Dealing with Psychology Oral Exam Nervousness

By Dr. Evelyn Jagpat

If the  day of your Psychology Oral Exam is approaching and you find you are nervous, don’t be shocked.  Nerves are par for the course.  It is quite natural for anyone in your situation to experience nerves, especially as the big day approaches.  Instead of denying your experience, or wishing it will simply go away naturally, you will find it is better to choose to manage it proactively instead.  Here are some pointers which will help you calm your Psychology Oral Exam nerves

#1  Understand the nature of what you are experiencing.

Nerves have a adaptive function related to the fight, flight or freeze response. Therefore, they do have the functional and energizing capacity to help you elevate your “game” and rise to the occasion.  If you are able to harness this energy, then you can use it to your advantage.  Key in doing this is your attitude towards the task at hand.  A positive attitude will go a long way.  The tips below will also help you to do this.

#2 Identify whether fears are feeding your nerves.

For many, nervousness often comes from fears: for example- fear of failure, fear that others will not like you and catastrophic thoughts about your future.  This type of energy causes your cognitive processes to become too cluttered, muddled and over-loaded, to the point of interfering with your capacity to function at optimal levels.  For example, it dulls your concentration, focus, creativity, cognitive flexibility and problem solving ability, all of which are key in passing your Psychology Oral Exam.  Instead of ignoring your thoughts.  Bring them into focus and don’t let any negative or counterproductive thought go unchecked or unexamined.  Bring your thoughts into alignment with “reality” and identify common thinking traps, errors in logic and irrational thoughts.  Replace these thoughts with more realistic, functional and evidenced based thoughts.  Also, give yourself the gift you try to give your clients on first contact, HOPEFULNESS.

#3 Put it all in perspective, it will soon be over.

Realize that your exam is just an hour long and that once it gets started, that time will go by quickly and then be gone.  You will also likely find that once you get started and you plunge into the experience, you will get into a natural rhythm or clinical flow.  Remember, this is not foreign to you.  You have prepared.

#4 Connect with your examiners.

Remember to humanize your examiners.  They are your colleagues.  Be personable and connect on a natural, human level with them, in the same way you have connected with your colleagues and clients in the past.  This will also demonstrate who you are as a professional.  Smile and be natural.  This will set the whole room at ease and make for a more pleasant experience for all present.

#5 Prepare & Practice!

Remember your P’s.  Prepare and Practice.  Use a study method that will help you to properly prepare and practice responding to case questions and discussing clinical cases out loud.  This targeted study method will go a long way in terms of increasing your confidence and calming those lingering test taking nerves.

All the best on your Orals and try to enjoy the journey! 

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This article was partly inspired by author, screenwriter, speech writer, presentation/speech coach, world traveler and advertising/marketing guru Robin K Bayley at

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