Lindsay Richels Shares 5 Ways She Avoids Pre-Exam Stress

Lindsay Richels Blog Entry Photo

Being well prepared for an exam usually is the difference between scoring well and failing a test.  There are many methods to studying and most students will find a way that works for them simply through trial and error.  The following preparation tips are suggestions of what I have found useful and helped me score well on exams.


Understanding what exams you have and in what order you will be examined is important.  Scheduling your exams in your calendar along with all the other commitments you may have during that time and allotting time to each task.  You must have the flexibility and be able to re-evaluate and juggle your schedule based on how fast you are able to learn the material.  You also need to schedule enough wiggle room so that if something “comes up” you aren’t in a complete crisis because you missed a few hours of studying.


Along with completing a calendar, you must prioritize all projects, assignments, and exams.  Know what all your assignments/exams are worth and prioritize accordingly.  Sometimes that does mean completing quick assignments or other projects in advance if you have an exam with a large amount of content being examined during the same time.  Freeing yourself up commitment wise allows you to get through the material in a timely fashion and solidifying any material that may be confusing. 


Knowing if an exam will be using multiple choice, fill in the blank, short answer, or essay format really changes how you study.  Also knowing the level of detail that is required during performances will be ascertained during the first few exams in a semester.  The first exam sets the tone and lets you know the level of difficulty for subsequent exams.


Focusing on keeping notes and trying to learn as much content during a lecture as possible or turning off your TV while you study, everyone handles distractions differently.  Knowing how you do your best “studying” is important and you can usually determine if your studying was quality learning versus reading and not understanding by how you do on an exam.  Depending on how easily ‘distracted’ you are will make the difference in how you study.  If you are able to ignore a ringing phone, then, by all means, keep your cell phone next to you.  For me, I turn my phone over and put on ‘do not disturb’ when having to seriously get through a lot of content. 


Keep things in perspective: It is just an exam.  Absolutely do your best and prepare in advance but at the end of the day, it is just an exam.  Basing your entire value as a human being on scoring well on an exam can make taking tests extremely stressful.  Consider test taking the equivalent of doing any other job or task.  Think about how many exams you will write in your lifetime and how stressed out you will be for years on end if you don’t think of an exam as “just another day at work.” 


Someone once told me “comparison is the thief of joy” which I feel holds true when it comes to exam taking.  Do not compare yourself to others or get caught up in academic competitiveness.  Sometimes classroom chatter about an exam can cause anxiety and ramp up stress just prior to a test.  If you know you are one of those people that get psyched out just prior to entering an exam by your classmates don’t stand around with them or engage in the pre-test chit chat.  Check in with your emotions during exam time and know what causes stress and what helps you perform well.  When you find a system or process that works well for you – stick to it.