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  • Writer's pictureTharun sai E

Well prepared for exam but can't remember anything during exam? How to deal with this!

Picture this: You are sitting in an exam hall. You’re well-prepared. You’ve studied, you’ve revised, you have all your stationery—you should do well, right? Then you get the test. Suddenly, it feels like your brain has blanked out. You can’t remember anything. You get nervous, and it feels like you can’t think at all. 

Sounds familiar? 


You could be experiencing ‘test anxiety’.


Test anxiety is a mental health concern where people experience significant distress in situations where they are being evaluated. The distress or anxiety is so overwhelming that it can impact your ability to do well in the exam. 


Most people experience some amount of anxiety before a big exam or evaluation. In small doses, this anxiety can be helpful -  it increases mental clarity and can actually improve performance. But, after a point, increased levels of stress begin to interfere with your performance. Test anxiety can make you feel restless, affect your concentration, and make it harder to remember the information you’ve studied. All of this further intensifies the anxiety you’re experiencing, creating a vicious cycle.   


Test anxiety is a form of performance anxiety - anxiety that crops up in situations where you feel the need to ‘perform well’. In such situations, the pressure associated with doing a good job can actually prevent you from doing your best. 

Test anxiety is common. It affects about 10-40% of all students. The good news, though, is that there are ways of managing it. Here are some strategies to help you cope with test anxiety:


Remember, perfection is a myth


Trying to be ‘perfect’ can be exhausting. It sets an unrealistic standard that is difficult (if not impossible) to meet. While setting goals, try to remind yourself that the important thing is to try your best. Remember that we all make mistakes. Give yourself the space to learn from them and be kind to yourself in the process. 


  • Practise positive self-talk

When you are anxious, your thoughts tend to be overly negative.  Thoughts such as ‘I am not good enough’, or ‘I am definitely going to fail’ can crowd your mind and can make it even harder to focus on the task at hand. At times like these, try to counter these thoughts with more balanced ones. Statements such as ‘I am trying my best’ or ‘I have prepared well for this exam’ can help instil confidence and make it easier to approach the test. 


  • Try self-care

Make sure that you’re looking after yourself during exam season. A good night’s sleep (6-8 hours), healthy meals, and some downtime to relax can make a world of difference to your attention, memory, and morale during exams.

Seek professional help


Test anxiety can take a toll on your academic performance, self-esteem, and sense of self-worth. If you feel like you are finding the anxiety difficult to cope with, professional support can help. A mental health professional will help you understand your symptoms and teach you evidence-based techniques for managing your stress levels.


How can teachers help?

Teachers also play a major role in influencing how students approach test-taking. They can help create a positive attitude and can prepare students for the realities of exam season much in advance. If you are a teacher or educator, here are some strategies that you can implement to help reduce test anxiety among students: 


  • Put things in perspective

It’s natural to want what’s best for your students. But sometimes the ‘best’ can put undue pressure on them. Try to remind your class that no single exam can ‘make or break’ their future. Give them examples of people who perhaps didn’t perform too well on standardised tests, but still went on to be successful. This can help reduce the stress associated with ‘performing well’ on an exam.


  • Teach relaxation techniques

Test anxiety can happen to the best of us. It is important to know how to cope with it, if it does occur. Relaxation techniques can be a great way to calm the nerves and bring your focus back to the task at hand. Teach your class some basic relaxation strategies such as deep breathing, box breathing, or the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise. These techniques can also be a great way to start your class or settle students down.


  • Help students create a study plan

Being prepared for an exam is one area that students have control over. Good preparation generally means that they will be less stressed. Take some time in the build-up to exam season to discuss preparation techniques with your students. Introduce them to planning tools such as the Urgent/Important Matrix or the Pomodoro Technique to help them efficiently plan their studying.


  • Encourage Students To Seek Professional Help

One of the most important things a teacher can do is be available for their students. Notice which students seem especially tense about upcoming exams, and give them the space to discuss their concerns. But, also remember that there is only so much support that you can provide. If needed, encourage students to seek out professional help. You can read about the benefits of therapy for test anxiety and help them make an appointment with a school counsellor or mental health professional near them with the consent of their parents or guardians.


Conclusion

Test anxiety is the overwhelming fear that often accompanies the exam season. It affects many students and can take a toll on both their mental health and academic performance. Various strategies can be used by both students and teachers to help make the testing process less stressful. However, many times professional mental health intervention -  provided by a therapist - can be the most beneficial in getting to the root of test anxiety and finding long-term solutions to dealing with it. 

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