Tense migraines, blurry eyes, sore wrists, speedy heartbeats and that sense of impending doom — they’re all markers of the most harrowing time of year for students, exam season.
You returning post-secondary students have likely already been through the upcoming gruelling weeks of extended testing, which push you to the absolute limits of your mental endurance. And you lucky ducks in first year will soon find out how it feels — you’re not in high school anymore.
But before you seize up with test anxiety, understand that your school knows what you’re going through, and has taken steps to help you make it through these daunting days: A variety of online resources, counselling services and seminars dealing with exam stress and how to manage it are available at most post-secondary institutions, and school officials suggest you take full advantage of them if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
“Exams have a great deal of anxious power in the mind of the student,” says Centennial College counsellor Steven Ruhinda, adding his school offers stress-reducing breathing among other techniques. “Students look at the test as a measure of their worth. We help them eliminate distractions, focus and praise themselves. They’re effective techniques, but they would be even more so if students used them from the beginning of the semester.”
Schools show their students how to combat exam stress in a number of dynamic ways. For the University of Toronto, practice makes perfect, says learning skills counsellor and educator Dr. Nellie Perret. The school offers drills on speed reading, writing against the clock in large venues and desensitizing training.
Carleton University in Ottawa offers peer facilitator workshops with extensively trained mentors who scored an A- or better in the course in question. The school also records supplemental seminars and uploads them for students to watch on iTunes.
In the lead-up to its exam period, Carleton also organizes collaborative seminars where students can answer multiple-choice questions, which are then displayed in an “ask the audience from Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”-style, according to Phil Warsaba, manager of Carleton’s Student Academic Success Centre.
Simon Fraser University maintains the body’s health is a major key to beating anxiety. The school features online yoga and muscle relaxation videos and a “Wellness Wheel” — a concise directory of advisory sources organized on a circular chart indicating the school’s “Seven Dimensions of Wellness,” among them physical, financial, and environmental health.
“We take a preventative, holistic approach,” says Michelle Burtnyk, mental health promotions specialist at SFU. “We teach students the skills to deal with life, resiliency and time management. We highlight the importance of physical activity as well.”
So next time the prospect of your final exam has your heart beating like a jack rabbit’s, remember that your school is true to you. Get help, and maybe that big scary test won’t seem so disconcerting after all.