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Is there a treatment for Exam Phobia?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

It’s that time of the year again….exam time. Exams are an unavoidable part of the medical and healthcare career paths and so knowing how to slay through these crucial times in our lives is key. Personally, I dread exams. Is it just me?  Just the thought of them alone… Even thinking about exams that are coming up in 2 years makes me nervous now! With each upcoming exam, I get panic attacks, in addition to this weird sense of doom and helplessness, and I critically analyze alternative non-exam-requiring career options for myself. It’s bad. Really bad. 

But fear not! Despite my ‘severe examophobia‘ (do we agree that it’s a thing?), I’ve been able to slay through countless medical exams and I’m here to share some tips that have helped and are still helping me during these dreadful times. I can’t promise that the exams will go away but here are some handy tricks to get you through your dedicated revision period effectively and prepare you for your upcoming exams.   

Effective Time Management
Adapted from Lynda

Ever heard of time bandits? They are activities (and people!) that gradually steal from your dedicated revision time, leaving you with less time to do the stuff that actually matters for your exams. My biggest time bandits are cleaning (for some reason, it’s only when it’s time to revise that I decide its time to clean my bathroom for the second time in 2 days), watching crime series (LOL! ridiculous I know, but…), re-arranging your bookshelf for the umpteenth time, figuring out the best ways to make my notes fancy and colorful (this is good but not 2 weeks before the exams!). Other ones for you might be social media, texting, etc. Whatever yours might be, it’s best to figure them out early enough and put measures in place to curb them for the time period so you can go ham on them books!   

Effective Memory Techniques
Adapted from Indian Express

One of the worst things you can do to yourself whilst revising for exams is to have no measures in place to help keep the information you take in as you study, in your memory for longer. Just passively going over the stuff isn’t good enough. You have to figure out ways to remember them days or weeks later with ease. Here are a few things you can do to improve your memory:

  • Make use of your environment: Attach post-its (on which you must have written out important concepts) to your walls and furniture at home and this way you’re forced to see the information at random times even when you’re not studying.
  • Use your auditory senses: Record your voice saying the information on your mobile phone. Play these back to yourself on your way to college, on the bus, on the train or even right before you go to bed at night and see what wonders your brain can do!
  • Create your own mind maps and flowcharts: A clear and concise visual representation of the information you’re trying to learn really helps by demystifying topics and making them easier to assimilate by improving your memory of sequences.
  • Try the cover technique: I learned this from a senior colleague when I was in med school and I’m so glad I did. It’s not the most pleasant thing to do, it’s time-consuming as well but in my opinion, it’s the most effective technique. When you read your notes, cover and recite what you have just read back to yourself or to someone else as accurately as you can. This will fix the information firmly into your memory.
  • Use flash cards that utilize spaced repetition: This one has been all the rave recently as it is strongly backed by recent scientific research. It’s basically e- flash cards with a technical upgrade. The one I use is Anki. You rate each card as you go along and they are shown to you repeatedly at specified time intervals, based on your rating e.g the cards you rate the lowest (the ones you got wrong) are shown to you more often than the ones you aced. It’s also a good way to add some variety to your study sessions.  
  • Use mnemonics!
Make gorgeous but practical notes
Adapted from Study.com

Lengthy, visually unappealing notes make it harder to assimilate the information, especially if you’re more visually oriented. Be concise and creative with your notes. Use colors where you can, draw pictures (this actually helps information retention on its own), summarise in your own words, write down only what’s necessary! My exam notes only contain stuff I don’t know already, in addition to the stuff I think I might forget quicker. They are not bulky, and they contain a lot of abbreviations and shorthand. 

Break! Break!! Break!!!
Adapted from Deeksha Learning

Breaks are very important! Can’t stress this enough. Burnout is real (for most of us at least) and can be avoided. Personally, when I burn out, I inevitable have to take more time off than I would have if I didn’t burnout. You have to know yourself and your limits. If you’re one that can’t study for 3 hours straight, then don’t push it. Take breaks at pre-planned times or when you feel the need to. 

Your Wellbeing 
Adapted from Besthqwallpapers

In the heat of revision, it’s easy to forget you need to look after yourself even more than you normally would. It’s not just about looking after the outside, the inside matters just as much. Keep a tab on your mental health, exercise regularly, eat healthily and often, rest when you need to, get enough sleep at the end of each day’s hard work, and connect with family and friends that will motivate you when you need to. 

Stay positive! 

LOL! I laugh nervously as I write this because I know how difficult it is, especially when you’re a real life exam-ophobe. But you have to somehow keep the hope and faith alive. You have to find ways to motivate yourself. Remember you have aced many exams before and this one will be no different because you have worked hard and you’re going to do your best.

Adapted from Campbell Rochford

For all those you have exams coming up, we wish you all the very best! We believe in you! SLAY those questions and make us proud! 

Let us know what tips and tricks you use for revision!  

Featured image: Teenzone Magazine


Dr Wendy Evans-Uhegbu

The author Dr Wendy Evans-Uhegbu

Dr. Wendy Evans-Uhegbu is a graduate of The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, with experience in Connected Health, Medical Technology, Clinical Research, Medical Education, and Web Design. She is a member of the Medics Abroad team with the role of Chief Communications Officer. She also runs a Medical Communications and Publishing business, and is the author of the newly published children's book "The Things Around Me".

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