[ Dr Nisanth PM ]
Has this ever happened to you? You have been studying hard for your exam, but when you walk into your exam hall, your mind goes blank. As you sit down to start your test, you notice your sweaty palms and a pit in your stomach.
If these classic signs of test anxiety sound familiar, your grades and test scores may not reflect your true abilities. Learn ways to manage test anxiety before and during a stressful test.
While it’s completely normal to feel a bit nervous before a test, some students find test anxiety debilitating. Racing thoughts, inability to concentrate, or feelings of dread can combine with physical symptoms like fast heartbeats, headache, or nausea.
The causes of test anxiety may include a fear of failure, lack of adequate preparation of time, or bad experiences taking tests in the past. You’re not alone! Here’s what you can do to stay calm in the days leading up to and during your exam.
Revision and exams
The purpose of an examination can be extremely stressful, whether you have performed well or badly in the past. You may even feel resentful that it is a waste of your time, or that you know the material but cannot show your knowledge under exam conditions.
Understanding the reasons for exams, being aware of the ways that an exam can be advantageous to you, and knowing you have some control over the process can help to create the positive mindset needed for a successful exam experience.
The purpose of exams
The main purpose of exams is for teachers to check that you have understood the work covered in the course, and that the work which demonstrates that is entirely your own. Preparing for exams involves a high release of energy and an unusual degree of focus, which produces a very intense kind of learning which is not easy to be produced under any other conditions.
As an exam approaches, it is useful to make adequate preparations.
Organise your notes
The process of sorting out what is essential from what is interesting in a general way reminds you of what you have covered. Reduce your notes to key headings, points, and references. Make master cards with the key memory triggers for all topics. This can be in the form of pattern notes or concept pyramids. Check your own learning. Work interactively with materials, then write out or tape what you have learnt. Check back your notes and find the areas you omitted. Write and check three times to build up your memory.
Use past exam papers
Past exam papers are your best resource. At first, the wording of exam papers can be off-putting; questions may seem vague as they cannot give away answers. It is important to get used to this style well in advance of the exam. Remember that each question links to an area of the course. You need to find that link and consider which issues the question is directing you towards.
Select what to revise
The revision process involves selection. Select which topics you are going to revise. If you will need to answer three exam questions, revise at least five topics. Work out answers to a range of possible exam questions for each topic, so that you feel able to deal with almost any question that might be set on the topic you have chosen.
Select the most important theories, references and evidences for each topic. It is much easier to do this before the exam. Organise the selected information, so that it is easier to remember.
Draw up a timetable
Work out exactly how much time you have to revise, given ‘potential emergencies’, and time to relax. If they carry equal marks, divide the time equally between each subject, and then each selected topic, and set aside time for practicing past papers.
Build up writing speed
Quality and relevance are more important than quantity. Concise answers can get you high marks. However, if you are used to word-processing most of your work, your handwriting speed may write anything at speed every day and will help build the muscles needed for handwriting at speed.
It is important to give yourself time to settle in and see what is required. Focus on planning your own activities, rather than worrying about how well other students are doing. It is a sensible way of studying. It helps more successfully in tracking your own problems and tackling them before they become emergencies. (The contributor is Assistant Professor, Department of Education, RGU, Rono Hills)