Exam phobia; Triple Fs and a lack of time
A few days before the exam
In the days preceding your exam list any obligations from classes, lab work hours or other commitments that cannot be put off. Make sure you schedule in time for your nutrition, social activities and study breaks.
But make sure you allow yourself some time to unwind so that your brain can take in the information needed.
Use flash cards to memorize specific facts such as vocabulary, formulas, equations, definitions, dates and names as well as the main ideas on a given topic, lists of characteristics, cause and effect relationships or to categorize groups of items.
When using cards for the first time, break them up into small groups and learn one group at a time. Regularly review your flash cards, sorting them by topics or subjects.
If there is too little time available, take advantage of “hidden times” such as a break at work, time between classes, or time spent travelling to and from campus, for example.
Plan and organize your study time, using “to do” lists. Specify all the topics that are sure to be included in your exam, listing important subtopics for each.
Survey or skim all materials to be covered, checking those to be studied in depth.
Read or reread, with extra attention, all materials not fully understood. Ask questions of the subjects and ideas you have already studied, so you can analyze them from different viewpoints.
Finally, write down information and also orally recite your answers as this helps you to memorize the facts and arguments you need most.
One day before the exam
Develop your own exam questions to help you think actively about the material, decide on the importance of each piece of information and how it fits into the overall scheme of your answer.
Write questions appropriate to the subject and those you expect to be included in the test, particularly short essay questions because these challenge your mind yet are not hard to write.
Develop appropriate, objective questions then recite your answers orally. If you need to save time, write brief outlines. If you have a lot of material but little time, review and eliminate any lecture notes that are less important.
Skim textbooks rather than reading every word, read chapter summaries to pick up key points and memorize key terms making your decision on what to study and what you can spend less time on.
Continue to review your flash cards.
Finally, think of the questions you believe will feature on the exam and sort through your cards – this will help you retrieve information from different points of view.
Morning of the exam
Get a good night’s rest and make sure you eat breakfast in the morning as this will give you the energy you need and helping you concentrate on your exam. Avoid greasy or acidic food, caffeine pills or overeating.
Allow yourself enough time to get to the test without hurrying
Do not swap questions at the door.
Do not panic if you see a question you’re not familiar with – take a moment to keep your composure and think back through your notes.
Leave your books at home – if you must take something, take a brief outline that you know well.
Make sure you bring with you a watch as well as extra pens, pencils, blank sheet, ruler and any other equipment you need so that you feel comfortable and prepared.
During the exam
If you feel nervous during the test, try this: inhale deeply, close your eyes, hold, and then exhale slowly. Repeat as needed.
Start answering the questions you find easiest to build your confidence.
Give clear, assured points – stumbling along for too long on a single question might not leave enough time for the rest of the test.
Sit apart from your classmates so they do not distracted you.
Do not panic if others are writing and you are not, your thinking may be more profitable than their writing. Also, do not feel upset if others finish before you because students who leave early do not always get higher grades. And remember to use all the time you have been allocated – even if you are simply reviewing your answers.
Never “write around” a question but answer it directly, giving a strong answer.
Prepare an outline of your answers to help you remember important ideas and facts you want to include in your response.
Another technique to try is the “memory-dump”. If allowed, write down all the facts, names, dates, ideas, and anything else related to your subject before you do anything else as reading through all the essay questions can sometimes distract you from what you’ve learnt.
Finally, pay attention to your handwriting – it will ensure your answers can be easily understood while most instructors also value clear handwriting, good grammar, punctuation and spelling. This can help you get a better grade even if your answers are the same.