Heading for Finals: Don’t Hit the Wall. Climb Over It!
Does this sound like you or someone you know? During exams, do you:
- go blank
- become frustrated
- start thinking I can’t do this or I’m stupid
- feel your heart racing or find it difficult to breathe
- know the answers—after turning in a test
- score much lower than on homework or papers
Many students find their anxiety level heightens toward the semester’s end. Pressures causing this can come from opposite directions and vary according to your performance in each of your classes. Either you want to do as well on your final as you have during the semester, or you feel you have to do well on your final to pull up your overall grade. Reacting to performance pressure, anxiety and stress can challenge even the best students. But you can take control of anxiety and stress by “preparing to succeed.”
If you have skied or snowboarded difficult terrains, you know the pros advise you at least crest a few hilltops so that the view to the bottom becomes less scary. Similarly, start studying and preparing for your finals, even in small amounts. Procrastinating magnifies stress. Knowing that you have begun helps you stay in control.
Practice, practice, practice
Practicing not only fosters knowledge retention, but also can help build your comfort level with the typical final exam performance environment. Take a practice exam or two using the same time constraints as the actual final exam. You will get a feel for where you need to concentrate your studies and how to pace yourself during a test. Confidence and familiarity are great anxiety reducers.
Learn to relax
Stress can make us fearful and lead to irrational thinking; we set unrealistic goals and create imaginary obstacles that thwart success. To control stress, it is very important to make quiet time for yourself. Don’t take a break—make a break. Get some fresh air, listen to music, go for a run or a swim, eat a decent meal, get enough sleep. Simple steps like these can help calm your nerves and keep you balanced and positive.
Adjust your focus
Anxiety and stress build up because you are worrying about the future. Keep your focus on the present: What is it you need to do now? Get rid of distractions, use the ideas above to control negative thinking, organize and prioritize your plan of action, and move forward. You can do it!