1. Practice, practice, practiceThe more familiar you are with the exam format, the less overwhelming it will seem when you sit down to take it. Instead of simply reviewing the material, hammer home your knowledge by completing as many practice tests as possible. Even better, once you are an expert in the format, practice with timed exams! This way, translating the format and structure of the questions will be second nature by the time the real test arrives – and you will be able to focus on only answering the questions.
2. Create a routineJust as you have now familiarized yourself with the format of the test, familiarize yourself with the environment that the exam occurs in. Of course, you may not be able to practice in the classroom – or at the exact desk that you will be sitting in – but you can create routines that will make taking a test one more familiar aspect of your day (rather than an intruder in your normal schedule). Do you prefer to wear your hair a certain way? Do you prefer a particular outfit to balance classroom chills or to stretch more easily in your seat? Adapt the environment to one you know so that nothing unexpected can disturb you.
3. Learn stress control techniquesPractice only makes perfect to a certain extent – there will still be parts of the exam that you cannot control or predict. This is where stress control becomes important. Your teacher may not allow you to practice yoga mid-test, but he or she should have no issue with other methods of meditation that are designed to calm your heart rate and narrow your focus. Certain pressure points on your palms can even send endorphins to your brain – thus soothing your system. Altering your breathing can have the same positive effect. Learn and practice these methods to establish what works for you – that way, when your nerves begin to bother you, you can take control again and focus on the ultimate goal of completing the exam to the best of your abilities.
4. Do not think about the test on exam dayThis advice may seem counter-intuitive, but it is often helpful. If you have prepared properly, last-minute cramming will do more harm than good – i.e. adding to your stress instead of alleviating it. So, take a deep breath and relax. Read a book, listen to music, or go for a run before school. A relaxed body is a relaxed mind. Remember – you know the material, and you have spent time preparing. Now you know how to conquer your nerves, too! Keep that in mind and you will be just fine.
Samantha Brody is a professional tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She received her Bachelor's degree in Anthropology from Northwestern University in 2014.