may be, try to avoid negative people on the day of the exam. Instead, flip through the revision cards until the last moment, focusing the mind. Banish all doubts about potential performance.

Avoid Exam Nerves by Strategic Planning

  • Begin revising for exams from the start of the academic year
  • Use index cards to help memorise the main points of lecture notes and books
  • Use Mind Maps as a visualisation technique
  • Study past exam papers

By following a calm, systematic approach to exams from the beginning of the academic year and using the practical tools suggested, exam nerves can be minimised.