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April 26, 2018

How to Overcome Competitive Exam Fear / Anxiety

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Competitive Exams are often considered a ‘fear’ factor among aspirants. Many aspirants complain that they forgot everything they read as soon as they saw the exam paper due to anxiety. A certain amount of fear / anxiety prior to examination is a desirable spur to effort. But when the anxiety becomes excessive and is not channeled into productive work, it leads to a general inhibition of mental process. Every person writing competitive exams experiences some degree of anxiety or a bit of nervousness. This is normal and in fact necessary in order to be sufficiently motivated to perform. Competitive Exam anxiety refers to the intense nervousness which some students feel when they have to write a test / exam. Symptoms may include the following : 

Before the exam : Insomnia, less (or increased) appetite, or inability to concentrate. Boredom may also be a symptom of anxiety. A surface lack of interest in a subject may cover a deep-seated anxiety about future performance. There may be mock indifference (don't care attitude), guilt, anger and depression.

During the exam : Confusion, panic, mental blocks, fainting. Think about the reasons for your anxiety and write them down. Consider each reason very rationally and objectively. Write down the worst that could possibly happen e.g. "If I felt embarrassed, then the worst that could happen is..." By spending some time analysing each cause of your concern, you will come to realise that in fact, there is nothing that can damage you permanently if you do happen to fail an exam. Lots of students have failed. It does not mean they give up. Many students who fail return with a vengeance and perform very well — they are the survivors in life ! They make a new plan when the chips are down.

Therefore try to see an exam, as a challenge rather than a threat so that your negative attitude turns into a positive one and helps you feel motivated and not anxious. Be well prepared before an exam. Do the groundwork early on i.e. have summaries and notes up to date, make certain you understand the work. Cramming and parrot fashion learning increase the likelihood of those memory blanks.

Check your exam call letter to ensure that you know where the exam venue is and when you are appearing for the exam.

On the night before an exam — try to get a good night's sleep i.e. at least 7-8 hrs. Make sure you arrive on time for the test/exam. Do not stand around talking to other students about exam. 

If you are experiencing exam stress, it is likely that you are thinking negatively. There are ways of dealing with such tendencies, such as; merely to say to you. STOP THAT! This can be done immediately when one becomes aware of a negative thought and before it impairs performance.

Any object e.g. watch strap, bracelet, elastic band around your finger can assist you in preventing negative thoughts. Associate the bracelet, for instance, with the prevention of negative thoughts. The association process can assist you in two ways : You will be reminded by the bracelet that you cannot afford negative thoughts.

On becoming aware of negative thoughts you can pull the bracelet tightly against your arm. This action as well as the definite decision not to harbour any negative thoughts will reinforce your decision.

Visualise success : We tend mostly to live up to our own expectations, good or bad. If you spend a lot of time mentally rehearsing what you will do when you fail, you increase your chances of failure. Stop the cycle of worry.

Take time to rehearse what it will be like to succeed. Be very specific. Visualise taking the test/exam successfully. You discover that you know all the answers. Imagine yourself writing quickly and confidently. In your mind, watch yourself hand in the paper with confidence. Visualise your celebration when you find out you got a top grade. As soon as you realise you are feeling anxious about an upcoming test, begin using this technique. The more you do this visualisation, the better it will work.

Praise yourself. Consider phrases like, "I am very relaxed," "I am doing a great job on this test", "I never forgot anything and I have a lot of tools that will help me recall." 

Relaxation techniques to avoid Exam Tension : 

Here are 3 basic techniques, which are useful in relieving exam stress. 

Breathing :

The breathing technique can be used in any stressful situation, as it is not visible. It is a very effective way of lowering your level of tension and your heartbeat. Stand, sit or lie down comfortably.

If at all possible, close your eyes and concentrate on breathing deeply.

Shut out all thoughts and concentrate on the rhythmic in-and-out flow of air. Your breathing should be smooth, but deep. As soon as you notice yourself relaxing and become more calm, breathe in deeply and hold the air in for approximately 10 seconds.

When breathing out after 10 seconds, imagine yourself blowing a bowl of soup. When breathing out, there will be a certain amount of resistance. This process lowers your heartbeat and results in a more relaxed state.

Repeat this process three times, while saying the following as you breathe out :

"I feel calm, refreshed and in control of myself

Compare your present relaxed state with your previous tense feelings. 

Partial relaxation : 

Make a note of those muscles, which are tense while studying or while you are in the exam situation and attempt to relax these. Couple this with deep breathing. 

The Peaceful Scene Technique :

This method can be used at any time, as it is not visible to others. This method should be practiced regularly to be effective. The following procedure should be followed :

By using the breathing technique, create a calm, tranquil and restful state.

Free your thoughts totally to move a place where you have been before and where you were calm and relaxed, e.g. a mountain or sea scene.

Concentrate in the scene and try to clearly visualise the picture. Imagine yourself actually standing at the scene.

Experience the associated sensations, e.g. listen to the noise of the crying of the seagulls, feel the sand running through your fingers, the sun on your skin, look at the blue sky, taste the salt water and smell the saltiness of the wind. Experience the total scene as well as the associated relaxed and warm heavy feeling.

Keep this relaxed scene in your mind for a few minutes, while continuing to breathe deeply and smoothly. Say to yourself. 'I feel calm, refreshed and in control of myself' Let your thoughts return to reality. All the best !

Nisheeta Mirchandani

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