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Auntie SparkNotes: I Can't Stop Stressing About AP Exams

Auntie SparkNotes: I Can't Stop Stressing About AP Exams

Dear Auntie,

I am a junior in high school, and I really really need help with this right now. As we both know, the year is coming to a close and before it can, I need to take exams. And more importantly, I need to take an AP exam. And I think I may be too stressed for it.

Before you tell me that I will be fine, let me explain. This is my first AP ever, and I already feel like I am going to fail. Everyone tells me not to worry and that I'll be fine, but my gut instinct is telling me that I am going to get a 1 on the exam and that my life is over as far as going to college goes. I wasn't as stressed about this before, but since the importance of the AP set in, I have become more and more worried about this exam.

I seriously need help to not stress. It has started becoming evident that I am super stressed. I am shaking as I write this to you, my heart feels like it's racing, my head hurts at times, and my brain isn't functioning properly. There are times when I cry and can't stop because I'm so worried about this exam. Also, my exam isn't until next Wednesday, and I am already acting like its tomorrow. I can't get myself to think positively about this. What do I do? I know already that stress is not healthy. Will this become more detrimental to my health as the date gets closer? How can I stop stressing over this test? And since I am stressing over one exam, is bad that I registered for 3 AP classes next year?

Well, okay: since you told me explicitly not to tell you that you're going to be fine (although psssst, for real, YOU'RE GOING TO BE FINE!), let's just pretend for a moment that actually, you're totally screwed. Let's just go there. And let us suppose that the worst—the absolute worstest worst!—will come to pass: that you can't focus, can't study, can't stop stressing out, and can't help showing up next week and blowing your AP exam.

And if that happens? Here's what happens as a result: you won't get college credit for having taken that particular class.

That's it, darling. No indelible, life-ruining black mark on your record. No effect on your grade in the class or your overall GPA. No longterm damage to your health and happiness. No highly-trained assassin sent by the AP administration to come to your house in the middle of the night, drag you out of bed, and beat you to death with a shoe. (They used to do that last one, but, you know, the economy.)

Which is why, rather than struggling for the kind of rah-rah positivity that you know you can't achieve, how about you just aim for simple neutrality—by realizing that you can bomb this test like Pearl Harbor and it still won't be a big deal. Doing poorly on an AP exam has exactly one consequence, and it's not even one you'll have to think about until you're already at university... at which point, at worst, you may experience a moment of minor, fleeting irritation at having to enroll in a similar class and learn the same subject matter again.

If you even choose to study that subject in college.

Which, if you're really that bad at it, you probably won't want to anyway.

And hopefully, you have enough perspective now to stop shaking, sit back, and drink a calming beverage of your choice while you laugh about how freaked out you were.

But look, on the off chance that this doesn't work, you can't de-stress, and you've worked your figurative underpants into such a tightly-packed wad that it's impossible to unwad them by exam time? That sucks, for sure, but it's also okay. This isn't the sort of long-term, life-altering stress that causes high blood pressure and premature wrinkles; a week or two spent in an ice-cold panic over an impending exam won't hurt you.

And more importantly: it's an ice-cold panic you can only ever experience once. Because once you've come, seen, and conquered this AP exam—whether you pass with flying colors or wizz it down your leg—you'll never again be in the position of taking one for the first time. And when it comes to stopping freakouts over finals in your future, the realization that you've been there and done that once already is the most potent stress reliever there is.

...Although if this sort of shaking, crying, arrhythmic insomniac pre-test freakout becomes a regular thing for you—or if it continues after you've taken the exam—then you should probably be screened by your doctor for anxiety-related disorders. Y'know, just to be safe.

Do you stress over tests, AP or otherwise? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at
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Topics: Advice
Tags: auntie sparknotes, stress, advice, tests, ap exams

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About the Author

Kat Rosenfield is a writer, illustrator, advice columnist, YA author, and enthusiastic licker of that plastic liner that comes inside a box of Cheez-Its. She loves zombies and cats. She hates zombie cats. Follow her on Twitter or Tumblr @katrosenfield.

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