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Top tips to manage exam anxiety 

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Is exam time around the corner? If you’re feeling nervous, you’re not alone!  

Exam anxiety is really common but we’ve put together some great strategies to help you manage your stress levels. Find out how our students prepare for their exams, and what Curtin counsellor Graham Semple recommends for managing exam anxiety. 

Preparing for your exams 

Curtin students Lena Niklasson and Mitchell Humphreys have three top tips that are easy to remember: 

  • Avoid the need to cram: make a revision plan, set achievable goals, and start studying early. Future-you will thank past-you big time. 📆 
  • Buddy up: scaling down your social activities to make time for study can make exams a lonely time – so grab a study buddy and make it fun! It’s a great way to catch missed info, too. 👫 
  • Close your social apps: step away from the socials, and use productivity apps like Forest instead to stay focused. 📵 

“I make an effort to give myself room for breaks. This helps boost creativity and keeps me motivated to stick to my time planner. I also try to reward myself for completing tasks and be realistic with just how much time I allocate to things.”

Charlie, Bachelor of Science (Physics) and Bachelor of Engineering (Electrical)

Now we’ve offered some solid advice, consider experimenting with unique exam tips that work for you! Our students have plenty of fun ideas, from creating fake Tedx talks to teaching content to your pet pup! 🐶 

Hear from a psychologist 

While the above tips are a great starting point, if you’re feeling particularly stressed, it can help to examine and tackle the root cause of your anxiety. 

According to Curtin counsellor Graham Semple, exam anxiety has two main components: worry and emotionality. Worry involves concerns about exam content, performance, and results. Emotionality refers to feelings of unease, nervousness, and anxiety, along with physical reactions. Both can have negative impacts on your exam performance. 

While some level of anxiety around exams is really normal – and can even motivate us to reach our goals – too much stress can hinder our performance. We’ve all been there; when stress levels become too high, our focus and motivation decrease, and we don’t get the results we wanted. 

To effectively manage exam anxiety, it’s important to think long-term. Graham recommends focusing on ‘preventative habits’ and strategies to use in moments of high stress. These include:  

  • eating well, by reducing your intake of salt, sugar, and caffeine 🥗 
  • getting regular exercise to reduce stress and tension in your muscles 🏃‍♂️ 
  • establishing a consistent sleep routine and creating a conducive sleep environment 🌙 
  • maintaining a balanced lifestyle by engaging in activities outside of studying. 🌳 

And when it comes to managing anxiety “in the moment”, Graham describes three strategies for navigating high-stress situations: 

  1. Try the “notice five things exercise”. Ground yourself in the present moment by identifying five things you can see and hear around you. 👀👂 
  1. Focus on your breathing. Counter the fight or flight response by practising slow, deep breathing through the nose (a technique also known as “diaphragmatic breathing” or, of course, “belly breathing”). 💨👃 
  1. STOP! ⛔ Take a mindful moment. Pause, observe and engage with your thoughts and feelings (ask what you’re feeling, and why), and then move forward with that new understanding of where you’re at. ⏸️🧠🌱 

You can hear more great advice from Graham in this video: 

Seeking support 

Exams can be stressful, but remember, managing exam anxiety is about bringing stress to a manageable level, not eliminating it entirely. No matter what, you should feel proud that you have made it this far.  

If exam anxiety is causing you significant distress, don’t hesitate to seek help from counselling services or other support networks, like your local GP, Youth Focus or BeyondBlue

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