Dear Sandra

February 19, 2003

Dear Sandra,

My first AU exam is coming up at the end of this month and I am petrified!!! This is the first exam I have written in 17 years. I am doing well on the course, but I am so afraid of writing the exam. I am studying 5-6 hours a day, yet when I have my teenage daughter question me my mind goes blank and I can not come up with the answers. I am becoming quite irritable and anxious; my poor family is living with a demon obsessed with anxiety over her exam. How can I study properly to retain information and how do I let go of this anxiety that I have about this exam. Please respond ASAP as my exam is on February 28th. Thank you!

Anxiously awaiting your reply in Kelowna B.C.

Dear Anxiously Awaiting,

Slow down lady!!! This is one exam out of many if you are taking a degree and I’m pretty sure your body won’t be able to handle the kind of stress you put it under every time you take an exam. Having a heart attack or panic attack while you’re writing your exam will only scare the other students in the exam room.

Writing exams is stressful, yes. No matter how well prepared you are for the exam, there is still apprehension that you may have missed an important section in your text or that your mind will go blank. AU has a wonderful site to help with exam anxiety located at: or call the counselling department at 1-800-788-9041 (ext. 6723). Also, it might help to connect with other students. Go to AUSU’s discussion forum at and post your inquiries about the course exam to other students.

We all want to get good grades, but it should not be at the expense of our health. Employers rarely look at your individual grades; they just care about the fact that you got a diploma or degree in your related field. How often do you question potential doctors, lawyers or other professionals about their grades? You just care if they have the degree and the experience to back it up.

From personal experience it is a lot easier to go into an exam with a relaxed mind than it is to go in with a frazzled over-studied one. I learned this the hard way: the first AU exam I took, I made my husband take our two children to his mother’s 500 km away so I could study all weekend straight for my exam on Monday. I only got 70% on that exam and I was shaking the whole way through it. Some students, including myself, swear by not studying at all for 24 hours before their exams. Instead they relax before their exams. They take long walks to clear their minds, get a massage, watch a movie, have a relaxing bath, anything but study! The 5-6 hours a day you are studying is more than likely overloading your mind. Cut it down to 1 or 2 hours every couple of days. You still have almost a week and a half until your exam; that should be plenty of time for you to review.

I want you to remember that it takes a long time to get a degree or certificate; do you really want to waste 2-4 years of your life studying the days away? You have a family and a life besides school. Don’t give up living your life to succeed in your studies. Try to sit down and find that perfect balance between life and school. Most importantly, ease up on your expectations of yourself. Convince yourself that getting perfect grades is not the only option. Doing your best and passing is what matters. Good luck on your exam!



This column is for entertainment only. Sandra is not a professional counsellor, but is an AU student who would like to give personal advice about school and life to her peers. Please forward your questions to Sandra care of