I panic and spoil the exam

My problem is that I prepare very well for my maths exam, but when I enter the exam hall I panic and spoil the exam. I don’t know what happens; I just go blank. I think I am unlucky. I get a scolding from my parents and teachers, and my friends think that I don’t concentrate, but that’s not true. Please help me.
Prachi (14)

Dear Prachi,

Maths sure looks like a subject that makes you freeze and feel that you’re no good! It so upsets you that your parents and teachers scold you about it and don’t quite get what’s happening with you.

Build the habit of working step-by-step for each sum. Write down or recite the steps in your mind. In the exam, you can write the steps on a rough sheet if permitted. For example, with constructions, mentally go over the sequence: First draw a line. Then place your compass on Point A and draw an arc and so on. Focus on accuracy and steps, not on speed. When the steps are correct, the speed will come. You can also use a sheet of paper to cover the next sum so that you focus on only one sum at a time.

Before an exam, calm yourself by doing 3 to 5 rounds of breathing. Stand with your hands on your hips, feet slightly apart. Breathe slowly and let your belly rise and fall as you do. Count up to 5 while inhaling and 5 while exhaling. (Avoid straining while doing so). During the exam, if you feel panicky, support yourself by putting one hand on your belly and one on your upper chest just below your throat. Close your eyes and breathe slowly 2-3 times.

Finally, change your self-talk. Put up posters saying stuff like, “Maths is cool and so am I!” “Numbers are my friends” or “Exams are just sheets of papers with questions that I can calmly answer!” All the best!

Nasreen Hashambhoy
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Nasreen Hashambhoy

Nasreen Hashambhoy is a Counsellor, Life Coach and a Facilitator of training programmes for schools and corporates. Through a combination of coaching, counselling and facilitation techniques based on cognitive science and positive psychology, she helps clients achieve their true potential. She is the author of the series Values In Action published by Better Yourself Books.