Preparing for an exam at the University can require a large amount of work from you as a student, since you have the responsibility to check and uphold deadlines. This can make you become more anxious, since the difficulty of an exam is also greater than what you are probably used to. However, preparation and planning of your study and exams can help you reduce any possible anxiety.
This can for example be done, by:
- Being well acquainted with your curriculum
- Having an overview of criteria for the exams as well as deadlines
- Having a plan of the most important material in the curriculum that you need to understand
- Structuring your weekday to have set preparation times.
It is crucial that you view your whole semester as preparation for the coming examinations. You can utilize the following methods to prioritise your curriculum and make a weekly schedule:
The stakes can be quite high on the day of your exam. The requirement of exams at the university is usually higher, than what you are used to, which can make some people anxious.
You have probably heard a lot of advice about taking control and showing what you have learned – however, it is easier said than done.
Define the situation and audience
When you have to make a presentation, you primarily have to consider what kind of situation it is you have to make the presentation in. Is it in a lecture, where the audience is fellow students, or is it an exam, where the audience is an examiner and censor? You should be conscious that you are speaking to your audience when conducting your presentation.
Find your structure
A popular saying that expresses a structure in oral presentations, goes like this: “Say, what you want to say, say it, and say, what you have said”. When you have to make an oral presentation, you can for example start by presenting what you want to talk about and how you want to talk about it. Afterwards you can continue by shortly presenting the subject:
- What is your/the model’s/the theory’s/the text’s claim?
- How do you/the model/ the theory/the text substantiate this claim – and what supports the claim?
- Is there, for example, something that weakens the claim?
- What is your academic evaluation in relation to the subject?
- Finish by recollecting the main points of the presentation.
Group work occupies a large part of the course of your study at Aalborg University, where exam projects are devised and completed in groups. You and your group must defend your written work in an oral group exam.
It is a good idea to plan who says what and when, a while before your exam. Make sure your presentations are interesting, and that each group member involves a new perspective on the subject. Make room for the examiner and censor to ask you some questions, when planning your presentation.
It is recommended that you make a short presentation of your agenda for the examiner and censor at the beginning of the examination.
If you are more than two in your group, it can be a good idea to use name tags, so the examiner and censor knows who each of you are.
ROLES DURING THE EXAMINATION
Make sure you plan what roles you each should have during the examination. It is very unfortunate if some group members dominate too much in the exam. You can use the following exercise on roles in the group to determine the structure of your project group:
Even though the counsellor and examiner will moderate, make sure that every group member is included. It is important to make room for each other and try to distribute the time equally. Remember - you are a team.
In the meantime, it is important that you support each other and complement if necessary. In some instances, it can be a good idea to plan a specific signal or something that indicates to the other group members that they can now add to the conversation.
Fundamentally, it is a group evaluation, but if you wish to get grades individually, you can arrange it with your examiner and censor before the exam starts. The justification and feedback of the evaluation will be collective afterwards.
It is important to get started properly on your exam day. With a few activities on the day, you can manage your anxiety and achieve a better exam experience.
Have enough time
It is important that you have enough time on the day of your exam, to do everything you need to, without running around in the last moment. You should get up about two to three hours before your exam so you have enough time to get ready.
If you are anxious, you should go for a walk, a run, go to the local fitness centre, or do something active.
Exercise is important for your brain to perform optimally. You will feel more fresh and clear in your head, as well as burning off some of the anxiousness. Let your degree of anxiousness control how much you exercise.
Energy for your brain
After your exercise and a hot shower, it is very important to eat breakfast, for your brain to get enough energy to perform.
Your blood sugar is low and your body may be a bit dehydrated after seven-nine hours of sleep. That is why it is important to eat and drink sufficiently in the morning.
Three tips before the exam
Remember that at the exam, it is all about you. It is important that you feel good and comfortable. Concentrate on yourself, until you have performed the presentation. After your presentation, you can begin to think about the other group members. This way, you do not lose focus.
Here are three great tips, for handling the butterflies in your stomach, after you have gotten rid of the most anxiousness at home with your preparation:
- Accept that you are anxious. Talk to yourself, and admit that it is alright to be anxious. By accepting your anxiousness, you can minimise its influence.
- Take ten to twenty deep breaths and get rid of the tension and discomfort.
- Take a few jumps for five to ten minutes before you go to bed. Relax as much as you can in your arms and jump. It sounds weird – but it helps! When you jump in this way, you will experience that your muscles relax, your breath will be deeper and the tensions in your neck and shoulders will subside.
If you have high expectations for your exam presentation, it can have a large impact on your performance at the exam. High expectations can often lead to exam anxiety. Be careful to not attach your entire identity on the aspects you are evaluated on.
There is nothing wrong with having high expectations, since it can keep you active and engaged in your study. The problem arises when grades and presentation is too much in focus, leaving no room for errors and oversights - which is also part of the study.
Level of ambition vs. level of presentation
Consider if your level of ambition is too high. If this is the case, you will feel inadequate about your work. If you constantly make new demands for yourself, the satisfaction of reaching a goal will never spread through your body, and will tear at your self-esteem. That is why it is important to set yourself realistic demands.
Use this exercise to examine if you have realistic demands for yourself: