Get mentally ready for the re-sits

Nov 02, 2020
Charlotte Keating, Founder of Act On It Coaching, shares her tips on how you can keep energy levels and motivation up the week before and during the exam and re-sit period.

Did you know fear and excitement are pretty much the same feeling? Think about it – your body displays almost identical symptoms to each emotion as it’s getting ready to take action. According to neuroscientists, the difference is all in the mind. In fact, when participants of a 2014 Harvard Business School study re-labelled their fear as excitement, they performed better in important tasks.

When you feel those pre-exam nerves kicking in, you can work with them positively by choosing to feel excited instead. Interpreting what you’re feeling as excitement can make exam anxiety easier to manage and is much less draining as it puts you in an ‘opportunity mindset’ which focuses on the ways the exam could go well, increasing energy and confidence.

Here are some ways you can practice this approach while reflecting on your past, focusing on the present and looking towards your future.

1. Reflecting on past achievements

Think of your accomplishments and the challenges you’ve overcome so far in your life. Go back as far as you can remember and write them down. Look at this list daily, especially the night before and the morning of the exams. Focus on how proud your achievements make you feel. Use these memories to get excited about what you can achieve!

2. Focus on the present

As you revise and practice questions leading up to your exams or re-sits, it can be useful to keep your energy high by taking care of yourself.

Wake-up calls: use the alarm on your phone to not only wake yourself up in the morning but throughout the day as well. Set different alarms as a great reminder to take a break, stretch, get a drink of water, have a snack, or get some fresh air for a few minutes. 

Consider labelling the alarms with different words and phrases:
  • “I am really good at what I do.”
  • “I am successful.”
  • "I always do my best.”
  • “alive, grateful, happy.”
Choose something that is going to lift your spirits and help you be mindful of the present moment.

You could also use these wake-up calls as an opportunity to listen to an upbeat song. Music is powerful for releasing dopamine (making us happier) and also helps increase energy and focus.

Postural feedback or “Power moves”: Getting into as good a posture as possible, chest out, with your hands on your hips like a superhero, over your head like a bear, or to the side like a peacock, is a technique that you can use to feel in control and confident. Take some deep breaths as you do this. You might also say out loud “I feel excited”, even if you don’t. Repeating this action and sentence creates an authentic sense of excitement. Try holding the pose for two minutes to increase the feeling. You can practice this throughout the day when you take a break from the books and right before going into the exam (if you can find a suitable place). 

Exercising: Being active is a great way to focus your energy, absorb information and come up with solutions. Maybe you’ll gain clarity in an area you’ve been puzzling over while out for a walk.

Switch off: Activities that will distract your brain at the end of the day to allow it to rest are ideal. For example, watch a movie that makes you laugh.

3. Look towards the future

Visualisation is a technique that has long been linked to high performance. Spending five minutes each day visualising your future success can help to settle the nerves. For best results, close your eyes, take some deep breaths, and allow your thoughts to wander into a daydream:

  • Imagine the day of the exam – how do you wake up? Refreshed, focused, motivated? On your way to the exam, how are you feeling? Confident, prepared? 
  • Take yourself to where you will be sitting the exam in your mind. What do you see, hear, smell, feel? 
  • Block out thoughts of everyone else. What they are doing is not important and doesn’t matter to you or your success.
  • See yourself opening up that exam paper, answering questions with ease, taking deep breaths and being able to come up with a plan to answer anything challenging.
  • Imagine the exam has gone well. Try to feel the emotions you would feel afterwards. Allow yourself to get excited about it!

Always do your best

As a final thought, in his book, The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz says that: 

“Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick, when you are tired as opposed to well-rested. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgement.”

Remember, you have done the bulk of the work and achieved so much already. A great use of your time before the exams is to work on preparing yourself mentally so that you can approach them feeling excited and ready and come out the other side knowing that you’ve done your best. 

Always consult a specialist if that’s the best thing for you. CA Support is here to assist you and can be contacted at casupport@charteredaccountants.ie, or on 01 637 7342 or 086 024 3294. There are also video supports and articles available on the Chartered Accountants Ireland website.