How to stop yourself panicking in exams
You’ve been working hard all year towards your exams. You’ve got big ambitions for what you want to do next. Everyone is expecting great things of you.
The trouble is that you always seem to freeze or panic when you go into an exam. Your results are generally lower than expected and you’re always disappointed.
You’re so frustrated with yourself that you don’t seem to be able to stay in control and stop yourself from panicking in exams.
In this post I’m going to give you some top tips on how to stop yourself from panicking in exams.
How to stop yourself panicking in exams
The first tip starts way before exam day. It’s all about preparation.
In my book The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take the first ‘step’ or chapter is called ‘Do the Work’. This is for a very good reason.
Doing the work from the beginning of your course or school year is fundamental to being confident and well prepared when you get to exam day. However, it’s also true that it’s never too late to start doing the work.It's never too late to start doing the work. Click To Tweet
When you get to exam season your preparation should focus on two things:
- Knowing your stuff – basically revising all the content you need to know.
- Practicing your exam technique – so you can read the examiner’s mind and know exactly what to write to make it easy for them to give you the marks.
The Revision Power Hour is the perfect way to combine getting to know your stuff and practicing your exam technique.
When you’re well prepared the morning of your exam will be much less daunting. You’ll be more confident in your knowledge and abilities and far less likely to panic in your exam.
The morning of your exam
On the morning of your exam you need to take as much stress out of the situation as possible for yourself. This means planning a bit in advance.
- Set an alarm and a back-up alarm to go off in plenty of time.
- Eat a filling and healthy breakfast.
- Arrive at the exam with plenty of time to spare – so you’re not panicking that you’re late!
- Stay away from stressful conversations. Other people will want to see how much revision you’ve done or whip you up into a panic. Don’t let them. If necessary stay away from other people so you can focus your own mind on staying calm and what’s coming.
- Keep your exam anxiety at bay by repeating positive mantras and affirmations to yourself.
My bite-sized book Revision Quickstart Guide: Get Revising and Learn How to Pass Exams in Just 30 Minutes goes into more detail about how to spend the last 24 hours before an exam.
During your exam
When you go into your exam concentrate on breathing deeply. When people are stressed then start breathing rapidly and shallowly. You can trick your body out of feeling stressed if you breathe deeply. You’ll also give yourself something else to think about if you’re trying to take really long, deep breaths. Feel your body relax every time you breathe out.
Have an exam ritual
Have a little ritual every time you go into an exam. Have you ever watched top tennis players preparing to serve? They always go through the same little routine. They might wipe their face with a towel, take three balls and choose two, put one ball in their pocket and bounce the other a set number of times. They’ll then look up at their opponent and go into their service motion.
This ritual tells their body what’s coming and helps them to focus. You can have the same kind of thing for exams. For example, taking your watch off and putting it in the top right-hand corner of your desk so you can easily see the time. Placing your pens and pencils where you can easily get them. Straightening the exam paper on your desk and placing your bottle of water on the floor under the right-hand side of the desk.
Keeping yourself busy with this little ritual will keep you calm, as well as sending positive signals to your body.
Repeat positive thoughts to yourself
Keep repeating your mantra or positive thoughts to yourself. For example, you might keep staying:
“I’m well prepared and capable. I’m going to ace this exam.” Or,
“I know my stuff. I’m going to do well in this exam.”
Just say something that you can make yourself believe.
If negative thoughts try to crowd in instead, just dismiss them and replace them with the positive affirmations.
Keep to time
This is where all that exam technique practice comes into play. You’ll have practiced your timings and how to answer every type of question. The thing you have to do is keep to time in your exam. Whenever you see you’ve got to the end of the time for a question finish your sentence and just move on to the next. If you’ve filled the allotted time for a question you have had time to write an answer that gets you full marks. You don’t want to compromise the next question by not giving it enough time.
Keep your head
If a question comes up that you don’t immediately know the answer to, you need to keep your head. These are things that go through my head when I’m not entirely certain how to answer a question:
- What are the key words? Underline them and circle them.
- Make sure I understand the question by reading it through several times.
- What do I know that helps me to answer this question? How can I adapt that knowledge to make it answer this question?
I then try to echo back the question to the examiner to show that I’m answering the question but using knowledge that I wouldn’t have necessarily picked to help me answer it.
Over to you
I hope these tips have helped you to understand how to stop yourself panicking in exams. Just remember, exams are short. You’re more than capable of keeping yourself together while an exam lasts. There’s plenty of time to fall apart afterwards – but what would be the point in that?!
Question: How do you stop yourself from panicking in exams? Leave your tips in the comments section below.