It is that horrible time of year when those of us with 16 and 18-year olds watch them deal with the exam pressure of GCSE's and A Levels. As a parent it can be hard to watch them struggle but you will be relieved to know that are steps your children can take to help to ease the anxiety of taking exams and to help them perform to the best of their ability on the day.
Managing nerves before the big day.
As many of us know, nerves can cripple our ability to retrieve and utilise the information we already know and if we give in to our nerves, then instead of helping us to achieve, they impede our performance and make us feel terrible. If we don’t take steps to correct this then this can lead to self-perpetuating poor performance with the result that we feel more and more unable to cope with each exam situation that arises.
Good preparation is key and schools are great at giving students excellent ideas on how to make sure that they can get the most out of their revision. The BBC also has great tips for excellent revision tips see the following link http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zw8qpbk
How to optimise your revision
Successful revision isn’t just about the things you’re revising, the way in which you revise can have a huge impact on the information you retain.
When studying, create an atmosphere of relaxation.
Choose an environment where you feel comfortable. If you enjoy background music then put some on but keep it low. Light affects us a great deal so if you can choose a well-lit natural environment in which to work, you will find that your mood changes for the positive.
Study in 15-minute intervals with a 5-minute gap in between to daydream/ listen to a song/grab a drink – this relaxes the brain and allows the information to sink in
Look at what you don’t know and revise that. Many people keep revising what they do know – what’s the point of that? Once you know it – you know it. Trust yourself that it is known and move on.
If you begin to feel anxious – take three deep breaths – breathe in through your mouth and exhale through your nose and think about something pleasant – like a holiday or a good time you have had somewhere. It is important to relax as this will allow your brain to absorb maximum information.
It is ok to revise with others but it is not ok to compare yourself with others – just look at what you have learned and what you know. Comparison can lead to increased anxiety or overconfidence and both are equally useless to you.
Visualization techniques for improved performance on the day
This can begin a week or two before your exam
Start by visualising the journey to school and to the exam room – allow the visualisation to focus on being calm and relaxed. Create big detailed pictures in your mind. The bigger the better and more detailed the better. Successful Athletes do this on a regular basis to combat nerves and create a winning strategy
See yourself waking up calm and relaxed
Watch yourself getting ready for the day – go through your morning routine- getting ready, brushing your teeth, eating breakfast, packing your stationery – with each of these watch yourself doing this calmly and relaxed – see yourself smiling, hear yourself talking to members of your family in a calm way
Practice the walk to school – chatting happily to your friends about good happy things or just watch yourself walking calmly and peacefully to the exam room- notice all the things around you on your journey – the trees, the twittering of the birds, the traffic noises, people, and children chatting and laughing.
See yourself calmly sitting at the exam desk, your stationery arranged in a way that suits you and feeling calm and collected. Allow yourself to focus on your breathing. Notice the in breath and the out breath – this automatically helps you to relax. Think of a beautiful place where you feel totally relaxed, a beach, a walk-in nature, sitting in your garden, think of anything that brings you a sense of peace when you think about it. (again when you think of this place fill in the detail – the colours you see, the sounds you hear, the temperature, the time of day, the people you are with, the expression on your face, the calmness in your body). Doing this allows the conscious mind to relax and reduces or gets rid of nerves.
Before opening the paper, see yourself taking 3 deep breaths and say the word relax on each out breath. This again calms the mind and reduces the chance of nerves sabotaging your efforts.
See yourself answering the questions calmly – making good decisions, such as if you don’t know an answer straight away, you move on to the next question and come back to the one you can’t answer later. Make sure you see yourself keeping calm as you do this.
If you can practice this visualisation for at least a week before going to an exam you will notice a difference in your approach.
Staying calm in the exam room
If when you get to the exam room you still feel nervous try the following:
Identify the feelings or the symptoms you are experiencing i.e. stomach churning or breathing is fast. Once you identify your feelings or symptoms you can start to do something about them.
An example is that when I get nervous my stomach churns and moves in a clockwise motion and it gets faster and faster the more nervous I get. To combat this, I reverse the churning. I make my stomach rotate anti-clockwise and slow down the rate at which it does this. The effect neurologically is noticeable and I immediately begin to feel calmer.
Try it with anything you get so if you get the feeling of rising panic in your chest, push the panic down at a different speed to how it rises. If it rises fast push it down slowly. If it sinks down slowly make it rise fast.
If you notice your breathing is rapid and shallow – take slow deep breaths. Inhale through your mouth and exhale through your nose.
If you find your children are anxious about their upcoming exams then please get in touch for some free advice or you can talk to me about how my therapy has made a significant difference to students enabling them to handle exam nerves and performing better under stressful situations.
For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
About Meera and Harley Street Consulting
I’m a behavioural change and emotional well being specialist and a qualified hypnotherapist, NLP practitioner and coach. I have spent the last 30 years in changing the behaviours and lives of children, teenagers and adults from all walks of life. I have set up Harley Street Consulting to help continue my work in helping others achieve success and behavioural change in their lives. I have offices in Maidenhead, Berkshire and Harley Street London, please get in touch if you would like to find out more about how I can help.