Learning how to pass exams can be stressful and make you feel anxious, but it doesn’t need to be that way.
I learnt the hard way but if you feel stressed and anxious about exams, I’m hoping that my story will help you to love learning as much as I do.
This mini-series will help you to understand how you feel and help you pass the exams of the future.
Hi I’m Linda form Awaken the Change. I love learning and many people tell me I know a lot about hypnotherapy, counselling and self-improvement. I teach it so I suppose I do need to know something! But new knowledge is continually emerging and as I connect the theory to practice I realise that learning never stops.
I once got called ‘Marjorie Proops‘ because people have been coming to see me for years to get help with all sorts of problems. (For those of you who don’t know who Marjorie was, she was a well-known journalist and agony aunt). When I realised that people did like talking to me I decided to add counselling skills as a way to help people more.
Besides qualifications as a nurse, hypnotherapist, counsellor, coach, trainer and supervisor I’ve got a few good qualifications. I have gained a BSc(Hons), a MA and an MSc, so people think I’m clever but I don’t as I have got a lot more to learn.
But I do feel that I am an expert on understanding exams and tests!
The beginning of the journey
‘Let’s start at the beginning because that’s the first step to change’. Linda Witchell
I have been on a life journey of change to the place I am today.
Let me tell you about my first exam.
Back in the 1970s, I was training to be a registered nurse.
I got into nursing school, I don’t know how. I was ‘Miss average’ at school. There was nothing that I was brilliant at. I liked art. I liked geography and English. I could cook. I hated maths and sport. I passed a few school exams and without much direction I found myself starting a nursing career at the teaching hospitals in Reading, Berkshire.
Nursing was amazing! I met so many people and learnt so much about medicine and care.
It took three years to become a State Registered Nurse (SRN) and I couldn’t get that qualification until I had completed my ‘practicals’ and passed the big State exam.
I felt anxious as I got closer to the end of my training. I wanted to make nursing my career and I wanted to be good at it. I had lots of positive feedback from senior nurses, tutors patients and relatives, but I felt scared about the exam as this was the most important assessment in my life.
The more I thought about it the worse I felt. And the worse I felt, the more I worried about the exam. I didn’t realise at the time but I was stuck in a cycle of worry. I wasn’t sleeping very well. I started to worry a lot about other silly things as well. I just carried on working hard because that distracted me away from my feelings. I didn’t tell anyone.
There just wasn’t the support that there is today for exams and no one talked about exam anxiety. I don’t think we even got a lot of practice at answering exam papers before the big day.
The exam day…
I remember around the time of the exam I had been in charge of working on a very busy orthopaedic and trauma ward at night so I was physically exhausted on the day of the exam. I sat in a huge, cold hall with the other nurses. We all sat in neat lines behind at a small desk. We were allowed a pen, pencil and eraser. I felt the silence of that room but I could also hear my heart beating as we were told to turn over the exam paper. I answered every question on that exam paper. I felt sick. It was awful, but at least I did it.
I tried to forget the exam then, but people kept asking me how it was. I wished that they wouldn’t ask me.
My friend, who was a Filipino nursing auxiliary arranged a party on the results day but I didn’t know about it till the day. Everyone had cooked something special and as many of the nurses were from overseas they made a wonderful feast.
But that day, when I opened the results letter that morning, I found that I had failed my State examination by a few marks.
How could I go to the party now? How could I stand next to other nurses who had passed? This felt like the worst day of my life. This one exam had ruined everything. I hated exams even more now. I knew that I was doing a good job but the results were saying I didn’t know enough about the theory. How could that be right? I had been studying for three years! I knew that I had worked hard.
The party room was dressed in balloons, congratulation signs and everyone else was wearing their favourite party outfits. They were ready to party. I was handed presents and cards as I sheepishly entered the room.
I wanted to run away and hide, but I did pluck up courage and told everyone. I felt embarrassed. I noticed that some people looked awkward and others looked away when I said I had failed. Lots of people said ‘never mind, you can do it again’. The party continued but I don’t remember much about it.
What could I do now?
The first thing I quickly learnt about this experience was that I had to make some choices even if I felt I couldn’t.
You might be wondering by now what this has got to do with passing your exams. Well, it was the choice that I made that helped me to pass all the assessments that I have done today, over 40 years later.
Choice number one
Do nothing. Well, that wasn’t an option as I had worked hard for three years as a trainee nurse. I wasn’t prepared to give up.
Choice number two
Look for a new career. What could I do? What if that career had exams as well? Many do. I did love nursing so that wasn’t an option either.
Choice number three
Resit the State exam. This would mean that I would need to work nearly a year longer as a trainee. Could I afford to work on a student’s wage any longer?
There was another choice but I didn’t think about it at the time. I could have asked for help.
I chose the third option and resat the exam and passed.
I still felt worried about the exam. I still had to study but I felt determined that I would get through, and I did!
Key learning points
- I was suffering from exam stress and anxiety
- I was doing an exam without a plan or support
- I was working in a stressful job on night duty so I wasn’t physically prepared.
- I had to believe in myself and want to pass to get through it the second time.
- Other people believed in me.
So whatever you really want to do in life you should do it. If you are certain about what you want, don’t give up! You can pass your exam even if you end up being like me and resitting it.
Today I help people like you who feel anxious and worry about exams and tests. Over the years I have experienced many things related to exam and test anxiety and I have learnt to overcome them. I have learnt about myself and I have learnt many exam techniques. Now I can help you with hypnotherapy and counselling to achieve your dreams. I can even tell you a few exam techniques!
Follow me next Wednesday at 10 am UK time, and find out more about exam and test anxiety, or book a free initial consultation and find out more.