We have all experienced it, some more than others, but no one is spared a feeling so overwhelming it appears before we have to take an exam, both the weeks before and the day we have to. do it.
Uncertainty and fear emerge in our minds. No matter how much we have studied, we always have this feeling that we don’t know at all what we have been watching or even worried that by the time of taking the exam we are not being informed.
The stress of preparing for exams is common among all students and is not inherently pathological.; however, if we are too stressed, it can become a real problem that will take us away from approval. Then we will understand how it appears and learn how to deal with it.
What is the stress of preparing for exams?
As the exam time approaches, the logical and normal thing for students is to study, to try to prepare them as best as possible so as not to encounter the unpleasant surprise of not knowing how to do anything on the day of the test. . Study takes effort, concentration, hours and hours of learning and reviewing content. however, no matter how much we study and know the content, it’s pretty much inevitable to feel a little nervous and even stressed out.
When we study, we cannot help but feel a wide repertoire of emotions, doubts and fears, all mixed with the uncertainty of whether or not we will pass the exams or not. Although we have no cognitive difficulty in absorbing the content, our mood can play tricks on us and excessive stress can prevent us from reading in depth and understanding the lessons, which is why it is so necessary to know how to manage our own emotions during study periods.
But we don’t have to think stress is bad, in fact we need a little bit to be able to perform well in school. Stress is always the body’s normal response to a problem or demand., An emotion that mobilizes us to find a solution to the situation in which we find ourselves. The relationship between stress and exam performance is presented in the form of a curve. In the beginning, the more stressed we are, the more energized and motivated we will be, having enough “excitement” to be able to study and effectively sacrifice our free time.
However, at some point, the more stressed you are, the poorer your performance. Too much stress can distract us, make us unable to understand what we are reading, or even prevent us from writing notes and summaries of the lessons we are reviewing. In other words, that is to say our “excitement” decreases, we get stuck and nothing gets into our brain. Coming to this situation all we do is waste time and on top of that the feeling of lack of control and self-mistrust translates into loss of sanity.
Not having stress can be a problem, as it does not cause us to start studying, but having too much directly prevents us from doing so. Having the right stress, the normal thing, is necessary to be able to pass the exams, to be stressed enough not to leave the study for later but not too much so that nothing enters us. Managing our emotions both during preparation for the exam and for the exam itself will be key to our performance.
How do you deal with the stress of preparing for a test?
As we mentioned, it is normal to have a little stress during the exam period, especially if there is a lot of it and some are done on the same day. Exam preparation is not an emotionally neutral thing and everyone feels stressed during this time, although some are more stressful than others.
Either way, of course good exam preparation, with time and the acquisition of good emotional management tools they will help us have the best performance on test day. Let’s take a look at some strategies directly related to exam participation.
1. Write down doubts and fears
Before even starting to study, a great way to deal with exam stress is to take a piece of paper and write down the fears, thoughts, emotions, expectations, and doubts we have about how it is. review will take place. All of these cognitions cause us stress, an emotion we feel but don’t even realize what’s causing it. To deal with them, we must first name them, identify which they are and ask if they are therefore.
The fear of failing the exam is a real and significant fear, but it is not a fact that has already happened. It may be that the worry of hanging it is overkill and we really have some proof that we will do right. For example, if we went to class every day, had homework, took notes, and started reviewing the program two weeks in advance, we might have a good chance of being successful. Keeping this in mind will give us confidence and reduce our stress a bit.
It may happen that the exact opposite is true, that is, we have skipped the occasional class or are not always keeping up with the homework. In this case, we have reason to be concerned, however we need to turn the stress associated with the exam into energy that gets our hands on the work and do what we need to do: study. If we start early, chances are we can learn everything that goes into the exam.
Whatever our case, we must accept and understand that it is normal to feel nervous, what we must not allow is that our thoughts and fears of something that has not yet happened will not happen. not allow us to study because, in this case, the worst case scenario will be met, failing the exam.
Once the thoughts and fears associated with the tests have been detected, it is time to prepare for the exams. Many students start studying without getting organized or planning a guide on how to study, which is very counterproductive. Clutter and disorganization invite frustration and increase stress, which, as we have already mentioned, makes it difficult for us to study whether excessive levels are being reached.
Making a plan is a student’s best ally. Plan what topics to read each day, when to write summaries, write down doubts, and spend more time on those topics that weren’t so clear to us. this is the best way to increase the chances of passing the exam, besides giving us confidence to see that we have made an effort in organizing ourselves.
If we do, the day the exam arrives we will be much less stressed and there will be little chance that we will be left blank. Greater organization translates into a greater sense of control which, in turn, means less stress, which will not prevent us from understanding what is being asked of us and we will not have momentary forgetfulness of the content.
3. Monitor who we ask
Asking other classmates can be therapeutic and de-stressing, as we will see that other people also suffer from stress before taking exams and may have the same doubts as we do. It is possible that some of them have developed stress management techniques and wish to share them with us, in addition to explaining in detail the doubts that we may have or to show us mnemonic techniques and ways of coping. better assimilate the content.
However, asking other colleagues can be a double-edged sword. It’s beneficial whenever we ask the right people, To those who know how to manage their emotions well and try to view the upcoming exam with optimism. On the other hand, those who have a more negative and victimistic outlook and who are at least asked what they are doing is blowing off steam and speaking badly of the teacher are people we need to keep in mind. difference.
We must be careful who we ask questions, because it may be that far from reducing our stress, they increase it to make us believe that there is no solution, that the exam is going badly. turn and you have to put yourself in the worst-case scenario. This is not true. The solution is to study, excessive stress is a factor that can influence our performance, but not a certain determinant. We need to stay away from people who blame external factors on their academic performance and who don’t study how it should be.
4. Practice evocation of learning
Why wait until exam day to see if we know the content? One of the things that hardly anyone does that, ironically, is the one that can lead to the best results is the evocation of learning, which consists of try to see if we are able to recover the content that we have studied. Many students are limited to reading and outlining the book, but not remembering the content they are supposed to have learned, which they will need to do on exam day.
The best way to check if we are able to remember what we have studied is to do exam exercises and rehearsals. These tests help us see if we are able to remember, with or without clues, what we have reviewed and be sure we know the agenda. If we have difficulty doing this, it means we need to revise the agenda a bit more., In addition to repeating the exam.
By doing this, we will not only reduce our stress as we will gain confidence to see that we really know the agenda, but we will also be more likely to get a better grade. It is only with practice that we will make sure that the exam goes as smoothly as possible, which will prevent us from being left blank at the time of the test.
5. These are exams, not the end
There is no doubt that exams are stressful tests, but they are not death sentences or terminal illness diagnoses. There are obviously reviews and exams, some more important than others, but the vast majority have in common that they can be repeated or that there are ways to change a suspension. Yes, there are exams in which we play the entire grade for a subject and which, if suspended, may involve repeating a course or having to pay again, but the error is human.
Many times an exam is suspended not because it has not been studied, but because there was so much fear of suspension that in the end this fear came true. Beyond the exam, there is life, and one should not think that to fail – is synonymous with failure. It is true that we should have studied more and learned how to deal with our emotions better, but now that we have failed we can see it as a learning experience and know what not to do for the next. These are exams, not the end of our lives.
- Crego, A .; Carrillo-Diaz, M .; Armfield, JM and Romero, M. (2016). Stress and academic performance in dental students: the role of coping strategies and exam self-efficacy. Journal of Dental Education, 80 (2): pages 165-172.
- Karpicke, J., and Roediger, H. (2008). The critical importance of recovery for learning. Science, 319, 966-968.