Something Borrowed: 5 Ways to Avoid Panicking on a Hard Test

When I think of an idea for a blog post, I tend to google my topic to see what other people have said about it. Sometimes I find that no one else quite had my perspective, so I write about it. Other times, I find articles, blog posts, and even youtube videos that are so terrific I probably can’t do better. “Something Borrowed”, a weekly feature on this blog, aims to showcase those resources.

Title: Monday Master Class: Five Ways to Avoid Panicking on a Hard Test
Author: Cal Newport


The scenario is common. You sit down with your test, flip it open, start reading the first question, and then…panic. You have no idea how to answer it. Minutes pass. A cold sweat glistens. Eventually, you move on to the next question. But your brain, now buzzing with the electricity of nervous dread, cannot focus. The answer eludes you here as well. Suddenly a thought slips in from the periphery: “what if you left the whole test blank?” At first, it’s soft. Almost comical. But the insistence grows. As does your panic…

Comments: A couple of extra comments: 1) number 2 on the list, create a time budget, is something I am unable to do during exams because I worry I am wasting time figuring out if I am on time (yes, it’s quite the conundrum). I get around this by figuring out the number of points on the exam beforehand by asking the prof and creating a time budget before the exam. When this is not possible, I quickly divide the exam into quarters (about 15 minutes per quarter on a midterm and 30 minutes per quarter on a final). This keeps me roughly on track. 2) The importance of number 3 (change goal from letter grade to marks grab) depends on the course/exam. In courses with very exact answer and solutions (e.g. math, physics, biology), it is imperative that you hit every single point so that you can get maximum grades. However, in an exam with more holistic marking and abstract thinking (i.e. where there isn’t necessarily a “right” answer), make sure your central premises are sound with evidence to back them up and don’t sweat the nitty gritty details.

I am a huge fan of Cal Newport’s blog even though I don’t always agree with his philosophies. Look through his blog because it will get you thinking and revising your own study strategies even if his advices don’t work for you.


One thought on “Something Borrowed: 5 Ways to Avoid Panicking on a Hard Test

  1. Pingback: Exam Prep Toolkit – A Resource for First Year Students

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