Overcoming Exam Anxiety
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What, Why and When
It is perfectly normal to feel some kind of nervousness or excitement before an important exam or presentation. This will actually help you to stay focused during the test because of higher adrenalin levels in your body. However, there are cases when the feeling of fear and worrying thoughts are so strong that they inhibit a persons ability to concentrate properly and create strong physical symptoms. These can include headaches, an upset stomach, feelings of fear and dread, sweating, shortness of breath, overthinking, black outs and more. Test anxiety most often occurs shortly before or during an exam or similar test situations. In severe cases it can negatively affect a students overall social life or emotional development, and - of course - the academic career. Therefore it is important to know how to handle feelings of anxiety that may occur in your life as a student at university.
- Overcome feelings and symptoms of anxiety before an exam or test in order to perform successfully
- Get to know strategies that help you stay calm and focused - at uni and in your day-to-day life
- Strengthen your confidence and learn to trust your own abilities
There are several strategies that can help you stay calm before or during an exam and you can practice them! This will help you to get out of the vicious cycle exam anxiety can create: Fear of failure and physical discomfort during an exam might lead to lower marks which can convince the student of his self-attributed inability to master the subject. In turn this can create even more anxiety. Here is what you can do to create positive change:
- For some it might already help to pay more attention to their overall lifestyle. Getting enough sleep, proper nutrition, and regular exercise strengthen the body's resources and ability to deal with stressful situations, which is not only beneficial for exams but for life in general
- Additional stress-management practices like meditation, mindfulness, breath work and study routines will enable you to actively calm your mind and body in your day to day life. Using this knowledge before a test can help you get back into a quiet, focused, and calm state.
- Be prepared! Even though exam anxiety does not necessarily result from poor preapration or lack of knowledge, it can be helpful psychologically to know that you have revised and studied enough - maybe with a group of friends/peers or an advanced tutor.
- Preparation also includes finding out about the location and procedure of the test, the material you have to bring, and, of course, the time frame.
- Maybe you have already tried all these things and they did not offer you the relief you expected? Or your fear is to overwhelming to even get started? Exam anxiety is a very common fear among students of all backgrounds and it is not a fear to be ashamed of. It can already help to open up to someone you trust.
Links and Further Reading
Where to learn more
- Walther, Holger (2015): Ohne Prüfungsangst studieren, 2. Auflage. Konstanz: UTB.
- Hafner, Bettina; Kronenberger, Ursula (2015): Entspannt Prüfungen bestehen. Ein Manual für Studierende in Lern- und Prüfungszeiten. Bern: Hans Huber Verlag.
- Bernstein, Ben (2018): Crush Your Test Anxiety. How to Be Calm, Confident, and Focused on Any Test, 2nd ed. Sanger: Familius.
- Weisinger, Hendrie; Pawliw-Fry, J.P. (2015): Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When It Matters Most. Redfern: Currency.
- Thomas Frank: How to Beat Test Anxiety
- Peter Beer: Nervosität und Prüfungsangst überwinden
- So kann dir Stress in Prüfungen nützen | Quarks
Where to get help
There are a lot of resources - online and offline - you can use to get professional help, even here at Leuphana:
- The Studienberatung regularly offers workshops on all kinds of things related to stress and time management strategies and exam preparation that you can take part in: Workshops at Leuphana
- You can make a free appointment at the Psychologische Beratungsstelle (Studentenwerk) where you can speak to a professional and learn more about helpful strategies and resources: Psychologische Beratungsstelle
The author of this entry is Katharina Kirn.