All students have tried, whether it was their first exam, one in the middle or the very last one, all students have been nervous before an exam. But some students have worse, some get stressed out by exams, and with this is do not mean the F*ck I didn’t study kind of stress. I mean the students whom have planned their exam period to the very last detail, follows their plan 100% studies all subjects, gets good/great grades and still get the fucked stressed out. However, there is a special group of students whom do not just get stressed the f*ck out. They get anxieties, they can have problems like fainting during the exams or throwing up without any apparent reason. I was one of those students and to some extend still are.

In this post I will explain my experience as a student and how I solved some of the issues. I am, however, not a professional and by such this is not a post detailing a psychological evaluation of my self, nor a recipe for success. The latter simply doesn’t exists and your leg has been pulled, by anyone who told you so.

High School

In high school I was not the best student far from it, I just needed a certain grade average to attend the Computer Science program at Aarhus University and I wasn’t going to do anything extensive to get above that average. By such I actually didn’t care about the exams, I did get nervous close to the exams and by such the exams wouldn’t affect me or so I thought. However, during my senior year I started to experience something, I had never tried experienced before. I started getting sick on the day of written exams and almost on the clock one hour before any written exam, I would have to throw up and again half an hour before. I did the logical thing and talked to my parents, whom assumed, like I, that it was just extensive nerves, which had gotten to me, as it was my senior year and final exams in high school. Then came Aarhus University.

Aarhus University

Oh my f*cking gods what a mess that was for me. Not due to lectures, work load or stuff like that. It was due to exams. At the department of Computer Science at Aarhus University and the remainder of the Science faculty, most students have finals every seven to eight weeks, and instead of working in semesters, the students work in “quarters”, eg. seven weeks. For me this resulted in a lot of stress, because I had to attend exams constantly and though I thought my throwing up days from high school was over, they were not. So instead of having it rough once, I now had it four times a year. However, unlike high school I started seeing an effect at oral exams as well. Which where very problematic, I have once fainted during and exam and once I have forgotten my own name and where I was. So as you can see it got pretty rough. Therefore I stopped at Aarhus University and started looking for other options. I did want a degree in the fields of computer science or related field, so I needed a solution.

Before I started at another educational institution, I worked for six months. During this period a former fellow student made the comment, that I should consider that I did not just have exams stress, but suffered from exams anxiety. But I was macho, heh me macho, and said no that couldn’t be possible. Then I started to attend Business Academy Aarhus and SURPRISE I started throwing up again.

Business Academy Aarhus

At Business Academy Aarhus, I attend the academy profession degree computer science program and during the first semester I had course I was pretty sure I would nail, because I already had passed similar courses at Aarhus University, but even though I had that knowledge I still needed threw up and in some cases even fainted, though luckily at the end of the exam. However, unlike last time where it was a friend whom suggested I might have exams anxiety, this time it was a teacher. The teacher suggest I saw a student psychologist to get it classified if it was just exams stress or anxiety. This time it did not sound so stupid, because it came from an authority and I decided to comply.

The psychologist indeed concluded that I suffered from exams anxiety, though not a server case of it. Otherwise I would have gone completely bongos to exams, I must admit I kind of thought I did. However, she did ask me questions about how I planned my exams and stuff like that, and to my astonishment, she made once comment plan less study more. I took this comment to heart and start to change my study patterns and not planning my exams periods to the very minute. I graduated from Business Academy with the average of average. Meaning I had achieved an average equal to the third highest grade after the danish grading scale. However, I was pleased, because I no longer needed to throw up before written exams and I no longer fainted during oral exams, which is a great plus. I was still nervous but far from the levels I experienced at Aarhus University. This was one of the things which encouraged me to continued my studies and I was accepted to Aalborg University.

Aalborg University

As I am not completely done with my masters yet, 1.5 years to freedom. I cannot fully state it yet. But I will say I still experience nervousness and once I have thrown up, before and exam due to anxiety, but it is still far from what I experienced at Aarhus University and my current grade average is very, very good.

What have I done then to help lessen my anxiety?

Well the first challenge is to accept that you do have anxiety, that was very hard for me and it took me some time to accept it. Secondly stop planing everything, I made a scheduled for reading both during the semester and the exam period, down to the minute and how many pages I needed to read to “succeed”. This was one of the things which gave me stress because it resulted in me felling behind, when I did not reach my planned goal. Leading to me not thinking I would do good, resulting in anxiety. Thirdly take notes rather than study, this one might be more particular too me than others, I stopped reading before lecture, but rather took notes during the lectures and started reading afterwards comparing my notes to what I read, ensuring I had understood things correctly, further ensuring that I believed I could achieve a good result at the exams. Lastly remove your ambitions. In the TV-Show How I meet your mother Nile Patrick Harris starring as Barney Stinson, has the perfect line »Ambition is the enemy of success«. If you start setting high requirements for yourself, you start expecting more of yourself than you are actually capable of. However, if your ambition is to pass an exam, rather than ace it, you will not overload your head with expectations. I do not want you to say f*ck it all. I want you to realise what you are actually capable of.

Those are the things I have done to help lessen my anxiety and hope I will help someone else. Again I am not a professional, so seek one out if you need it.

-Lars Nielsen