(Psst–this is Part 2 in a 4-part series on overcoming test anxiety.)
Calmly enter the exam room knowing that bad juju can’t touch you unless you let it.
In our last post, we covered the basics of exam preparation and the strategies you need to uppercut your anxiety right in the chops–BAM! But prepping like a Boy Scout is only part of the equation and, in all honesty, it’s fancy footwork you might not have much time for sometimes.
Maybe you’ve fully prepared for your exam, but you’re still feeling anxious. You think you know the material inside and out. You’ve rehearsed and aced your example exams. But the thought of going into the exam room still makes you want to breathe into a paper bag.
Or maybe you’ve felt this pseudo-confidence before only to blank out or bomb a test, and you just can’t get over that feeling that you’re just not ready no matter how much you’ve prepped.
Or maybe you didn’t have a chance to thoroughly prep and are in the wee hours before your test, playing and replaying every failure scenario in your head. You’re scared of going to the exam because ____ will surely happen and you’ll never be able to show your face to your ____ again.
You start thinking of ways to get out of your test. Come to think of it, you’re coming down with pneumonia or is that your writing hand seizing up?
Or maybe you’re stuck in the jellies, thinking about those other students who do it better, faster, or more magically awesome than you do. And then your mind jumps into Excuses Canyon for a wild ride.
Woh, nelly. We need to get your head in the game.
Sure, studying like a rock star was one angle to overcoming exam jitters, but now we’re in the mindset realm of test anxiety. Your mind might be jammed to the brim with outside pressures that need to shift before you can sail through your next exam.
Here’s a couple of classic tricks we used to practice on our friends who were flipping their sh– before a test. There is nothing more magical than turning a freak out session into a laugh session to get your mindset in order before an exam.
Put consequences in perspective
You might be obsessed with consequences of failure: crappy grades, delayed or no graduation, loss of scholarships, or the parental foot to name a few. An exaggerated movie keeps playing through your head of impending doom, but let’s put exam failure in perspective.
The reality is that even the worst-case scenario isn’t exactly life threatening. There was never an engineering exam failure that ended in “…and then death” or “…and then zombies” or even “…and then there was never another chance to become an engineer ever. The end.”
As sad as failing an exam is, it really isn’t the end of the world. It might suck. It might have real life consequences that suck. But you’ll be okay. Just like Michael Jordan was after he was cut from his JV basketball team in high school. If you want it, you can always have another chance to work on your grit and demolish that test.
The opposite is also true. Acing an exam doesn’t make you immortal, super sexy, or guarantee anything more than a solid grade in your class. We hate to destroy the allure, but why would you lose your mind over something as positively un-earth-shattering as acing an exam? Pick something way sexier than exams. Promise?
Whenever an external fear pops up, just put it in perspective. Laugh about it. Relish in the wondrousness that is life and the craziness that you have a brain that can even think such wild thoughts.
Stop worrying about other students…
You might also be obsessed with comparing yourself to other students. You can always find someone who studies harder or more than you do, someone who does better on exams than you do, and someone who finishes before you. If they’re not at your school, they’re at another one—but they’re out there.
Listen, you aren’t special. We’re not special. No one is special. So stop trying to figure out where you fit in this “special” game already. We’re just students trying to win at this engineering thing.
Plus, studying more doesn’t translate to better results. Finishing an exam earlier doesn’t mean that person will earn the best grade–sometimes it’s a sign they’ve botched it. And someone else being a supposed genius has nothing to do with you or your success.
…and steal their game instead
Don’t hate the player, hate the game. And then hack it to be the player.
If there’s someone who appears to be nailing this engineering student business with zero effort, then steal their tricks and become a member of the proverbial exam-ninja-star wielding engineering students society yourself. We’re always accepting new members.
Bottom line, overcoming test anxiety might seem easier said than done, but its path is made up of totally doable steps. You can reprogram your mind to pause and even laugh at crazy consequences. And instead of giving stank-eye (as fun as it can be), you can observe others who appear to have magical powers to steal their exam-winning tricks for yourself.
In Part 3 of this test anxiety series, we’ll discuss how to calm your nervous system to kick test anxiety to the curb.
Until then, did you overcome test anxiety by re-framing the crazies or copying your nemesis who gets everything right? Share your story with us!