In this week’s Pass the FE Exam article (and video above), I provide some strategies on how you can deal with FE Exam test anxiety.
Feeling nervous before an exam, or in any situation, is never a good feeling. However, the first thing to realize is that, especially in a situation like the FE exam, feeling nervous is completely normal. In fact, if you’re not nervous, I might question how serious you are taking this exam.
The big problem with feeling nervous or anxious is when it prevents you from focusing, and starts to cost you on your exam score, by impacting your performance negatively.
Whether you feel a little nervous, or are feeling overwhelmed, there are a few things you can do prior to and during the FE exam to help you cope with FE Exam test anxiety, nerves, or stress that you might encounter.
If You Feel Like You Might Be Getting Nervous or Anxious, Here Are Some Symptoms To Watch Out For:
- Dry mouth or sweating more than usual,
- Depression leading up to the exam,
- Shallow, rapid breathing
- Your heart rate may be higher than normal,
- You might find your hands or body constantly shaking, or
- Maybe you just can’t get the exam off of your mind.
The initial reactions to symptoms like this might be to try to avoid the situation, which in this case might mean, studying or preparing less, or worst case, deciding not to take the FE exam AT ALL.
To help you avoid these actions of retreating, or running away from the stress and the FE Exam test anxiety, here are some actions you can take to relieve or overcome these feelings prior to and during the exam.
Do This During Your Preparation Prior To the Exam:
- Throughout your time preparing for the exam, put yourself in pressure like situations when you are working on practice problems. Doing FE Exam practice problems sitting on the couch with unlimited time, does not, in any way, replicate actual exam-like conditions.
This would be like a baseball player, ONLY hitting off a tee in their garage, and never practicing against a live pitcher, which would simulate an actual baseball game.
Practice under pressure. This will go a long way towards calming your nerves on the actual exam day.
- Join a study group so that you can feel supported by others during the preparation process. You won’t be able to have others sitting with you and helping you during the actual exam, but meeting with a study group once a week to compare notes, strategies, and just to provide support to the others can help to make you feel more confident in your abilities and less anxious.
- Tackle as many practice problems that you can. The more you practice and engage in “test-day” activities, the easier it will be on the actual exam day, because you are developing good habits related to approaching these problems. Problem solving is becoming routine or “normal” for you.
Here Are a Few Strategies for Calming Your Nerves During the Actual FE Exam:
- Be sure to breathe throughout the exam deeply. Maybe in-between questions you take very deep breaths.
Deep breathing helps to increase your body’s oxygen intake, and you will feel calmed and relaxed. This sounds overly simple, but can provide a lot of relief.
- Try to focus on the details of each moment. If you can stay focused on the details of the question you are working on, and allow your engineering brain to take over, it may help you to forget about all of your worries about the big picture of failing the exam. This is one of those times where our engineering brain that likes to focus on details, can be a huge benefit for us.
- Think of the worst case scenario, and realize it’s not that bad. What if you don’t pass the exam this time around? You’ll learn from your mistakes, and you’ll take it again, when you are more prepared, and you’ll pass the FE Exam. You wouldn’t be the first or last engineer that does that.
The American painter Walter Anderson said, “Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action.” If your nerves are getting to you, breathe, focus on the problem in front of you, and realize not passing is not career ending, in fact, it may signify a new beginning.
I hope you found this week’s article helpful. In upcoming articles, I will share some more studying strategies and also cover some more problems including engineering economics practice problems.
We publish videos weekly on our Pass the FE Exam YouTube Channel. Be sure to visit our page here and click the subscribe button as you’ll get expert tips and tricks each week – to ensure your best success – that you can’t get anywhere else. Believe me, you won’t want to miss a single video.
Lastly, I encourage you to ask questions in the comments of the videos or here on this page and I’ll read and respond to them in future videos. So, if there’s a specific topic you want me to cover or answer, we have you covered.
I’ll see you next week.
Anthony Fasano, P.E.
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success