Tips & Tricks

How to Cure Exam Nerves

Exam nerves are common, understandable, and the cure is known. You can start by taking these steps right now.

  1. Realize that exam nerves aren't a total loss. Research has shown that optimal performance on a test occurs when the test taker is in a state between total relaxation and extreme tension.
  2. Use visualization to cast yourself in the role of successful test taking. Recognize if you have the "failure habit," that is if you consistently think of yourself as failing at a test.
  3. Spend your energy on the exam, not on fear. Think about the work, not the worry. Focus on the questions themselves.
  4. Respect your right answers too. Don't stress if you miss a question or two.
  5. Be prepared. Take selective notes, Review the last few pages of notes quickly before each class meets. Review all notes from time to time. Jot down questions to ask in class and spot items you want to look up in a reference book. Do reading assignments on schedule, don't let them pile up for one big cram session. Stop and summarize at the end of each paragraph or section. Underline or highlight main ideas. Cards with the topic names on one side and your summary of it on the other are useful aids. Recite formulas, summaries, important concepts and definitions to help emphasize what you have learned.
  6. Know what the exam will cover and the extent of knowledge or skill that will be expected. Know what type of exam it will be, essay, multiple choice, true/false, fill in, or a combination of these.
  7. Don't overdo it. Relaxation and enough sleep are at least as important as effective study.
  8. Some helpful tips while in the exam room:
    Relax! Try taking two or three deep breaths, let them out slowly.
    Next, look over all the questions briefly this gives you an idea what is expected. Answer the easier questions first, then go on to the harder questions. Don't spend to much time on any one question.

In an essay exam, first jot down the main points on scratch paper. From this you can organize your answer on the test. Write legible. If you finish before the test time expires, review your answers, checking for spelling, punctuation and grammar.