Many people have problems with taking exams. You know the feeling, you pay attention in class, you know all the answers in class, you find all the homework and assignments really easy but as soon as the exam looms and you start revising, panic sets in and once you go into the exam rooms your mind goes a complete blank. Sounds familiar? Well there are several things you can do to help yourself, but first you need to understand that nothing will overcome lack of knowledge or preparation, but there are several things you can do to help yourself. But, to do the best for yourself, you really need to take action before you start revising or worse still the exams are only 2 weeks away. That is to say that like many things now would be a good time to start.
Have you heard of state bound learning? It is a psychological phenomenon, where the benefits of learning and recall are measurably greater if your state of mind and/or external situation during recall (exam), are similar to those experienced during learning. So, if you revise slouched in front of the TV with music coming through your phones and caffeined up on Coca-Cola or coffee, unless that is what your exam environment will be you are likely to perform worse than if you revise in an environment similar to the one you will experience in the exam itself. So if the exam room will be quiet, you will be sitting formally at a desk and you will only be able to drink water then that is how you should revise.
This approach while it will help, does tend to ignore the fact that we all have different learning styles which are effective for us (for example, listening to audio rather than reading) and this needs to be taken into account as part of the study environment as well as the exam environment if possible. Therefore, if you are allowed to take your iPod into the exam room and you learn best with sound, consider playing the same music during both revision and exam. Alternatively you may find that revising at the same time of day as the exam may be helpful. Another thing to consider is the use of fragrances or smells. Smells are a very strong environmental and emotional factor, so perhaps you could use a relaxing scent while revising and then put that same scent on a tissue to take into the exam room. If you want to be really sophisticated you might use different smells for different subjects.
In addition to matching your mind and environment to the one you will experience in the exam, there are other tools you can use such as reading the questions slowly and thoroughly. Mind mapping, if used effectively can also be a powerful way of recalling all you know about a particular question in a structured way. It also has the effect of helping you to relax as you prepare to answer a question.
Finally hypnosis (either with the support of a therapist and through learning self hypnosis techniques), is a very powerful way of helping you prepare and overcome exam room panic. With it you can learn to relax and get into the right frame of mind for studying or use it to learn to detach the mind from the negative emotions associated with exams by “seeing” yourself in the exam room and performing well so that when you take the exam for real you are calm, relaxed and feeling good about yourself.