Tag Archives: Stress

Under pressure: coping with assessment anxiety

“Did I study the right topics for this exam?”

“If I don’t get a good mark, will I ruin my opportunities for university and career success?”

“Am I suited to university?”

Sound familiar? You are not alone!  

Educational psychologist Dr Valerie Sotardi from the College of Education, Health and Human Development and Associate Professor Erik Brogt from UC’s Learning Evaluation and Academic Development team have created a free online resource to help students understand assessment anxiety.

They say these types of stress-related thoughts are common among students – especially first year students.

“Any time we challenge ourselves, stress will be a natural part of learning. Any time we value our performance, stress will be a natural part of assessment. It’s crucial for students to remember that these are typical experiences, and nothing to be ashamed of,” Dr Sotardi said in a recent interview.

In moderation, these kinds of questions can be good. Taking the time to reflect on our own preparation, progress, and future outcomes can help us to evaluate and modify our behaviours to achieve success. However, if we are unable to cope effectively with these thoughts, then anxiety can take control.

Try the tips below to help keep the stress and anxiety in check.

  • Set daily achievable goals and stick to them. For example – read chapter 1 and take notes, use flash cards to review material etc.
  • Aim high, be realistic and focus on mastering the material – this is something you have more control over than a score or grade.
  • Multitasking does not help you to learn! Don’t try to study while watching TV or chatting with friends. People generally are really poor multitaskers and perform poorly on these tasks while also being more stressed.
  • Use the student support on campus. All institutions have people on staff whose job it is to help you – this includes people such as librarians, student support staff, and learning skills staff. For more information see canterbury.ac.nz/support/
  • If you are worried about your performance, talk with your friends and classmates about what they’re concerned about and how they’re handling it.

Want to know more? Read Under pressure: Understanding assessment anxiety – Resource for students

Manage your stress for better success

“I’m soooooo stressed out right now!” Sound familiar?

It’s not unusual for students to experience anxiety and tension at the thought of sitting exams. Here’s some strategies for putting those nervous energies into study prep or just chilling out between exams.

Prioritise: What are you going to study today and how will you do it? Can some day-to-day tasks be put on hold until after exams?

Reassure yourself: take time out to tell your subconscious that you don’t have a life-threatening situation to deal with so your fear of upcoming exams is not needed. You’ve got a study plan so make yourself feel better by ticking off the tasks as you complete them.

Breathe: When you breathe in make sure the breath out is longer, as long and slow as you can manage. This can really put the brakes on run-away anxiety. Breathe lower down rather than in the upper chest. Put your hands lower than your diaphragm and watch them rise and fall with each breath. Focus, concentrate on breathing in through the nose and slowly exhale. This will lower your blood pressure and change your brainwave pattern from beta (mental activity) to alpha (relaxation).

Reconnect yourself: Make getting into nature a priority – walk amongst trees, have lunch in the sun. Do things that normally give you joy, preferably away from any kind of screen or device. Maybe a yoga session at the RecCentre would be the thing for you.

Find a balance between periods of study concentration, physical relaxation and also fun.

Your study tips 
We asked for your study tips – here’s what you told us…

“Nobody benefits from sitting around stressing out and putting unnecessary pressure on themselves. It’s better to get out and have some fun and come back to it [study] later.” – Ella, second year science student

“Stay positive, if you’re positive, positive results will happen. It’s the law of attraction!” – Isaac, second year law student

“The Zen room [at the UC RecCentre] is my favourite place at uni!” – Verity, second year engineering and arts student

You can do it! Stress management workshop – 30 May

Whether it’s your first exam or your tenth, you want to do well.

No matter how much you study, exams are still a challenging part of uni life. So remember that it’s important to look after yourself, both physically and mentally. For some people, that might mean doing yoga. For others, it might mean taking a walk around campus to clear the mind.

Too much nervousness and anxiety can prevent you from doing your best, but fortunately you can learn ways to help yourself manage stress. The UC Health Centre will be presenting a Stress Management Workshop on Tuesday, 30 May 2017 at 12.00pm in room 308 of the Puaka-James High Central Library (right next door to the Academic Skills Centre) to teach you how to recognise signs of stress and manage it. You will learn how to deal with issues like fatigue, anxiety, and sleep problems. Stress management skills will come in handy throughout your life, so it’s never too early to learn!

Academic Skills Centre Team