How to curb exam anxiety (scientific methods and research and expert opinions)

exam anxiety

Test anxiety can lead to depression for a significant period of time. Students need to unwind every now and then, while constantly focusing on their goals of achievement and success. This duality makes it difficult for students to focus wholeheartedly on their subject matter and gets them in trouble. There are many scientific ways to get rid of stress and focus more on your craft.

Find out what the exam really asks of you

Craig N. Sawchuk, Ph.D., L.P suggests that you study efficiently instead of studying a lot. You need to work backwards and study the previous exam papers to figure out what kind of preparation you should focus on. You’ll feel more relaxed if you systematically study and practice the material that will be on a test. You also want to study in the same place repeatedly to establish a comfort zone that you can lock yourself into.

Talking to your professor

Talking to your teacher also helps a lot. Ensure that you know what’s going on in the testing environment, and seek help from your teachers in small assignments to get a better idea of what kind of questions can come up. Teachers can often help you out more, if you show more respect and consideration, along with curiosity about the subject matter.

The psychology behind your fear

Matt Stenier, college counsellor and psychologist, suggests that the psychology behind this fear of an exam stems from our basic fears of survival. From an evolutionary stand point, your ‘subcortical’ structure and more complex ‘cortical’ structure are not in sync. One focuses on fight-flight responses and the other on more complex and problem-solving features. Therefore, it’s difficult for the brain to focus on one task, when the brain is constantly in fear and wants to get out of that situation as quickly as possible. When you calm your brain down with adequate preparation, exercise, proper diet and sleep, you have a better chance of fully committing to your exam preparation and lesser chance of failing in your pursuit.

Master your subject

This phenomenon is worldwide, as psychologists Farhad Ghorban et al (2011), figured out from their experiment. They issued questions to 200 students in an Iranian university, and found out that the mean anxiety found in the student body was lower in higher studies and self-preparedness. Meaning that, if you are generally more aware about the subject matter and prepared, you have lesser anxiety than your peers and you can focus more on the exam instead of having anxiety of failing.

Anxiety is a tool

Sociologists Kahan, 2008; Donnelly, 2009 found out through their experimentation that anxiety is a surprisingly helpful tool that has aided in our evolution from apes to humans. If we didn’t have the capacity to have anxiety, then we wouldn’t know what can put us in danger and what can’t. We should instead focus on the situation at hand, instead of our general feeling of anxiety and distress. We should channel that energy into something productive and focus our attention into the task at hand to completion.

Diet, nutrition and sleep

Don’t compromise on proper diet and nutrition. Lots of times, students sleep less than 5 hours a day during exam period because of all the data that they’re expected to memorize. Instead, you should cut out all distractions, and focus instead on maximizing the 10-12 hours that you have been given to proper education and note-making. If you have the time to spend distracting yourself on social media or other avenues of attention, then you’re not ready yet to take the exam. You need to ensure that you’re properly focused, calm and relaxed about the exam as you have mastered the field, and not just apprenticed in it!


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