Tips to Cope with Exam Anxiety
Jan 05, 2016


During the final exam period, students’ feelings of restlessness and stress start to increase. Midterm and final exams are very important for our students who want to complete the semester successfully.

We asked Cem Demirbaş, ITU Psychological Counseling and Guidance Center Coordinator, the questions including things to be done before the exams, methods of studying, points to focus on, things to eat and duration of sleep.

-What do you advice students in the exam periods?
Exams are the chances for students to show how well they know their courses. Actually exams are not competitions but an opportunity to assess oneself academically and understand one self’s shortcomings. Things that are learned should be considered as acquisitions to ensure success in professional life rather than tools to pass the class. The first rule to succeed in exams is attending the classes regularly and note-taking. Students who fulfill their responsibilities do not have to worry. Being mentally strong is solely not enough for success. To be fit physically is also a requirement for success. I advise students to walk outdoors and take advantage of sports facilities in the campus. In this regard, ITU is very lucky to be in the center of Istanbul and have extensive green area as well as sports facilities within the campus. I think our students should take advantage of this.
Sports and balanced diet are important dynamics enhancing success. Body needs oxygen and rest for a successful learning process and better functioning of the mind. Especially before the exam period, students should be more careful mentally and physically. Balanced diet and consuming healthy food minimize concentration problems.

Exam Anxiety is not an invincible problem

• What do you suggest students experiencing exam anxiety?

Exam anxiety is the feeling of intensive worry that results in failing to use the learned information during the exam and decrease in success rate. Anxiety in normal doses is actually performance increaser. On the other hand, adrenaline, secreted during anxiety periods, holds back data transmission, brings about physical problems and panic. Feeling of abyss resulting from exam anxiety has effects on depression and physical discomfort. It is a common problem encountered by students at all ages. However it is not an invincible problem. What makes students stressful is their perception of the issue rather than the stressing feature of the exams.
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Thinking positive, having a short break to have deeper breathes during the panic moments in the exams, changing the sitting position, focusing on time management, trying to increase motivation to concentrate are among the precautions to defeat the anxiety. Still and all, an expert help should be sought if exam anxiety continues intensively and affects academic success.

• How should students study? Does the setting during study affect success?
The most important academic problem for freshmen is to adapt to the demanding schedule and to figure out the complexity of academic structures. Freshmen do not know how to study for exam periods. This problem can be overcome through a plan/program. Students mostly have difficulties in trying to study. They spend most of their time getting started to study. Good motivation, concentration, comfortable setting and complete material would ease this process.
• Taking notes during study, focusing on the important points and repeating them

• Preparing a proper and tidy setting during study

• Avoiding elements of distraction

• Having breaks and clearing mind (break in every 40 mins)

• Using different sources and not be limited with only one book

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Breakfast is Important to start the day healthy

- What should students eat? How long should they sleep?
Healthy diet is very significant. Having breakfast is the most important rule to start the day healthy. Consuming possibly all types of food groups in breakfast is necessary. If possible, milk, egg, cheese, whole-grain bread, vegetables and fruits or vegetable and fruit juices should be consumed.

These are supplementary food groups for attention and mental performance. If breakfast is skipped in the morning, enough energy for brain functions will not be generated. Fatigue, headache and decrease in attention and perception will occur. Based on the research, students having breakfast have better success than the ones who skip breakfast. A sample breakfast menu should include: 1 toast or 1 slice of cheese, 1 egg, walnut, cucumber-tomato, 1 glass of fresh fruit juice.

All meals have great importance on health. Thus, I believe meals should not be skipped. I advise students to prefer cafeteria for lunch and dinner. University cafeteria provides menu options that can responds the calorie need of an adult prepared by experts. In order to have a balanced and healthy diet at least one meal a day should be taken. Banana has an effect on decreasing attention deficit due to potassium. Also consuming milk should be taken seriously and not be underestimated.

Professor Juergen Zulley states: “Sleep is definitely a key for our health – it is very important for physical, mental and emotional health. We lose our vitality, become more indecisive and our performance decreases if we do not sleep enough.”
I would like to say that sleep is a vital part for a healthy physiology. Sleep deficiency has become an increasing problem especially in the developed countries. Studies show that sleeping a lot does not mean beneficial sleep. Oversleeping might have the same effect with under-sleeping. Average sleeping time is 7 hours (+/_2 hours). Additionally, studies show that people sleeping 7 hours a day live longer. This is, of course, an average hour – if you sleep longer or less it is also normal. Age and genetic features determine how long a person should sleep. 7-9 hours is an average.

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-What can you tell about our libraries most students prefer to study during the exam periods?

It is obvious that ITU is more superior than many universities in terms of libraries. Mustafa İnan Library is the best example. Apart from being one of the most comprehensive libraries in Turkey in terms of book and thesis content, it is the first academic library which is open 24/7, having the highest number of database. I believe the increased number of sources that is planned to be more comprehensive will bring an additional value. I think our students recognize how lucky they are regarding library and sources.

-Can you share your ideas about the student profile at ITU?
We are planning to have an extensive student profile study in the coming days as ITU Psychological Counseling and Guidance Center.

It is non-debatable that we have student profile befitting 242 years of history of ITU. We have students from nearly all regions and cities of our country. Nearly 65% of our students come from outside Istanbul. Our students know the importance of ITU trademark. They have the ability to question and oversee which we personally witness. They gradually gain international identities. We have a critical student profile. I think it a positive dynamic for institutional development regarding the university. Male students are higher in numbers due to being a Technical University. However focusing on women studies and improvement activities with proper policies, I believe the balance will be ensured in our university.

The suggestions of Psychological Counselor Cem Demirbaş, whose book “Yeni Başlayanlar için Üniversite” will be published in the following months, can be summaried as:
Sleep pattern, doing sports, regular diet, having “me” time, sharing problems, not shying about asking help, having a social life, travelling, having schedule, renovating and improving study setting, holding on motivation, keeping important documents and notes.
Click for ITU Psychological Counseling and Guidance Center contact information.