Exam jitters can be mild or extreme,but have no doubt, they can be managed and overcome!
Picture this: You are a student and have spent countless nights studying for an exam. You believe you have read and understood all the crucial concepts. But something happens on the day of the exam: you go blank.
You are so afraid and scared that you are unable to answer questions on the subject you read the night before.
Does this describe you? Then you may have exam jitters – an intense feeling you get when you are about to take an exam. This happens a lot more than is reported because a lot of people feel this way but are ashamed to report it. It is natural to feel frightened or anxious before an event esepcially an exam – which is a test of your abilities and knowledge.
Anxiety is a huge cause of exam jitters and this can be caused by several factors. However, exam jitters or anxiety can be severe for some people. You may panic so badly before an exam that it compromises your performance or concentration.
There are many causes of exam jitters. We will explore a few of them and also note what symptoms to look out for, and how to manage them.
1. Fear of Failure:
Linking your future or self-worth to whether or not you pass an exam puts more pressure on you. This alone can trigger exam jitters and make you unable to remember what you read, actually write down answers and communicate.
2. Bad Performance History:
A lot of people are discouraged by their previous experience or results. It is one thing to know the answers, it is another thing to write them down correctly. This level of pressure to do better is likely to cause anxiety over upcoming exams and lead to poor performance.
3. Performance Pressure:
While a competitive environment is good and pushes people to put their best foot forward, it can also be a lot of pressure on some people. Striving for specific grades or scores can put you in a tight spot. This, in turn, makes you anxious. That anxiety can make you have exam jitters.
4. Being Unprepared:
Procrastination or failure to study for an exam can lead to exam jitters. It can also be argued that even the most prepared person can get anxious before an exam but it is a whole different level of anxiety when one is unprepared for an exam.
Symptoms of Exam Jitters
Symptoms can vary, depending on the person. They can be mild or severe – as some people have panic attacks before or during the exam.
These symptoms could be physical, emotional, or behavioural. Let’s take a closer look at them.
1. Physical Symptoms
You can experience physical symptoms of exam jitters such as:
Nausea or vomiting
Faint or lightheadedness
Shortness of breath
Some milder cases will have you feeling like you have ‘butterflies’ in your belly. Other times, it can be severe and you become physically ill.
2. Emotional Symptoms:
Some emotional symptoms of exam jitters include:
Sometimes, you feeling helpless and unable to change your situation. You may even berate and belittle yourself for your emotional symptoms, which can affect your performance in the exam.
3. Behavioural Symptoms:
Cognitive or behavioural symptoms of exam jitters include:
Exam jitters can make it difficult for you to concentrate during exams. You can even blank out on answers to questions even though you studied thoroughly.
How to Cure Exam Jitters
To cure exam jitters, there are therapeutic strategies to help manage stress levels before and during your exams. Even more, you can use different study techniques to prepare for and complete your exam successfully.
Let us look at other ways to manage and overcome exam jitters.
1. Practice Self-Care:
You need to take good care of yourself mentally and especially physically. Eat healthy, get enough sleep, exercise and do more relaxing and fun things. This helps overcome jitters and maintain your overall health.
2. Study Routine:
Develop a study routine and keep to it. Here is an idea: You can study in bits but make it regular, take breaks in between to stretch your legs, take a walk, hydrate and keep the mind active.
You can also use smart notes to highlight key definitions, concepts or formulae. This will help overcome any last-minute jitters.
3. Ask For Help:
Your mentors and lecturers/teachers are there to help, so do not be scared to reach out. If you have issues understanding a topic or are anxious about an exam, ask your teacher for help.
You can also ask for better study methods and do a mock test for your lecturer to review. This way, you are more assured that your study method is working. Additionally, you can join study groups with your friends as like minds can also help your understanding and aid memory when in the exam hall.
4. Minimise Distractions:
Get rid of any distractions while you study. You can find a quiet place to read with your phone on silent. The mind can be quite distracting so try to minimize thoughts not centered around the study material to aid attention to details.
Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing and stretches. This will help you de-stress before and during the exam.
While exam jitters are stressful and unpleasant, they can be managed. It is one thing for you to have an issue but the bigger solution is to understand what the problem is and apply ample solutions to sorting it out. It may not give immediate results but practice they say makes one perfect.
Researched by Olamide Opebiyi