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tups's avatar

Does anyone have any tips on how to feel confident before and during oral exams?

Asked by tups (6719points) May 30th, 2012

I’m going to an oral english exam tomorrow. I’m am not filled with anxiety or anything, but I fear it may come tomorrow. I’m gonna draw a text and then I have one hour to prepare and then the actual exam takes 24 minutes. It’s not an important exam, but I still would like to do it well and feel confident. I hate that annoying nervousness. So, does anyone have any advice or wise words on how to handle this?

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14 Answers

bookish1's avatar

Not an IB oral exam, by any chance? :)

Today, start practicing deep breathing, from your diaphragm, not from the top of your lungs. Your shoulders shouldn’t move at all when you breathe. It sounds like a little thing, but it can help with anxiety alot.

Get enough sleep and eat well. Do something fun today if you can and try not to think about the exam all day. Remind yourself that you are well prepared!

Best of luck tomorrow!

bongo's avatar

The only advice I have is to try and resist the urge to go crazy on caffeine. One cup of coffee is enough. Too much, and you will probably start blabbering.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Remember…to your professors, this is quite routine and they want to get through it quickly…they don’t want you to look nervous, it’ll give them something to play off off…my PhD mentor always says to stay casual.

tups's avatar

@bookish1 Thanks for the advice. Unfortunately, it’s already evening here, so I can’t relax all day. I’ve tried to prepare today, but honestly I could probably prepare better, but I can’t do more about it today, anyway.

bookish1's avatar

@tups: You’re welcome. Just try to take it easy tonight and get to bed at a good time, and be sure to eat breakfast :) In the cramming vs. sleep equation, I always vote for sleep! Good luck tomorrow.

DaisyMae's avatar

Fake it till you make it! I’m sure you’ve heard that before. I’m not sure one can feel more confident until they’ve done something for which they truly feel confident. Pretend, if you will, that you ARE a confident, cool, and controlled public speaker. That’s the “fake it” part. Tell yourself this just before your presentation. As you begin, you’ll realize that you ARE that confident speaker, thus feeling confident will be a byproduct of your actions. Good luck!

Jeruba's avatar

Is there any way that you can rehearse? Do you, for instance, know the list of titles that your text will be drawn from? Or can you come up with something of comparable style and length to practice with? Can you get someone to listen to you practice tonight?

If you’ve had training for doing this, of course follow your training. (I’ve never done something like that and can’t really picture it.) But otherwise I’d say follow your basic essay format, with an intro. that leads into your main points and a conclusion that wraps it all. I hope you’re allowed to make notes—?

Oral presentation training says to tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.

I am always painfully nervous when I have to address a group, never mind under testing conditions, but it invariably helps me if
•  I force myself to speak slowly and clearly so I don’t sound panic-stricken,
•  I pause now and then for a fresh point or idea and to make sure I start a new sentence (instead of linking everything with “and” or “but”),
•  I make eye contact with different people around the room, each for a short time, and—most of all—
•  I’m as well prepared as I can be.

Afterward I always think I was horrible, stammering and halting and groping for words and babbling, and people always tell me how great it was. They don’t seem to hear the flaws I hear. If you can project calmness, I think it will go a long way toward helping you feel it.

Ron_C's avatar

The best way to feel confident for an oral or written exam is to know your subject. Knowledge is the best medicine to avoid an attack of nerves.

wundayatta's avatar

I always felt confident about my ability to… uh… make things up as I went along. None of what made me confident about that are things that can be transferred to you in a period of a few hours. You have to go with what you got at this point.

Which means you have to tell yourself why you should be confident. You have to go over all the things that give you reason to feel confident, and you have to ignore anything that doesn’t.

But here’s the thing. You are as confident as you are going to be right now. So go with it. There is nothing you can do between now and the exam that will change yourself. All you can do is feel good about yourself. So do it!

When you look at your professors, you should believe that no matter how hard they are on you, they want you to succeed. They are on your side. They will help you.

God forbid you should get someone like me to examine you, though. But maybe if I tell you my story, it will help. You see, I am a knowledge geek. To me, exams and research are like a fun game. I love them! I looooove them! So I am a graduate student’s nightmare because you are sitting there desperately trying to get through the exam, and I am getting fascinated with what you have to say.

And then I ask you a question. Oh god! You are in for it now because my questions usually stir up a bees nest. But if I am your examiner, just go for it. Be interested. I am not here to trip you up. I ask hard questions because they are interesting, not because I want to hurt you. I don’t even know that you are annoyed with me. I’m not thinking about you. I’m thinking about what you have to say.

Your professors are geeky, too. Knowledge geeks. They love this stuff. It’s fun and games to them, too. So don’t take anything they say personally. It isn’t about you. It’s about your analytical skills and they are going to help you, through their questions, see connections and ideas that they want you to talk about.

Listen to them. Thank them for their questions. Make them feel good for asking the question. Then use the question to explore, and really, I would say you should just go for it. Let yourself say what you really think. Don’t try to doublethink. Let this be a real conversation with your professors, as if you are at a departmental cocktail party. If you can treat this as if you are at a party, you should be perfectly confident.

And as far as I can tell, there is no reason you shouldn’t be confident. None, at all.

gondwanalon's avatar

Lay off the caffeinated beverages and about 5 minutes before your test knock out as many push-ups as you can in 2 minutes or quickly run up 2 flights of stairs. That should calm you down and relax you so that you can concentrate on doing well on your test. It has worked for me.

tups's avatar

Thanks a lot for the advice, everybody.
I went to the exam today. It did not like the situtation. I felt like I couldn’t control my voice and I feel I must have looked nervous and weak. But I got the highest grade possible, so I must have done something right.
Now it’s just vacation! But thanks again for the advice.

Jeruba's avatar

Congratulations, @tups! Enjoy your chill time. Sounds like you’ve earned it.

bookish1's avatar

@tups: Congratulations! Party time :)

mattbrowne's avatar

Find people before the exam who know less about the subject but want to know more. Learn how to explain stuff to others. Again and again. This really helps when having oral exams.

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