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Coping with exams

Does the mere thought of the end of the semester and the approaching exam period make you nervous? Do you have trouble structuring your study phase or do you suffer from exam anxiety? Here you will find helpful tips and information on how to deal with this.

Basically, the earlier you start dealing with the exam material, the more efficiently you will acquire the necessary knowledge. This means that you will be better able to recall what you have learned later on. That is why our general advice to you is

  • Take time to plan your learning phase well in terms of time and content!

We distinguish between the following three phases of exam preparation:

  • BEFORE the exam
  • DURING the exam
  • AFTER the exam

Each of these three phases has its own particular challenges. In the articles on phases 1 and 2, we have compiled a fact sheet with the most important tips and information for you.  

Phase 1: Before the exam

Many different factors play a role in how well and efficiently your exam preparation goes. You can use our fact sheet for the first phase of exam preparation. It contains two checklists that you can use to assess the following:

  • Checklist for successful exam preparation: am I ready to start my learning phase successfully or do I need to «learn how to study» first?
  • Checklist for successful content planning of the learning phase: how do I go about ensuring that I pay attention to and remember all (relevant) content when learning?

Here you will find the fact sheet on phase 1 of exam preparation:

Learning strategies / difficulties

There are a number of ways you can efficiently and successfully master your learning material. On our webpage «Learning Successfully» you can find out more about learning through different sensory channels, recognising your strengths and weaknesses or how to optimally organise your workplace:

Tips to combat learning difficulties

In every exam preparation phase, there are days when it is difficult to engage in the learning process, even if you actually know your learning rhythm. It is important to take a break at such times. It is also helpful to find out why your learning process is disturbed.

Phase 2: During the exam

There are several tips on how to stay confident during the exam. These depend on the type of exam.

In the phase 2 fact sheet «During the exam», we have compiled tips and tricks for oral and written exams, as well as for exams with multiple-choice questions:

It has been shown that the same mistakes are often made across subjects. So make sure you don't make the mistakes mentioned in the video – they are easily avoidable.

Nervousness and exam anxiety

A certain amount of tension is normal and even promotes concentration and performance.

However, if you suffer greatly from nervousness and exam anxiety, it can be helpful to look at possible reasons for this for a moment. This will help you get to the root of your anxiety and develop useful counter-strategies.

Our tips and questions can help you in this self-exploration process:

Relaxation exercises

Relaxation exercises are also useful to reduce your exam nerves to a level that is conducive to your performance. You can find various tips on our webpage for the time before the exam, i.e. during the learning phase:

You can use this simple technique during the exam, the 4-6 breathing technique.

This is a short calming exercise that can be used at any time and in any place. Ideally, you should do it again and again in everyday life, even if you are not acutely nervous.

Then you will already be familiar with it, and you will be able to use it more effectively when you get into a stressful situation. The 4-6 breathing technique also has a positive effect on your body and psyche when you are not tense or stressed.

Instructions:

Slowly breathe in deeply for 4 seconds and exhale even more slowly for 6 seconds without a pause. While doing this, make yourself heavy. Repeat this six times for 1 minute or twelve times for 2 minutes.

Phase 3: After the exam

Even if you felt you had planned and learned everything well, things can go wrong. This can be caused by external factors, but also by your own mistakes. However, failures are always opportunities to get to know yourself better. Here are some helpful tips on how to deal with exam failure:

Failure

Workshop and counselling services

If you need support in preparing for an exam or coping with exam failure, you are welcome to come to us for personal counselling – free of charge and in confidence. We also offer a workshop on sitting exams with (more) confidence.

Please also note the links below to further work techniques that you can use to reflect on your learning behaviour. You may also find our YouTube videos helpful.  

  • Counselling services (overview) 

  • Workshops (in German only)

  • General work techniques (overview)

  • Study-specific techniques (overview) 

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