Strategies for Exam Success

Last time in Why is it harder to remember answers during an exam? we saw what happens in the body when we are stressed or scared. 

This time let’s find out some of the things you can do to reduce your anxiety and feel more in control and relaxed, yet alert.

Before and during the exam

  • Breathe, this is the quickest way in to bring down your nervous system from hyper-arousal. Breath in slowly through the nose for a count of 3, hold 3, exhale through the mouth for 5 (you change the count to what suits you) however, it’s very important that the exhalation is longer than the inhale and hold. As you do this it’s very important to keep your jaw completely relaxed (floppy) and your tongue very loose in your mouth.
  • Imagine a lovely tranquil scene, maybe lying on a sun-drenched beach peacefully listening to the waves lapping or somewhere in the countryside, it could be somewhere you’ve been before or pure imagination, you get to choose.
  • Tell yourself: “It’s OK for me to relax, it is helping me to stay calm and cool, it’s easy to remember the answers, I am confident, I am in control…”

After the exam

  • Burn off the adrenaline that you’ve created in your body if you wish by going for a run, or take a long, brisk walk.  When you worked off those strong chemicals that stress has released into your body you can then continue with your life, studying or whatever.

For those of you interested in neuroscience we are acting on the intelligent part of the brain called the Pre-frontal Cortex. I like to call it the Executive Room, because it can stand back and see the big picture without panicking. So you take control and you breathe. Now you have time to think clearly and make good choices!  You are the BOSS!

Of course, all of this has to be practised so you get good at it. It’s certainly something that has helped me. For instance,  when I give talks and suddenly I think “I can’t do this” and my confidence is just about to ‘bail out’, then I put all my strategies into place and take control, basically, I’m in the Executive Room, where I can think straight, make intelligent choices and feel good about myself.

You know what, there is nothing like feeling in control of your own mind so you can feel good in whatever situation you find yourself. However, it does take practice, so do it, even 5 mins a day, to help set up the right conditions in the mind and body.

Let me know if you need any help as it’s quite a deep subject and lots to know, good luck!

PS: Next time I’ll give you an excellent strategy to help you learn and revise better.

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