How to Calm Your Nerves on Exam Day

It's normal to be a little nervous before a big exam, but here are some tips to help you combat being overly nervous.

--Realize that you might start getting nervous. Don’t let it sneak up on you. Think about ways that you can keep the stress level at a minimum so that you will be able to reduce your level of tension. For example, think of anything that you need to do a couple of days before the exam that might be stressful (going to the dentist, for example) and reschedule them for some other time.

--A couple of days before the test think about everything you are going to need on the test day and have them all out and ready in plenty of time. There is nothing that brings on tension faster than realizing you have lost something of vital importance. Place everything you will need on a table a day ahead so you know exactly where it is.

--Know where the exam site is and know how long it should take you to drive there. Getting lost will make anyone panic. Being late is guaranteed to make you nervous. Leave sufficient time to get to the site even if there is a traffic problem.

--Get a normal amount of sleep on the day or two before the exam. College students often skip sleep and then wonder why they are tense. That is dumb. Lack of sleep puts the entire mind and body under stress.

--Eat normal meals for the day or two before the exam. Changing your routine is not good. The body and mind have to adapt which puts pressure on you.

--Be alert to physical clues that you are getting tense. Two of the most common are clenching your teeth and balling your hands up into fists. So, periodically, especially during the exam, relax your jaw and wiggle your fingers. You’ll be surprised at how much better that makes you feel because it allows the tension to flow out.

--Don’t let a strange question worry you. There are lots and lots of questions on the CPA Exam. Candidates often discover a question they don’t know and begin to melt down. Don’t sit and dwell on those bizarre questions --- move on and find questions that you do know. No one expects you to make 100. You only want to pass. And you can miss an awful lot of questions and still pass.

--During the test, stop and rest for 1 minute every half hour. That really does take self-discipline but if you don’t, you’ll just wear yourself out. Then, you will be nervous. You can always get more accomplished in 29 minutes with a one-minute break than you can in 30 minutes without a break. I have given tests for 42 years. I guarantee that the breaks help.

--Pay attention to how you are reading each question. If you find yourself jumping around looking for clues to pop out at you, you are getting nervous. Very calmly, read one sentence at a time until you get through the entire problem. Eyes darting around the page is a sign of tension. Focus on the sentences as you read each one.

Always remember this: If you have put enough time into your studies (roughly 60-100 hours per part for the CPA exam), you know enough to pass. You likely have enough information inside your head to pass. The key, then, is to get it out of your head and onto the answers. Have some faith in yourself. Tension inhibits the flow of information out of your brain. Relax –there are enough answers in your head to pass. Let the work flow and you should do great.


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