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Male student revising

6 May 2021

Worried about exams? Here’s how to manage those nerves

Sitting an exam isn’t something most people enjoy, and the exam period is often one of the most stressful times of the trimester. Do you put pressure on yourself to achieve good marks and meet high personal or family expectations? We’re here to help you through it!

The first thing to do is ensure you understand how exams are working this trimester and the requirements for your units. Just read our guide to Trimester 1 final assessments for all you need to know. 

Once you’re familiar with the academic side of things, you may still need to calm those pesky nerves. Luckily, there’s some tried and tested ways to relax your mind, turn any stress into a strength and get in the exam zone.

Keep active

If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed by pre-exam stress, or you’re unable to focus after hours of reading, exercise is one of the simplest things you can do to stay mentally sharp. Exercise helps your body in a number of ways, including by releasing:

Even 15 to 30 minutes of exercise is useful, so remember to include some ‘active time’ in your study routine.

Stay positive

Putting pressure on yourself to achieve a certain grade is a big contributor to stress and anxiety, so try to keep your thoughts positive. While sitting an exam can seem daunting, remember that exams are not designed to trick you or catch you out. Try to remain confident in your ability and use your exam as an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge. 

Even if you’re feeling underprepared, negative self-talk like ‘My life will be ruined if I fail’ won’t help. If you find your head is filled with negative thoughts, discover how to reframe this self-talk.

Be kind to yourself

While it’s easy to cast aside other activities when exams are looming, it’s important to still make time for the things you love. Prioritising other areas of your life besides study will allow you to be your best, energised and most happy self, so that you can prepare for exams in the most productive and effective way.

Thankfully, many of our regular activities are back on in 2021 and it’s now much easier to see friends and family. So however you like to treat yourself for all of your hard work, make sure to find some balance and don’t wait until your exams are over to do it.

Just breathe

Deep breathing is a simple and effective way to help you feel calm, and manage stress and anxiety. Try taking a few deep breaths whenever you begin to notice your stress levels rising, such as while you’re studying or as you wait to begin your exam.

To slow down your breathing, inhale to the count of four and exhale to the count of six. When you lengthen your exhalations to be longer than your inhalations, your body begins to switch on your parasympathetic nervous system, which in turn will calm you down.

Focusing on something as simple as breathing helps to quieten those racing thoughts by acting as a temporary and soothing distraction. Use apps such as Smiling Mind to find additional breathing exercises to help you relax, or use mindfulness as a guide.

Talk to someone

While all of these strategies can collectively help you to manage stress during exam time, if anxiety is an ongoing challenge please confide in a family member, friend or counsellor about how you’re feeling. Seeking support will remind you that you’re not alone and help to lighten some of that pressure.

Our Counselling and Psychological Support (CAPS) team offers free and confidential support to Deakin students from highly skilled psychologists and social workers. Book online to have a real-time telehealth appointment.

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