How to Manage College Exam Stress and Anxiety


There’s nothing quite as bothersome as the slow crush of anxiety that visits a student preparing for exams. In college the pressure to perform on tests is severe. Yet nothing is worth succumbing to the paralysis of depression and defeatism that claims many students. The key to avoiding this is integrating healthy exam preparation habits into a positive outlook. Make exam preparation a happy challenge, as opposed to an ominous task, and you’ll discover that studying effectively can be enjoyable too.

Recognize the Source of Your Stress

It’s not as simple as simply saying that you need a good grade or else you won’t graduate and life will be miserable. (After all, you’re miserable now!) Stress comes from the unnatural accommodation your mind makes to the expectations of others (whether parents, teachers, peers) to achieve a certain level of success. It’s great to have high expectations, but you have to make sure that they’re your own. Motivation powers us through stress, lightens the load and makes it easier to bear.

If you know exactly why college is important to you, what it is it allows you to accomplish, then understanding why the exams are important to you–and not necessarily just your parents or society–will make you automatically motivated to throw yourself into your studies. Know your reasons for being in school and putting yourself through this cruel and unusual punishment we call modern education, and suddenly the rewards of your efforts will outshine their difficulties.

Don’t Worry About How Others are Doing

Of course, many of us are motivated, but it gets frustrating when we see classmates cutting through physics like Lebron James through your middle school basketball team. When we get caught up in comparing ourselves to other students, measuring our achievements and our aptitude against the abilities of others, we once again outsource our power to other people. No matter who you are, or what you are doing, there will always be somebody else who seems to be a little better at it than you are. If you obsess over being better than everyone else, you won’t think enough about being the best you that you can be.

For the people who are really great students (as well as athletes, businessmen, etc.) that’s usually how they got to be great in the first place. But the biggest reward about this simple change of perspective is that it takes away this reason for stress. If your goal is to be better today than you were yesterday, than nothing outside of you can stop you.

Remember the Basics

Finally, when it comes to beating stress and anxiety when preparing for your exams, don’t skip the common sense little steps that will make you ready when test day comes. Don’t procrastinate…but don’t stress yourself out over procrastination! If you just have to catch that last episode of Game of Thrones, make it a reward for hitting the books for 2 hours instead of letting it be a distraction that keeps you up late at night on USConline or your schools web portal when you don’t have energy to study.

Eat a breakfast that energizes you. Put on some music that helps you study (probably more Mozart or Enya, less Coheed and Cambria) and make preparing yourself for tests something you actually look forward to. Do these things, and you’ll not only be winning at exams; you’ll be winning at life too.