Coping with exam anxiety and stress (whilst doing online exams!)
We’re in the midst of exam season, and while nobody loves exams, some people really struggle through this period. Personally, I have always dreaded exams. I always feel so much pressure to perform to a certain standard, and I always have done.
Well, now I’m in my third (and final) year at Warwick, I have sat through many university exams. In fact, the only 2 years of my degree that have counted (2nd and 3rd) have been sat online! I have found some tips to be useful when the exam anxiety starts to spiral out of control a bit:
First of all, I feel the need to stress the support of Warwick Wellbeing and Disability Services, because I feel like they aren’t heavily advertised, and provide some great tools! The Wellbeing website covers some great exam-related topics such as Perfectionism (warwick.ac.uk), Exam Stress (warwick.ac.uk), Mindfulness (warwick.ac.uk) and Managing Exam Anxiety (warwick.ac.uk). Be sure to check them out – they have suggested reading, videos, podcasts and more.
*Importantly, do reach out to your GP or a wellbeing advisor if you feel that exam related stress is having a significant impact on your daily life, beyond what these resources can help with.
If you receive disability support at Warwick, there are things in place to help with exams. I have been utilising the Accessible study rooms for customers with disabilities (warwick.ac.uk) for revision, and to sit my exams in. These are quiet, independent rooms. I had my first exam in there on Monday and felt really relaxed, knowing nobody would interrupt me. It’s definitely worth seeing what is on offer if you are registered with the disability services.
Now, onto some tips that have helped me:
- Mindfulness: I know, a lot of people think this is corny. But seriously, I did a 3 minute meditation for ‘panic’ on the headspace app before my exam, and really felt the difference. It allowed me to feel grounded and in the moment, and I had better control over my breathing. The great thing about doing exams online is that you can take a minute to get yourself in the right frame of mind, even if you do this halfway through the exam when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
- Do something nice for yourself the night before: At this point, I would normally be hurriedly going through my notes and trying to absorb as much as I can. But, it’s important to be realistic – will you really learn anything now? Plus, open book exams allow your notes, so memorising everything isn’t the goal. Why not watch a movie or read a book to relax before bed?
- Talk it out: It’s always good to vent to a friend. About an hour before our exam, I met my friend and we had lunch together, and having each others’ company put us both at ease. We rambled onto each other about how stressed we were, and we ended up laughing and then going ‘well, let’s go and do this’.
- Set yourself some realistic goals: You might really really want a first, for example, but try and think of the possibility of scoring lower. How much would this really detriment you? I’m trying to keep in mind that all I NEED is to meet my Master’s requirements, and anything else is a bonus!
- Separate yourself from the exam when it’s finished: Try not to discuss your answers with friends, this will inevitably lead to panic if you’ve written different things. You’ll probably be tired, so take the rest of the day off and try and relax a bit. Reflect on how you felt before the exam and how you feel now – was it as bad as you had imagined? Or was it OK?
I hope this blog has provided some useful tips for dealing with exam stress. Good luck everyone! 🙂