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4 Tips to Beat Exam Nerves

After the second failed chemistry test in the year, I felt hopeless. I was not performing to the expectations of my teacher, while all of my classmates were thriving. I didn’t want to be left behind, and I was terrified of another failed test.  After weeks of cramming and studying endlessly, I finally felt prepared for the next test. When it was time to sit the exam, however, my mind started to drift off. My hands began to sweat and my jaw clenched. My teacher did not hand me the test yet. “Why was this taking so long? Just give me the test and let’s get this over with!” I thought. When the test was finally handed to me, my mind went blank. Why is this happening to me?

I didn’t get to finish it. Disappointed with myself, I went back home and cried. I had done everything right, so why was this happening to me? Fortunately, my teacher gave me another opportunity, and I had the chance to retake the exam.

When I started to analyze what I did wrong in the last test, I was confused. I didn’t do anything wrong. Suddenly it hit me: I was nervous to my core. All the nerves decided to build up just before the test and explode in my face during the exam. All I had to do was calm my emotions and manage my nerves before the test. Easier said than done.

I know that what it feels like to have a test ruined by your nerves, and I know it is very difficult to develop ways to calm yourself down. Here are some tips to keep calm before a test: 

1. Breathe

I know! This is obvious, but many people overlook the fact that our breathing can actually help us manage our nerves. There are many breathing techniques that can help us ease our minds and help us concentrate during exams. For instance, the one I practiced was the “Seven/Eleven Method”. Just inhale for seven seconds and then exhale for eleven. That method helped me, however, you may be different. Other methods include “4-7-8 breathing” and diaphragmatic breathing. Make sure to learn which method suits you the best.

2. Don’t make a big deal out of it

That is what my mum says when my nerves are acting up. Before, I never put it into practice because I was always focused on the importance of exams. But once I put it into practice, I understood what she meant. Exams are a big deal, but you know that. You study, you prepare. When you are just about to take the exam, try not to think about its overall importance. Instead, focus on the task ahead!

3. If you can, get distracted

Don’t think about the test right before you take it! Admire a nice flower outside the classroom or think about what you will eat after. Your nerves are natural. They are part of your fight or flight response. Therefore, they are necessary in order to succeed. I believe that nerves are what allow me to focus completely on the test, but you need to avoid letting them explode in your face just before an exam. Try and let them drive you during the exam to do your best. Try and use those nerves to your advantage. Get distracted before the exam, don’t let the nerves get to you before and explode. Be aware, however, that the distraction should be healthy and for your own good. Do not use it as an excuse to avoid studying. This also means that you shouldn’t be trying to cram all the information last minute! Rather, put yourself in a mindset that will allow you to clear your head and focus during the exam.

4. Be confident!

I know this must be difficult for many students. Most of us doubt our knowledge but try to be confident before the test. Remember how many hours you put into studying, remember about the successes while doing exercises, and how you aced mock exams. You are capable of everything you set your mind to. You just need to believe it. 

Before my teacher allowed me to retake the exam, I took the time to evaluate myself. “Remember,” I told myself “you have studied like a maniac for weeks, you’ve got this!” I practiced my breathing method and didn’t think about the test at all. When my teacher finally gave me the exam, my nerves started acting up but I remained steady and completed the test with confidence. After the test, I went home and didn’t cry—in fact, I felt good about my performance. The next week, my teacher informed me I had passed the exam.

We have all had nerves that had worsened our performance on tests. There are many ways our nerves affect us and our execution of exams. These tips are general methods that allowed me to get over this state of mind and succeed in a class. I am definitely not a doctor, I’m just a student sharing knowledge with other students. If your nerves have a severe impact on you, I would advise you to turn to your parents or get professional help.  Different things help different people, but I hope this could help you. Remember, you are capable of everything, you just need to set your mind to it.

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