Classic FM’s Revision Hour: 7 ways to control exam panic
31 May 2019, 16:27
When it feels like the only thing you can focus on is your exam panic, we have some tips and advice that will help you through.
What do you do if you start to panic in the middle of an exam? It sounds like the stuff of nightmares: you start to feel nervous, and shake, or your brain freezes at the crucial moment and you can’t remember anything.
But don’t worry: there are ways to prevent this from happening, and things you can do if the worst comes to the worst and you do start panicking in the exam hall.
Inhale, exhale. Learn basic breathing techniques to calm yourself down.
Try square breathing, or breathing in for seven seconds and out for 11 seconds. It sounds so simple, and it is, but breathing slowly and deeply is instantly calming and grounding.
Relax. Keep both of your feet grounded and soften parts of your body that hold tension.
Letting go of tension, just like breathing, is an instant way to reduce anxiety. You can do this from the moment you sit down at your desk. A relaxed body is a relaxed mind, so try to keep your shoulders and hands free of tightness. While doing this, tell yourself that you can only do your best, and try not to let your mind wander.
Take a two-minute breather. Consider going to the toilet to take a moment to regroup.
Your brain needs regular breaks to maintain maximum concentration levels. If you feel yourself start to panic and lose focus during an exam, it may take just a couple of minutes to regain control. Leaving the room temporarily can give you a fresh perspective and make you more productive when you get back to your seat.
Start with an easy question. You can complete the paper in any order you like.
Give yourself a confidence boost and get into the flow of answering questions by tackling the ones you know for sure first. Opening a paper and seeing a question you don’t immediately know the answer to can be daunting. But instead of getting bogged down with something you find difficult, get some of the simpler stuff out of the way.
Know what to expect. Prepare beforehand by visualising yourself in the exam.
As well as preparing yourself for exams by studying and practising with past papers, you might want to picture yourself sitting in the exam hall. Visualise how it will look, and imagine yourself being calm and prepared, able to answer the questions and getting the grade you want. This will keep you feeling positive on the day.
Talk to your teachers if you’re worried. Make the necessary arrangements so you feel anxiety-free.
If you think it’s likely you’ll have a panic attack or suffer from anxiety in the exam, let your school know as soon as possible. They can apply to exam boards for adjustments, called access arrangements, like supervised rest breaks, alternative site arrangements (taking your exam in a different location) or separate invigilation (sitting your exam in a different room in the school).
Prepare to succeed. Use the night before and morning of the exam for chilled out, last-minute relaxation.
Make sure your bag is packed so you’re not rushing, and we can’t emphasise enough the importance of a good night’s sleep. Don’t work too late, so you can wake up in plenty of time to have a healthy breakfast and arrive at the exam early. When you get there, do some breathing exercises to calm your nerves.