Tips to Overcome Exam Anxiety

You studied.

Nothing can stop you now!

You’re ready to show that exam who’s boss.

You sit in your seat. The room goes silent. Papers are distributed and the teacher says, “You may begin.” Instead of writing profusely like the student in the front row, you freeze. Everything you studied has suddenly evaporated from your mind. You want to cry, scream…do anything to express your frustration. But, you can’t.

exam anxiety

This scene depicts what often happens to students suffering from exam anxiety (also called test anxiety.) It’s something they seemingly can’t control and can ultimately lead to poor grades. Your son or daughter isn’t alone. Studies show that “test anxiety can affect anywhere between 10 to 40 percent of all students.”

Exam anxiety is a psychological problem. Therefore, the burden ultimately rests on the student to overcome the mental barriers that lead to exam anxiety. Your role as a parent is to create the right environment and offer the right support to help your son or daughter overcome test anxiety. Here are four tips that will help you achieve this goal.


Increase Confidence

A student with test anxiety often feels incapable of excelling in one or more subjects. This mindset can affect how the student studies. In other words, a student with test anxiety may believe the studying technique used was highly effective when that isn’t necessarily the case.

As a parent, you can bolster your son or daughter’s confidence by helping them create a more effective study strategy that includes a practice test under timed conditions. Studying well and practicing timed tests can help reduce test anxiety.


Have a Strategy

How a student approaches an exam can increase the likelihood of test anxiety. Your son or daughter should enter the exam with a strategy. However, a strategy can’t be created unless they know the structure of the exam and the objectives covered in the course.

For instance, a student equipped with knowledge about the exam’s structure and course objectives knows how to tackle questions related to the topics he or she is most comfortable with. Less time would be spent on these questions so that the student has enough time to complete the more difficult questions. There are several test-taking strategies. Help your son or daughter find a strategy that works best.


Relaxation Techniques

An increased heart rate and shortness of breath are two symptoms of exam anxiety. Relaxation techniques can help prevent a panic attack. Some possible strategies include:

  • Taking long, deep breaths for two to five minutes
  • Imagine a calming, happy place for a few minutes
  • Chew gum as a distraction
  • Use positive self-talk


Special Accommodations

A psychiatrist or psychologist may have diagnosed your son or daughter with severe exam anxiety. If you provide proof of this diagnosis prior to the exam period, the school or external examiners may make special accommodations during the exam. For instance, your son or daughter may be placed in a private room and be allowed to pace for a minute or two when he or she becomes anxious.


Final Words

Test anxiety is difficult for students to overcome without the right support. Your son or daughter’s exam anxiety may warrant the intervention of a psychiatrist or psychologist. If this is necessary, give a copy of the evaluation to the school and apply for special exam accommodations for your child. Otherwise, help them find the right strategies to deal with exam anxiety both before and during the exam.

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