It’s that festive time of year again when we celebrate the midpoint of the semester by donning our favourite sweats, while subjecting ourselves to sleep deprivation and massive amounts of studying. These rituals often take place collectively at Robarts or any 24 hour Tim Hortons. Those who survive the festivities often leave with a mean caffeine addiction.
This event is infamous for its ability to instill anxiety in students that can be felt across campus. Without further ado, here are the things that make me anxious during mid-term season :
1. Just knowing that it’s October.
I might not look like that on the outside, but that’s probably what my inner self would look like.
2. When my friends and I argue over who is more stressed than the other.
I don’t even know why we waste time on this. Nobody gets a prize.
Instead of engaging in counterproductive bantering, why not become each other’s support system. For me, it’s easier to get through studying with friends than alone because I feel less stressed. The bonus is that being less stressed provides for better cognitive function—like memory!
3. Realizing the amount of testable material for the midterm.
4. Realizing the amount of testable material for the midterm that I haven’t read.
I find that the best way to deal with this type of anxiety is to stay on top of my readings every week. That said, if I find myself in a position where I still have chapters that I’ve barely touched and a limited amount of time to know them, the most efficient learning system for me is to read over my slides first and pick out the topics mentioned in them from my textbook.
5. When I look at the test paper and it’s written in alien.
I find it is reassuring for me to know the format of the tests, to look over past tests to gain familiarity with the types of questions, and to be prepared for the level of testing difficulty.
6. When my brain decides to forget everything during the exam…
7. … and then remembers all the right answers the second I hand in the exam.
Test anxiety affects thinking ability either through the mechanism of “blanking out” or having racing thoughts that are difficult to suppress. I will often take a few deep breaths before reading over my exam as a way to relax myself and to relieve my anxiety.
8. Realizing there’s only 15 minutes left in the exam and I’ve only completed a third of the exam.
I find the best strategy for this again, is prevention. I scan through my test for the first 3-5 minutes of the exam and allot time for each section. One of the worst mistakes I have made is spending too much time on the short answer question, and leaving no time to answer the long questions where the bulk of my mark resides. Now, I actually work backwards by doing the long answers first, before moving on to the short answers.
9. When everyone but me walks out of the exam early.
I’ve learned to focus on the test instead of how empty the room is getting. I tell myself: “the time it takes other people to complete an exam is a variable independent of your abilities!”
One thing is sure: feeling anxious is very natural during exam season. In fact, anxiety is a good thing to feel in limited amount since it can help motivate us to do better!
These are things that I have tried and that work for me. What stresses you out and how do you deal with it?
If you have tried various coping techniques and the anxiety still feels uncontrollable and/or interferes with your studying and test-taking, you might want to check out the resources at the Academic Success Centre or Counselling and Psychological Services.