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  Exam and interview nerves

Coping with exam and interview nerves

starts with a recognition that a degree of nervous tension is both natural and useful when a person faces such a demanding situation. The more important the exam or interview is felt to be, the more power that tension may appear to to have. For some people, this wrecks their ability to perform - and examinations are a form of performance, so that much that is said in that section of this site is of relevance here.

Learning the mental skill of handling exams and interviews has several facets

Understanding the fear reaction: The range of reactions and the full meaning of the well known 'fight or flight' syndrome needs to be fully understood and digested.

Not Notting: Many people try actively to tell themselves not to be nervous and to deny feelings as they arise. Not only does this not work, it actually fuels nerves - rather like throwing petrol on a fire to put it out. The more one strains not to feel or think something, the more likely it is that one will do so.

Accepting: Accepting that one is having fearful/nervous reactions is essential. One can then detach from the automatic cycle enough to reduce and diffuse it. There are many useful physical and mental exercises one can use here.

Using practical relaxation skills: These need to be practised and used regularly.

Making use of the nerves: It's important to keep in mind the usefulness of some nervous tension - one needs to be keyed up to achieve peak performance, as any athlete will tell you.

Preparing well: People who take an exam or interview seriously will know very well how to do their ordinary preparation - getting to know the relevant information and ideas, the practical skills and so on. This is a basic of exam and interview skill. However, it's common for people to simultaneously think of all the things that can and will go wrong and to rehearse feeling nervous about that - to do a kind of negative self hypnosis as it were. Good preparation involves mental rehearsal, both of doing things well and of recovering after things go temporarily wrong. Perfect performances are often made up of concealed mistakes.

Using imagination: The skill of mental rehearsal using both literal and metaphorical scenarios helps one to develop a level of automatic competence and confidence in the situation and keeps one in touch with mental flexibility.

Confidence: Is not a thing you have in certain limited and measurable qualities, but a practical skill that belongs to a context or series or contexts. Hence one needs to practise the skill of confidence and the ability to adapt the feeling to changing circumstance.

Good couselling and therapy for exam and interview preparation

covers all of these areas thoroughly, allowing a person to make the best of their abilities. It does not dwell on past failures but rather practises and realises future successes.

How many sessions?

It is not usual to take more than 3 sessions to deal with this concern and it can sometimes be dealt with effectively in 2. Where there are additional difficult and/or traumatic histories that have made confidence and a sense of self value harder to find, it may be necessary to take more time to deal with this effectively however.


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