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Post-secondary student writing exam at desk in a classroom.

Feel More Confident About Writing Exams

Others are always grading us. You may be surprised to learn how much experience you have coping under the pressure.

We get rated at work, we take driving exams, and we go to job interviews. When we were children, maybe we tried out for sports teams at school. We took tests. Maybe tests were hard for you and you think that it will be the same now.

All students worry about exams. In fact, some tension keeps us alert. However, too much fear or worry can make it hard for you to learn or remember. It can get in the way of doing your best. Here are some ways you can lessen your anxiety and feel more confident about tests:

  • Know the material. Get ready for exams well ahead of time. From the start of the course, set aside time for regular review. Near exam time, make time for extra studying.
  • Find out from the teacher what kind of exam it will be and what it will cover. Will it be an essay? A short-answer test? Multiple choice? You can get more information about the kinds of exams in study skills books in your school library. These books can also tell you how to study for the different types of exams.
  • Get copies of exams from other years. These are often available to students. Ask your instructor. Also look at the exams that you wrote earlier in the course. Where could you improve?
  • Think of tests as a progress report. They are not meant to judge you as a person. They are meant to find out how much you know about a certain subject.

Don’t make the test too important or not important enough. You should take it seriously. But it doesn’t count for everything. Each exam only counts for part of your whole grade.

  • Get to know your classmates. Reviewing with other students can be very helpful. Even if you like to study alone, you may find it comforting to know that others are in the same boat. They have to study for the same exam and are concerned about how they’ll do.
  • Learn how to relax. There are some specific ways you can get rid of stress. Talk to your student counsellor about ways to reduce stress. There may be a class you can go to or a book you can borrow. Get enough exercise.
  • Be realistic about your goals. If you expect to get very high marks and don’t, you may feel very bad. You may want to give it all up. Set goals that you think you can actually achieve.
  • Believe in yourself. You're going to school because you want to make your life better. If you prepare yourself and follow these suggestions, you should do just fine.

Dealing with failure

If you do fail an exam or assignment, keep things in perspective. Your whole future doesn’t depend on how you did on one exam or piece of homework. Everyone fails sometimes. Remind yourself of things you have done well and succeeded at.

Instead of getting angry with yourself, find out how you can do better. Talk to your instructor. You may need extra help in the course. Maybe you should spend more time studying or you need to be more organized. Perhaps you have to brush up on your test-taking skills or study skills. Are you trying to do too much at once? Smart people learn from their mistakes. With practice and experience, you will do better. The important thing is, don’t give up!

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