However hard you’ve revised, and how well you know the material, there’s always the possibility that you’ll get nervous. Nervousness is all part and parcel of exams. A certain amount of stress keeps us motivated to revise and be organised, however when we are anxious we produce a hormone called adrenalin and if we’ve too much of it which we can't get rid of, it causes us to panic, with a racing heart, rigorous breathing and tension in our muscles.
If you’re just having a normal studying day, go for a walk or take some time out to listen to music, however, if you are in an exam or it’s building up the night before, here are a few pointers.
Hone your relaxation technique
The first thing you should do is before the big day is to hone your revision technique for all those times you are feeling anxious which you can take into exams with you. A common method is the tense and release method, explained fully by AnxietyBC.
To start, take a slow, smooth, deep breath in through your nose for a couple of seconds and breathe out slowly through your mouth. Do the same again.
Are you sitting (or lying) comfortably? If not, get yourself into a comfy position. Pay attention to your body and how it feels. Squeeze all the muscles in your toes as tight as you can, slowly breathe in, hold them tight for a few seconds and concentrate on how they feel and the floor under them. Gradually and slowly relax the muscles, unclench your toes, let them go loose and exhale. Feel the tension flowing out of you like water. Move up the body slowly clenching and releasing each of your muscles in turn until you reach your forehead, remembering your arms and hands.
Spending some time to make you feel relaxed will both make your body more relaxed and you'll forget what you were worried about previously.
Relaxation the night before
- Make sure you know where and when the exam is - try not to arrive too early or too late.
- Go to bed early - if you can't sleep use the tense and release method to help you loosen some of your anxiety.
- Do something relaxing and distracting the night before, for example, have a bath, read a book or watch tv.
- Make sure your bag is packed and you have everything you need including spares.
- Avoid too much caffeine - you don't want to get too jittery!
- Eat something, even if you feel sick. Something easy like toast or cereal is a good option if you can't face anything.
- If you have an afternoon exam try to avoid working too close to the exam, instead take a walk or go for a swim or something else you might find relaxing.
Relaxation during the exam
- Make yourself comfortable - drink some water or adjust your clothing.
- Take time outs - do you need a snack or another drink of water?
- After you’ve answered every question or every section sit back and take a breather.
- If you start to panic - use the tense and release relaxation method to get you back on track.
- If you feel unwell - let the invigilator know and ask if you can leave the room for a couple of minutes. Take a few deep breaths or fresh air or a drink of water and you sill start to see yourself calm down.