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Exam anxiety: Doing Your Best Bit by Bit

Each year, around 1,000 students go to the Psychological Counseling Centre at the Bremen Student Services Organization. What help do Swantje Wrobel and her team offer when it’s not going so smoothly? A regular issue at the end of the semester: Exam nerves

The exam period is pure horror for you? Especially because you don`t know how to deal with the exam regulations in times of pandemic? Do not worry, nearly everyone feels the same. However, it does become problematic when you feel really awful before 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 or oral presentation. The fact that the exam situation becomes different this year because of the pandemic makes the situation even worse. The uncertainty which comes with the changed situation often causes additional stress.

Panic Attacks and Blackouts

“Some students tell us of panic attacks or blackouts,” says Swantje Wrobel. As the 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.

Usually, Wrobel advises the students to participate in exam preparation seminars from the Psychological Counselling Centre (PBS), but unfortunately due to the pandemic the seminars had to be cancelled this year. “Alternatively, we offer consultation hours, during which we can provide individual advice,” says the psychologist. However, the number of people making use of this is far lower than expected.

Wrobel believes that with regard to exam anxiety the pandemic could possibly have a positive effect: “It may be the case that digital examinations may not frighten the students as much as a usual exam situation where you’re sat with other students,” says the psychologist.

Start Small and Build up Slowly

But even in times of pandemic: A little practice does no harm. For example, those who dread oral exams because they do not particularly like talking could hold a short presentation on a familiar topic during a video call with a friend. The next time they could talk about an unknown topic.

“This is how students can approach this bit by bit and then be able to communicate in a far more natural way at some point – even in the exam. All of a sudden the situation is no longer as fear-inducing,” Wrobel says.

Expectations too High

A further cause of exam nerves: Many overestimate the “danger” of the exam. For example, this may be due to them having expectations of themselves that are too high or their parents may be putting them under pressure in terms of their grades. Some students also fear the future – what will happen if I don’t find a job after university?

During the PBS consultation, Wrobel and her team try to find the source of these diverse phenomena. “Usually, a starting point becomes quite clear during the talks and we analyze and think about this together,” says the psychologist.

Tips for Less Stress during the Exam Period

The student Blog EULe has collected a few tips for the stressful exam period

Further Information

The PBS has established the “Learning Happily Despite Corona” online service. Each Monday, new tips on topics such as learning methods, work organization, or break activities can be found on the PBS website. You can then ask questions about the tips in an open chat on Tuesdays between 09:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Prior logging in is not required – however, you will have to register for the chat, which is also anonymous.

The Psychological Counseling Center is located in the University of Bremen Central Campus Building underneath the Mensa cafeteria. Appointments can be made 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. Consultations can only take place on the phone at the moment. There is also an online counseling service. 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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