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Dealing with Worry and Anxiety Before the LNAT

A girl sits at a table surrounded by books and looks sad about all the work she has to do

Whether you’ve received the news that you need to take the LNAT ahead of applying to study law, you’ve got an upcoming exam, or you’re trying to fit in last minute LNAT revision – overcoming panic and anxiety may seem impossible when you’re in the throes of it. But it is possible and you can overcome it.

It’s not uncommon to think that if you’ve had a poor exam performance then you will miss your chance to get into your dream university, which will limit your future career opportunities. However, this is not the case.

What History Teaches Us

The truth is, if you’ve ever experienced a less-than-expected exam result, you’ll know there are multiple solutions available. Resits, talking it through with your teachers, reframing your understanding of the subject and practising how you approach and answer exam questions are just some of these.

It’s actually the last option that can help students transform their grades across the board. If you are ask for help, keep practising and learn how to deliver answers in the style the markers are looking for, then you’re more likely to do better.

But, all of that comes after the initial worry and anxiety about complete failure. So, how can you overcome, or at the very least manage, anxiety to leave the LNAT process feeling calm and stress-free?

Read on for our top tips exploring just that.

1. Understand Anxiety

Waves of nervousness, worry and anxiety can often lead to feeling overwhelmed, which means your exam performance is likely to be affected.

Anxiety at university, work or in your personal life can cause sleeplessness, irritability, butterflies in the stomach, overeating or underrating, drinking more caffeine, increased smoking and/or drinking more alcohol than usual.

These feelings can be exasperated, namely if you feel you haven’t prepared enough, are generally a worrier or perfectionist or have had previous experiences of not performing well in exams.

These feelings are all totally normal and can happen to all of us at anytime. Knowing how to respond to them, in order to get them under control, is key and what will make the biggest difference.

2. Remove the Fear of the Unknown

A heavy obstacle and one that can strike down even the most confident of exam takers is the absolute crippling doubt that can come from not knowing what type of setting, exam question and marking system will be used.

This is particularly relevant with the LNAT, as it’s likely to be a completely different format from what you’re used to. This could be due to its skill-based rather than knowledge-based nature.

Removing the worry and anxiety associated with the fear of the unknown is simple – it’s all about gaining as much information as you can about the elements of the test that are worrying you. It may sound counter-intuitive, but actually, gathering more information gives you a clearer picture of what to expect.

3. Prep and Practise

Practise makes perfect, preparation prevents poor performance, fail to prepare; prepare to fail – we’ve all heard these sayings at school and college before we entered the dreaded revision season.

Even though the LNAT questions test your skills rather than legal know-how, the more you practice exam papers, prepare the type of answers you can expect to be questioned on and read up on current affairs, the better prepared you’ll be – and the calmer and less anxious you’ll feel too!

4. Set a Realistic Schedule

When preparing for the LNAT, it can be all too easy to skip sleep, food, hydration and exercise in favour of cramming as many facts and arguments as possible into your head. However, these are essential things you need to do well.

You also need to take time off every now and then. Make sure you create a good balance between work and downtime by scheduling regular study breaks, especially in the time leading up to your test.

Switch off from studying – it will leave you feeling alert and refreshed. Scheduling your time is key to ensure you’re not studying all day, seven days a week, as this will quickly lead to burn out.

You could try splitting your day into three separate chunks of 150 minutes, and revising for two out of three of these.

Revising under test conditions in terms of the amount of time allotted, with what you will have on the desk on the day will help you get used to the anticipated environment.

5. Breathe and Read

When you’re preparing for the LNAT with practice exam questions, and actually in the exam itself, be sure to read the questions slowly and carefully – twice!

You could read them a few more times if you want to be certain that worry and panic have not got the better of you. If you feel that wave of worry come over you, take multiple deep breaths in and out and then read the question once more.

Do this as many times as you need to feel calm and relaxed. Rather than wasting seconds, this one not only helps you focus, understand the question and answer it well; it relaxes and helps to clear your mind.

6. Trick Your Brain

In an experiment, Alison Wood Brooks, a professor at Harvard Business School, found that when she told students to “try to relax and calm down” before completing a persuasive speech that would be videotaped and evaluated by a critical experimenter, it was not the most effective way to help reduce anxiety.

Instead, the students’ arguments were considered more persuasive and their demands more confident when they said “I’m excited” and labelled their emotions as excitement.

Other mantras, such as “It’s only an exam. If I under perform, it’s not going to be the end of the world. There are other paths too which take me to my goal,” to offset the pressure may also help.

7. Write Down Your Worries

In a study by Sian Beilock et al., students were asked to write their deepest thoughts and feelings about an upcoming maths exam. A second group didn’t get any such task and were asked to just wait quietly for seven minutes.

After the exam, the researchers analysed the performance of the two groups. The highly anxious students performed comparably worse than student with low levels of anxiety.

8. Try Relaxation Exercises

Mediation and relaxation exercises that encourage us to focus on the present moment are positive ways to improve calmness and keep a clear head ahead of, during and after the LNAT.

Tips such as these are easy to do, easy to learn and only take a small amount of time (often taking minutes to complete) – yet can make the biggest impact on your health by reducing worry and anxiety.

So ahead of your LNAT, remember that the exam is only an hour or two out of your life. Then you will be able to move onto the next stage and hopefully a flourishing legal career to get excited about!

Written by Natasha Spencer-Jolliffe

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