As I type this, I’m officially finished Uni for the semester. This is because today I completed my final exam. With no other assignments to do, I’m officially free until the end of July.
Funny thing about anxiety…it can both help and hinder study. You see, an anxious person will push themselves to do better, because they fear failure. This may mean their scores will be higher. On the other hand, anxiety and excessive worry will affect your memory, which will make it hard to complete certain things. Things like exams.
I know this first hand, because I have anxiety. And as an anxious person, I can tell you that exams can certainly be hell. From my experience, there are four stages:
Stage One – Confidence: In this stage, the person (in this case, me) is feeling rather optimistic about the exam. The person knows they did good on their assignments, so it’s a logical assumption that they will also do good on the exam, right?
Stage Two – Worry: In this stage, the person (AKA me, again), is starting to go through the content and is realising perhaps they don’t know as much as they thought the did. They see the amount of content that needs to be studied, which is incredibly daunting. They’re scared of cracking it open and finding what’s inside, because with a pile that big, it can never be good.
Stage Three – Full Blown Panic: This is the panic stage. Nothing in the content is making sense. The practice exams all have low scores. The student feels like bashing their head on the desk from frustration and fear. Just looking at a page induces a panic attack. Everything is snowballing, they can’t breathe, their vision goes fuzzy, and they wonder what in the hell they’ve got themselves into.
Stage Four – Acceptance: “That’s it. I’m going to fail.” The student knows this. They accept it. They’ve looked through the content, they’ve done the practice exams. They’ve been over the content so many times the words start to merge together. There’s nothing more they can do. They’re going to fail the exam, no doubt about it.
As I have anxiety, I can tell you it doesn’t take long at all to get to Stage Four. In fact, you can go through the stages in just a few hours. My first exam was on Wednesday, and before going in there, I was in Stage Four. I was convinced I was doomed, and I knew I was going to do terrible on it.
I was wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not sure I did well on it, but I think it went better than what I expected. Which brings me to the point I’m trying to convey: sometimes a little bit of worry is good.
When I first tried Uni, my lecturer told me that before one of the exams. I didn’t believe him, and got so anxious and panicked that I ended up skipping the exam. Now, after having two successful exams, I can say that I think he was right. Let me explain why.
As an anxious person, I’m hardwired to push myself to the limit to get things done. It’s not uncommon to find me at my computer at 1am, doing an assignment that’s not due for another three weeks. I push to get things done to the best I can, even if I have no clue what I’m doing. It’s the way I am. I’m given to understand it’s an anxious trait. A fear of failure, so the anxious person does everything they can to keep that from happening. Studying for an exam is no different. I printed out over 100 pages of study material, and went through every damn page. Reading that drove me from Stage One into Stage Four in a matter of hours.
See the thing is, I prepared so much, but no matter what I did, I felt under prepared. As such, I became convinced I was going to fail. And I accepted it. It seemed inevitable. I was in this stage when I walked into the exam yesterday, and was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that I could answer one third of it with confidence.
I don’t know if it was good enough to pass the exam but, thanks to my high assignment scores – all those nights, trying to make it perfect – I am confident to say I did enough to pass the subject. Maybe even enough to give myself a nice B.
The point I’m trying to make here is that when we worry about the worst case scenario, we prepare ourselves for it. More often than not, it turns out that we had no reason to worry. I’m not saying to go into full panic mode, but I am saying that we should all be aware of what may go wrong. Then, we can accept it and when it turns out to be untrue, we can be relieved and move on from it. If it turns out to be true…well, at least you knew it may have happened and did everything to prepare against it.
I don’t know if I’ll pass the exam. But I’m not worried for the marks. I’m not anxious like a lot of other people would be. Why? Because no matter what the outcome is, I know I did everything I could. I studied my ass off, and I prepared for the fact that I may not do very well. At this point in the game, knowing that the exam is behind me and knowing that I did all that I could…it’s not a cause for concern. It’s…freeing. It makes me feel content.
Sometimes, a little bit of anxiety and worry can actually be good.