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Dealing with anxiety from midterms

  1. Aug 28, 2011 #1


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    I am a female rising sophomore majoring in Physics and probably math as well. I attend an Ivy League university and hope to eventually become a physics professor in condensed matter theory. While I love my major and thoroughly enjoy doing my math and physics homework (and usually get good grades on problem sets which were pretty time consuming since I took honors mechanics and e&m), I get very anxious about midterms. I feel this really affects my performance and overall happiness.

    The problem for me during exams is that it feels like my mind has slowed down and I end up feeling very suspicious of my own work. This seems to lead to making very stupid mistakes when my first intuition was correct. I tend to overlook things that I should know and take for granted and this leads to trouble keeping pace and produces an overall anxiety with everything related to midterms. I panic even when things are not that hard. When I was in high school I was incredibly anxious taking the Physics C AP exam even though I knew I should be confident.
    It's very frustrating because I always feel like I really do grasp the concepts, I can explain them to others no problem and am able figure out most of the homework by myself (a few of us in my course would meet and discuss the problem sets after we had all progressed through most of it and I could readily contribute to these discussions). But I feel that because I am under timed pressure I choke. It's not like I do terribly, but I do not do as well as I feel I should. So in a course I may get a B instead of the A I had hoped for.

    While it's gotten to the point that I can sometimes do well (I did very well on one of my math finals which I felt was a good sign of my abilities), I'm still not consistent. I know that I need to do a lot more problems than usual to become comfortable to the point I can take a midterm (my professors seem to deemphasize this and say that it's more about studying concepts, but that's not my issue), but has anyone else experienced this or have any strategies on how to calm oneself before an exam. I know this is something I will always have to deal with and that there are no shortcuts. I just want to have confidence that I can get through this.
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