Exams can be a mental and emotional trigger for some students, who may find their brains "freezing", their hands sweating and their hearts racing. Some even find it difficult to breathe during exams, even if they've prepared well. This may lead to a breakdown before or during an exam.
"Mid-exam meltdowns are not unusual and can happen to anyone, even to usually high-performing candidates," said Dr Gillian Mooney, academic development and support dean at The Independent Institute of Education (IIE).
There are a number of reasons students and learners may experience mid-exam meltdowns
"It can be hugely disappointing when you did all you could to prepare and then still found yourself sitting in the exam room awash with anxiety because you couldn't recall and reflect on what you'd learned," said Mooney.
There are a number of reasons students and learners may experience mid-exam meltdowns. These range from anxiety and stress to lack of sleep, burnout and inadequate preparation.
But there are ways to manage exam-induced anxiety and stress effectively:
1. Talk to someone
Emotional support is crucial during exam time, so talking to a good friend, a sibling or a parent, your tutor or school counsellor may just be the dose of medicine needed to reduce anxiety or stress levels.
However, if this does not work, as some cases are more extreme than others, talking to a professional may help. A qualified professional may help identify the triggers and offer a range of techniques to help manage exam anxiety and stress. Suitable medication may also be prescribed if necessary to help the student cope.
You are NEVER alone. The next couple of weeks are going to be PURE STRESS (I've just had another meltdown) but I promise, everyone is feeling the same but we show it in different ways. Rest up, please take care of yourself and talk to someone who is going through exams too 💗— Liv Rook (@LivRook) June 5, 2018
This means taking a few minutes or an hour out of your day for rest and relaxation, to do something that takes your mind off the upcoming exam. This could be watching your favourite television series, having coffee with a friend, walking your dog or taking a swim.
Physical activity in particular comes highly recommended, as it has a positive impact on your mood, increases energy and mental alertness, and has been proven to be effective in releasing stress and reducing anxiety levels.
Exercise definitely helps with reducing the stress and anxiety attacks experienced during exam time. Go for a run, skip or do some star jumps. https://t.co/OUxnmIKVaG— Michelle Low (@michlow02) June 6, 2018
Experts recommend that you eat well and get plenty of sleep, as sleep is crucial for memory consolidation.
3. Breathe, literally
If you experience intense panic at any point during the exam, put your pen down and take six deep breaths. Drink some water and then go back to the paper. Be sure to break it down into manageable chunks, advised PhD student in neuroscience Maryam Clarke. You have probably studied for that section and you know how to tackle it, but it may be difficult if you can't manage the panic.
4. Put exams already written behind you
What's done is done, and it serves no purpose to fret about exams you have already written. Put them behind you and focus on what still lies ahead. Undertake to do whatever you can to ensure you do as well as possible in your remaining exams. If you're disappointed about how an exam went, try to let it go, as it will only impact negatively on your future efforts. Remember that your worth is not defined by a grade on your final exams.