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How I Write and Learn

Exam Anxiety

By Shinjini, a Peer Tutor

Since my freshman year of college, one thing I have noticed about myself is that I tend to get stressed the day before and the day of an exam. This would often lead to me performing beneath my potential. It ended up being a never-ending cycle. Slowly, throughout my years of college, I have developed small coping methods that have worked for me and might work for you as well! The Learning Center’s test day game plan has been an invaluable resource for me, and I like to have a plan in place a few days before I start preparing for my exams.

The day before the exam:

The day before a big exam, I tend to take a practice exam or something similar to a practice exam to see where my gaps in understanding are. I then talk through the problems with a friend or look in the textbook to fill in those gaps. One rule I have for the day before an exam is to stop studying around 8 p.m. That way, my mind gets a mental break before the actual exam. I also try to have dinner with a friend or call a family member on the phone to get my mind off of the exam. Right before bed, I review my condensed notes for the exam and fall asleep. My goal is to get at least 8 hours of sleep before a big exam.

The day of the exam:

The day of the exam, I try to make a schedule and wake up an hour earlier than normal to eat a good breakfast. I often review my notes while eating breakfast and try to work out simple problems to get my brain working. I spend the time before the exam skimming my notes and glancing over past problems. One thing I have noticed that helps with test day anxiety is exercising the day of the exam, especially doing some type of cardio. This helps elevate my mood and release any stress I have. Post-workout, I try to breathe deeply and meditate for a few minutes.

Oatmeal topped with sliced bananas and chocolate chips.
Oatmeal is my go-to exam day breakfast!

The hour before the exam:

The hour before an exam, I turn on my “Motivational Feels” Spotify playlist to change my mood and get into a positive mindset before the exam. Music helps calm the brain and the nerves before any big event. Lastly, during the exam, if I have trouble focusing or come across a difficult problem, I take a step back and take a deep breath. This helps clear my mind of any negative thoughts and allows my brain to work properly while approaching the exam.

Screenshot of the author's "Motivational Feels" playlist on Spotify.

The last and most important thing I try to remember is to keep a positive mindset. I know I’ve got this and that I have been putting in the work to get the grade. I always try to remember that one exam, one quiz, one homework assignment, etc. does not define my worth or how smart I am!

This blog showcases the perspectives of UNC Chapel Hill community members learning and writing online. If you want to talk to a Writing and Learning Center coach about implementing strategies described in the blog, make an appointment with a writing coach, a peer tutor, or an academic coach today. Have an idea for a blog post about how you are learning and writing remotely? Contact us here.

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