Exam survival guide

Exam season is close upon us, when students across the country will be taking their GCSE,  A level or degree level examinations. Having worked in education for a number of years I have seen the mightiest of swaggers be removed by the simple premise of an examination hall.

So what is it about these places that seems to drain the confidence out of people? It could be the thought that you will fail the exam. Whatever the reason a few basic techniques could be all that is needed to allow you to reach your full potential on the day.

The first thing to understand is if you have a relaxed mind and body on the day you will do better. You can't panic a relaxed mind, right? The most important thing is to find a form of relaxation that works for you so here a few options that you can try:     

  • Relaxation should be a long-term practice. Make sure that before you start revising that you have a well placed and firmly established relaxation programme.
  • Try and make sure that you have a variety of activities that you enjoy to promote relaxation: running, watching films, meditation.
  • Never work all night or first thing in the morning, the mind does not process information well this way and can leave you feeling confused and anxious.
  • If you are in an exam situation try breathing techniques to help you keep control of anxiety. Simply allowing your breath to go in and out for a 4-4-4 beat (breathe in for a beat of four then out for four and repeat) this can reduce the physical sensations of panic. 
  • Mantra is a method of positive phrasing that can encourage you to be 'calm and relax'; in fact repeating something along those lines will help you to reduce your anxiety and boost your confidence.
  • Talk through your negative thoughts, 'I can't do this'. Ok, what evidence would suggest that? Before your exam try to write down your fears and concerns and go through them to see how many of them are actually true.
  • Distraction technique, get over the thoughts by quickly counting how many pens you have, notice how many people are in your row. A momentary distraction can be a breath of fresh air, and help you feel more confident about your surroundings and let you focus on the exam at hand.
  • Take breaks. Work hard and play hard, if you are on the go all the time you could run the risk of burnout. Make sure you keep your mind healthy by it allowing it to take a breather once in awhile.
  • Do the easy questions first, get your exam confidence building by taking on the easy ones, so when the hard ones come around you charge at them head on and with confidence.
  • Avoid the age old trap of perfectionism. I guarantee your marker will not be perfect, and a perfect answer will differ from marker to marker due to a variety of opinion. Simply place your knowledge on the paper and let it do the talking. 

Try these techniques and see if they work for you. This is all about self discovery and even if these don't work for you then talking to someone might be the key to unlocking your anxiety and to help you better manage your condition.         

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Normanton, West Yorkshire, WF6 2DB
Written by Brian Turner, BA (Hons.) MNCS Snr Accred / Supervisor. (Prof. Dip PsyC)
Normanton, West Yorkshire, WF6 2DB

I am Brian and I am a psychotherapist specialising in anxiety based disorders. I have had eight years experience in a variety of educational settings meaning that I have seen it all. If you have a problem with exams, or other things that make you nervous about your education, why not drop me a line and see how I can help you.

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