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Tips and Advice: How to Relax Prior to Exams

Monday, December 4, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Matthew Nicholas
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Tips and Advice: How to Relax Prior to Exams

By: Murtaza Aziz, SPT, Rosalind Franklin UniversitySo you’re on track with your study schedule for that big exam coming up in Cardiovascular and Pulmonary, Neuroscience, Clinical Skills, or what have you. You’ve gone through multiple Quizlets (or made your own old-fashioned ones on notecards). You’ve reviewed your notes and clarified any misunderstood concepts from professor’s presentations. You’ve created a study guide by outlining important concepts and thoroughly reviewed it with your study group. It’s now the evening before the exam and you’re starting to feel a little uneasy and get jitters about whether you’ve done everything to ace (or pass the exam).

Exam anxiety is a real thing and not only can there be emotional and behavioral manifestations but also physical symptoms like increased heart rate, nausea, headache, feeling faint, and excessive-sweating. A little nervousness is totally normal and can actually help you focus and excel come exam time but when feelings of anxiety and helplessness take over, you can be your own worst enemy. Try using these tips before your next exam that have worked for me and my classmates:

Tip 1: Use a relaxation or meditation app

Mindfulness meditation techniques and programs have been proven to help ease psychological stress and anxiety. I’ve found the Headspace app to be extremely helpful for fitting meditation into my busy schedule and it’s easy to do on your commute (as long as you’re not driving). Headspace includes a free trial after which you can sign up for a subscription and there’s options for 10, 15, or 20 minutes of meditation.

If you’re looking for something more budget-friendly, there’s Insight Timer where you can follow 5-6 minute guided meditations.

Tip 2: Listen to a few of your current favorite songs, calming music, or an unrelated podcast

Throw on some of your favorite jams, ambient noise, jazz, or an interesting podcast that gets your mind completely off of that exam. Some diversion or entertainment can be a great way to help you unwind after you’ve already put in the hard work of studying.

Tip 3: Workout/Stretch

Go for a run, bike around the neighborhood, hit the weights, do some yoga, or if you’re feeling really crazy, practice some rehab exercises. We all know the growing evidence on how physical activity can help boost memory and academic performance. For most of us PT folks, it’s already part of our regular routines but sometimes we just have to remind ourselves that it’ll help us release some pent up energy.

Tip 4: Pomodoro Technique/Last-minute reviewing

If for some reason you can’t help yourself and you’re one of those studiers that needs to study up until the last minute, try using the Pomodoro technique. It involves using a timer to study in intervals of 25 minutes separated by short breaks of 3-5 minutes. After 4 intervals, you take a longer 15-30 minute break. This is a very effective strategy that I found is great for regular studying as well.

Tip 5: Rest/Sleep/Nutrition

Don’t forget about how important it is to get those 7-8 hours of sleep every night and sleep’s vital role in memory consolidation. You need that all important REM/deep/restorative sleep to keep all those facts straight about the basal nuclei, classification systems of traumatic brain injuries, and nerve tension testing. Also, remember to maintain healthy eating habits come test week. Some quick meal planning on Sunday night might be all that you need to keep you on track.

Tip 6: Avoid people that you feel like stress you out more and be around people that you have studied with before (like your study group)

Right before a big practical or written exam, it’s easy for some classmates to have a negative attitude about the amount of preparation they did. Try to surround yourself with people that have a more positive outlook on taking the test or even hangout with your study group. You can review some of those fun mnemonics that you worked so hard to come up with or teach them to some friends that don’t know them yet.

Tip 7: Attend review sessions to figure out what you already know and areas you need to focus on

Sometimes if feels like you don’t have time to go to a review session and would rather use that time to start reviewing material. However, review sessions can be a great starting point and can help you pinpoint areas of weakness that you may need to concentrate on. Most programs do a great job of providing group review sessions for certain classes but if yours doesn’t, you may want to suggest it to your professors or start your own with a few classmates.


Along with these 7 tips, I’ll leave you with a cleaned-up adage that one of my classmates used to recite, that rings quite true throughout PT school: “Prior proper planning and practice prevents painfully poor performance.”

Share your thoughts! Comment below!








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