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Exam Nerves: Are You Revising or Still Procrastinating?

Each year, around 1,000 students go to the Psychological Counseling Centre at the Bremen Student Services Organization. A regular issue at the end of the semester: Exam nerves

Teaching & Studies / Campus Life

The exam period is pure horror for you? Do not worry, nearly everyone feels the same. However, it does become problematic when you feel really awful before or during exams and you have extreme physical symptoms. Maybe you have exam nerves. The Psychological Counselling Centre can help.

Now, almost at the end of the semester a great deal of panicked posts are circulating on social media – they are a good way of letting off some steam. However, there are students for whom this is not enough. Their situation has become so critical that they feel sick when they think about the next exam, the next presentation, or upcoming term paper.

“Some students tell us of panic attacks or blackouts,” says Nele Bachmann. As the deputy head of the Psychological Counseling Office (PBS) at the Bremen Student Services Organization, she is aware of the many forms of exam nerves and understands how serious the situation is for the people affected.

The PBS offers individual consultation sessions, including on the topic of exam preparation and how to deal with exam nerves. You can find the information on such sessions at the end of the article.

However, even if your nerves are not out of control, the exam phase is not really great for anyone. In order to ensure that you get through it all in a relaxed way, the PBS has some tips.

Tip 1: Make a schedule for yourself

The first step should be to think about how much time you roughly need for the preparations. Be honest with yourself and plan for known weak spots by adding a little extra time.

You should use around 50 percent of the time when revising to prepare the course material. 20 percent of the time is then used for concentrated revision. Plan for 10 percent to be used for going over what you’ve done. The rest is extra time for unforeseeable matters.

Remember to take enough breaks and have a free weekend once in a while. You should try to not think about the university at all on the last day before the exam. That is important regeneration time before the serious part begins.

Tip 2: Structure your course material

The rule of thumb is: structure first, revise second. Make sure your materials are in a sensible order - this will help you to keep on top of everything. Use different colors, markings, or sketches for this.

Try to engage all of your senses when revising. For example, you could explain what you have just read to your flatmate in your own words. This generally helps you to remember it in a better way than if you just stare at your books.

By the way, there are different types of learners. Some people are able to learn the most when they look at it. Others use their hearing or smell as a primary sense. The best thing for you to do is try different things out - in this way, you can find out in the easiest way possible which type you are.

Tip 3: Simulate the exam situation

A little practice never does any harm. If you are very nervous before oral exams, you should simulate the situation beforehand. Hold a presentation in front of your partner on a well-known subject. That should not be too difficult. Next time, try out a new topic. In this way, you can progress step-by-step and will be able to communicate in a far more natural manner - even during the exam.

Tip 4: Stay positive

You are only as good as you feel. Try to not see the exam as a matter of fate but rather as a chance. People who get through an exam have proven that they can face difficult tasks. That is an important requirement when you want to be successful at work. You can practice for that situation today.

Many students overestimate the danger that an exam poses. They hold themselves to high standards or may even be feeling the pressure from their parents. Maybe you’re feeling anxious about the future - what will happen if I can’t find a job after uni?

If you start to notice that such thoughts keep coming back to you and are an obstacle when you’re revising, you should think about making a consultation appointment at the PBS. Nele Bachmann and her team are happy to take the time to talk with you. “Usually, a starting point becomes quite clear during the talks and this leads to new perspectives, next steps, and sometimes also surprising solutions,” says the psychological advisor.

Further Information:

Here is a great deal of information - including information on exam preparation - on the PBS website.

The Psychological Counseling Center is located in the University of Bremen Central Campus Building underneath the Mensa cafeteria. Appointments can be made in person or by phone from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays. The centre can be reached by phone (22 01 – 1 13 10) or by email pbs@stw-bremen.de. The Psychological Counselling Centre services are offered free of charge to students at the university and higher education institutions in Bremen and Bremerhaven.

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