Exam anxiety: How to get it under control

Probably every student gets acquainted with exam anxiety at some point. But there are ways and means to deal with it, alleviate it, and successfully master any exam.

#1 Understanding exam anxiety

Right off the bat, anxiety is not necessarily a bad thing. Nature set it up for us to recognize danger in time. This ancient evolutionary program is simply in us and has also been useful for many millennia, when we ran from wild animals or other dangers.

Today, anxiety can arise from other situations that seem threatening: for example, an exam in which we are afraid of failing. So exam or test anxiety is nothing more than a feeling that wants to tell you, “Hey, this is important to you!” In doing so, it sometimes overshoots the mark a bit. But understanding, that anxiety is a natural companion of every human being and test anxiety is just an expression of it, makes it easier to accept test anxiety, which already makes it smaller.

#2 Take good care of yourself

The more comfortable we feel in our own skin, the better we can cope with stress and the associated feelings such as test anxiety. Therefore, make sure you get enough sleep (at least 7 hours) and eat healthy with our recipes for students. It’s also important to plan enough breaks when you’re studying for an exam. Feeling well prepared greatly reduces exam anxiety.

Use great productivity techniques like the 52/17 rule. The principle is simple: you study for 52 minutes, take a 17-minute break, study for 52 minutes, take a 17-minute break, and so on. You can fill the breaks with enjoying a coffee, looking out the window, or taking a short walk. You will notice how your head clears from anxiety.

Furthermore, you should make sure to spend enough free time with family and friends. Here we have collected tips on how to make friends in a new city.

Whether alone or in company – spend time in nature regularly to get fresh air and sun. This is good for your body and mind, so you’ll soon be able to hit the ground running again and reduce your exam anxiety through relaxation. There are also effective relaxation techniques for this.

#3 Learn relaxation techniques

Relaxation techniques help to gain distance from the subject of exams, reduce exam anxiety and increase your own resilience. Many of them, like meditation, are quite simple to implement. Set yourself an alarm clock for 15 minutes and turn off all sources of interference such as the radio, smartphone, etc. Then sit comfortably on a chair or your bed. Close your eyes and focus your attention on your breath. Observe, how it flows in and out. Do this for 15 minutes.

At first it may feel unusual, you will probably get impatient after a few minutes or even seconds and want to stop the meditation. Try to stick with it! Because that’s what it’s all about: enduring doing nothing. When thoughts and feelings come up, just bring your attention back to your breath.

Do this meditation daily and you will quickly notice how it brings you deep relaxation. Practiced meditators can also do the meditation in the park or another public place.

If you feel stress or exam anxiety acutely, for example just before an exam, try the 3-minute-breathing-break in the following video. You can also do this in the restroom of the university to regulate your exam anxiety.

Numerous studies confirm the positive effects of meditation. For example, a study from the USA showed, that it significantly reduces anxiety and significantly increases one’s ability to cope with stress. It is therefore ideal to reduce exam anxiety and to face the exam itself more confidently!

  • Tip: Other popular relaxation techniques for exam anxiety include yoga, autogenic training and progressive muscle relaxation. Try out these techniques; colleges and universities offer courses in them.

#4 Do Sport exercises

Write papers, study, attend lectures: Studying involves a lot of sitting. That’s why it’s all the more important to get some exercise, ideally on a daily basis. It doesn’t have to be the big run or boxing workout every day; even a brisk walk around your own neighborhood or a short ride on your bike will do your body good. In addition, it reduces the fear of an exam.

However, you should schedule a sports session at least 2x a week. Here, too, universities and colleges offer inexpensive courses at the start of the semester. Also find out about clubs in your area where you can take a trial training.

#5 Rehearse the exam

In many self-defense courses, participants not only practice the techniques, but also act out acute stressful situations. The reason is that stressful situations like an upcoming fight put our body into alarm mode. It releases a lot of adrenaline when we are anxious, which can give us three results in behavior:

  • We fight
  • We flee
  • We freeze (stall reflex)

The third reaction is especially common when we are not used to the adrenaline rush. That is why such situations are simulated in the training, so that the participants can handle the adrenaline and do not forget the learned techniques.

You can think of it in a similar way with exam anxiety: If you are not familiar with it, it paralyzes you. Therefore, act out an exam with friends or family. This can feel a little strange at first, but it’s amazing how quickly role-playing can feel real. Your counterpart slips into the role of the examiner and you face the challenge. This, too, will ease your exam anxiety.

#6 Support with natural remedies

Some students take medication to inhibit test anxiety. However, there are also herbal remedies that help deal with test anxiety. From calming tea to gentle natural remedies, the ways are numerous. Essential oils can also have a relaxing effect, for example in a fragrance lamp or shower gel. Check with your doctor or pharmacy about the various natural remedies for exam anxiety.

#7 Accept blackout and address it in the exam situation

You find yourself in the exam and it happens: Anxiety comes up and facts you’ve been cramming for months no longer come to mind. There is emptiness in your head, the blackout has happened. So what? Take the fear out of the blackout by addressing it. Experienced teachers know that an exam is not an easy situation for the person being tested. You can be sure that they know the phenomenon of test anxiety in connection with a blackout very well. Maybe even from their own experience with anxiety?

So if you are blocked, address it openly and say:

“Excuse me, I think I’m blacking out right now. Can we please take a three-minute break and then continue with the exam?”

Then use the break to do the 3-minute-breathing-exercise you’ll find earlier in the article to lower exam anxiety. Then you’ll be ready to continue facing the exam. You can do this!

More articles in our blog

We hope, our tips for the next exam situation helped you. Cook delicious soul food with our easy and healthy recipes for students. Experience your time at university together: How to find friends in a new city. Learn how to save money as a student and how to make studying easier in the pandemic!

Questions?