Preparing for an exam is one of the most stressful experiences on the planet. Many people experience severe sleep deprivation after studying too hard for too long without taking proper breaks.
Relieving exam-related stress isn’t easy. You can only take so many deep breaths and sit on a meditation cushion for so many hours before your whole body goes numb. Once you start thinking about your exam, the stress will come back with a vengeance.
When meditation isn’t enough, here are several ways to alleviate exam-related stress.
1. Take a prep course
If you’re studying for a standard exam in school, there are no prep courses to help you. You’ll need to show up every day, take notes, and study hard to pass those exams. However, if you’re building a career, there are prep courses for just about every professional exam, designed to help you pass the first time around.
For example, if you’re taking the CPA exam, check out this review course taught by Wiley CPA. In addition to 1-on-1 support, you’ll get access to more than 12,000 practice questions and 140+ hours of video lecture instruction to help you get ready.
If you’re going for your real estate license, make sure you meet all the requirements to become a real estate agent. Once you know you’re qualified, choose a real estate exam prep course that fits your intentions. For instance, The Balance published a list of eight different prep courses that meet different needs.
There are also prep courses for the Bar exam, architecture certifications, and medical certifications, just to name a few.
Taking a prep course won’t tell you exactly what’s on the exam, but it will prepare you far better than if you don’t take a prep course. Being prepared is the best way to reduce anxiety.
2. Approach your exam in a relaxed state of mind
Nothing increases anxiety like feeling the pressure to perform. On exam day, do everything possible to put yourself into a relaxed state of mind. Drink hot tea instead of coffee to soothe your nervous system. Drink one of those fizzy powdered magnesium supplement drinks. Meditate when you wake up and right before your test.
Practice mindfulness throughout the day and during your test. When feelings of nervousness arise, treat it like you would treat a thought during meditation: observe the thought and let it go.
3. Skip questions when stress disrupts your flow
If you get stuck on a question, skip that question and come back to it at the end. Don’t disrupt your flow trying to work out an answer that is causing you stress. If you don’t skip the questions you get stuck on, you’ll carry that stress with you throughout the rest of your test.
If you come back to the hard questions at the end of the test, you might end up getting those answers wrong. However, if you don’t skip those questions, stress could cause you to get a number of questions wrong that you would have otherwise nailed.
4. Don’t focus on getting a perfect score – focus on passing
Some exams have a passing rate of under 50%. When an exam is hard to pass, it’s nearly impossible to get a perfect score. Don’t waste your time trying to achieve perfection.
If you’re used to studying for the purpose of achieving a perfect score, that’s not a good idea with the CPA exam as you’ll be studying forever.
Take the test when you’re ready, but don’t wait until you feel like you’ll achieve a perfect score. You don’t need a perfect score to pass. Good enough is good enough.
5. Study effectively
Studying effectively is a great way to reduce exam stress and anxiety. When you study effectively, you learn the material as opposed to memorizing information that you may struggle to use contextually.
In addition to studying in a quiet place and creating a schedule to study regularly, make sure you’re using effective study techniques.
Don’t cram or stay up until 7am pulling all-nighters. That’s not effective. Instead, try a block method that uses timed intervals for reviewing and learning new material with plenty of exercise and breaks in-between.
Put yourself on autopilot
For the best exam experience, put yourself on autopilot. Don’t overthink things. Yes, you’ve worked hard, and it would be a shame to fail the test. However, you’ll have the best chance at passing by relaxing your mind while you tackle the exam.
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