Top 10 Tips to Stop Panicking in Exams

OK so I panic in exams.  I remember in GCSE Spanish having a panic attack for the oral conversation section of the exam.  The tape ran and ran and all you could hear was "Oh g-d I can't do this" whilst I hyperventilated.  

Why am I telling you this?  Simply put I survived and even managed to scrape a B grade.  If you do have a panic attack it's not the end of the things.  The world goes on and we learn to improve.

Anyway, lets hope it doesn't get to this stage for you.  Below are my 10 tips to help you through the papers.  Please bare in mind this is just some advice and does not necessarily work for everyone and I am in no way liable if you do have a panic attack in the exam!

Why not read also about my top 20 tips for preparing for exam day?
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Tip 1. Can you sit a course with majority coursework?

For some people the exam stress is simply too much.  Granted not all courses will have a coursework element and it will be necessary for most people to sit at least some exam from SATs to GCSE and beyond.  However, there may be some courses that have a written element so if you do struggle stress you could get marks elsewhere.  It's worth looking into at the very least.

Tip 2. Meditation

Practising meditation has been proven to have many healing benefits and is highly spiritual for some people.  Meditation can be done anywhere though most people prefer a quiet environment and best of all it is usually free!  You can meditate to music or in silence.

In terms of meditating for an exam.  I would meditate before the exam, during and after.  The before and after are fairly obvious but let's say you feel a panic attack coming on during the exam.  Why not take 3 minutes to sit back in quiet contemplation.  It may help.

Please note don't spend the whole exam meditating (even for an exam on meditation!).

Tip 3. Practice Makes Perfect

When I usually sit exams these days I make sure I am extremely familiar with the exam paper format.  This is for two reasons.  Firstly, papers can differ from paper to paper.  For example, a functional skills paper is extremely different to a GCSE higher paper.  You want to be familiar to maximise marks.  Secondly, when you feel prepared usually you feel less anxious.  Some people even take this further by going to the venue where they are going to sit the exam and practise an exam in the venue.  This is because there are scientific studies that say students perform better after taking exams at the venue they are sitting the exam in test conditions.

Tip 4. Be as prepared as possible

As I pointed out above preparation is essential.  However this doesn't just apply to practice papers and when you sit the exam (e.g. correct writing equipment  etc.).  Preparation should start early including planning revision, creating timetables and actually revising ahead of schedule.  Cramming usually doesn't alleviate exam nerves.  However, if you are near your exams and haven't started revising, I would start now.

Tip 5. Practice mindfulness

By this I mean being aware of the present moment.  You can change your thinking by being more aware of how and what your thinking.  Studies have proven this can reduce anxiety.

Tip 6. Question the stress

This leads into questioning the stress.  Is there any point to being stressed?  Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help with this.  Try this exercise.  Identify what is stressing you.  Ask yourself "and what will happen if this happens?" and repeat asking yourself this question for each new scenario.  Is it the scenario as bad as you thought it would be?  Then try challenging any bad scenarios what are your other options.  Questioning the things that are stressing you can put them in a box.

Tip 7. Proper conditioning

Looking after your body will mean your in prime condition for the exam.  This means physically and mentally.  Eating the write foods can improve brain power and exercise can help improve connections as well as destress you.  Looking after yourself mentally also is just as important.  People with mental health conditions often complain they cannot concentrate as well as they used to.  If you are struggling mentally maybe it's time to talk to someone.

Tip 8. Positive self-talk

Looking after yourself also means not putting yourself down.  Sometimes when we put ourselves down we internalise this negativity which makes us see things as going badly and then we are even harder on ourselves.  This is negative reinforcement.  No-one is saying you have to be arrogant but positive thinking about yourself can go a long way to creating a positive reinforcement cycle.

Tip 9. Breathe

Most of us breathe right?  How many of us though stop to catch our breath?  Sometimes concentrating on our breathing and slowing it down can stop anxiety attacks.  If your in an exam you could do this and even combine it with a 3 minute meditation.  Stopping for 3 minutes in an exam may be better than not being able to sit the exam due to stress. 

Tip 10. Take 3

I get very stressed when I don't take a break.  My anxiety increases and I can't read my writing or what I'm reading.  Taking 15 minutes for a break every now and then is OK.  If you have two exams in a day, I recommend revising a little in between but mainly taking time to chill and relax between the exams.  Your mind will appreciate it, you'll feel better and hopefully stop those panic attacks.

Good luck on your exam!


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