Why do most students not like exams?

Students feel increasingly stressed and overwhelmed, as several studies have shown in the recent past. Marion Klimmer helps those affected. She is a mental coach and a specialist in exam anxiety - and has a few tips ready for the upcoming exam phase.

SZ: What worries do students come to you with?

Marion Klimmer: Exam anxiety is a big issue for many. It starts with the fact that many feel very tense while preparing for an exam. But I also look after students who have problems motivating themselves to study or who have problems with staying on the ball over a longer period of time during their studies.

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Do those affected need long-term care or can you also provide short-term help, especially when it comes to exam anxiety?

That depends very much on the individual case. Most of the time, the students come to me at the last minute. They've let it slide for a while and get more and more panic the closer the big exam gets - especially if they haven't passed this exam on the first try. Nevertheless, there is still a lot to be saved.

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What role does the topic of "learning" play in your coaching?

A big one, because many students waste a lot of time and resources in the process. For them, quantity comes before quality. Successful learning has many more facets than just clubbing in the material. You quickly get back to the topic of motivation.

What do you mean?

Why am I even studying the subject I am studying? What do I want to do with it and where should it take me? All questions that too few students think about. Answers to these questions help in most cases when learning is more difficult.

How do you learn properly?

Sensible learning plans are the be-all and end-all. Don't just get started and press as much as possible into your brain. Especially before the exam phases with exams in several subjects, students should clearly structure their days in advance. With a realistic plan, you have an overview right from the start of what you want to be finished with, when, which subject is your turn and which central content you should master before you start fine-tuning. Planning takes a lot of potential stress out of a study and subsequent exam phase.

Should rest periods also be explicitly entered in learning plans?

Naturally. From my point of view, there are three things that make a day successful: I want to do something that brings me closer to my goal; one thing that relaxes me as much as possible; and a third thing that gives me maximum pleasure. That sounds mundane, but it helps to be aware of these things. If you take the time to do this, you will not only be able to learn more efficiently - he or she can then also enjoy the jogging session significantly more during a learning break.

How do you make it clear to yourself, despite what feels like a thousand tasks, that successful studies cannot work without relaxation?

Gaining a basic understanding of how learning works in the first place would help. For example, that newly acquired knowledge can be stored properly and permanently in the brain, mainly during the REM sleep phases. Those who continue to think that they have to crap from morning to evening and to total exhaustion may well get through their studies. But not much of the learning content will stick.

Let's assume that the learning phase went stress-free and that you are well prepared for the exam: How do you fight the blackout during the exam, which many students are afraid of?

Very simple: you breathe in and out a few times as deeply as possible. This process directly affects the heart rate and relaxes. This can even be demonstrated in blood samples in which the level of the stress hormone cortisol drops after this simple breathing exercise. Ideally, you have already practiced inhaling and exhaling before the exam so that the body is prepared for it and reacts accordingly. If that doesn't help, I recommend the so-called wingwave method.

Sounds more complicated than the breathing exercise?

Not necessarily, it's just a little more noticeable. Quickly move your eyes from right to left as if you were following the ball during a tennis match without moving your head. This simulates the movement of the eyes during the REM phases during sleep. With this exercise, stress can be reduced very quickly and efficiently even when you are awake.