Sometimes the upcoming exam and its pressure may cause you some stress. Stress is a natural and necessary phenomenon that is our response to pressure and is necessary to keep us focused and prepared but if it becomes too much, it can make studying impossible. If you’re experiencing exam stress, it’s important to remind yourself that this is only a small part of your life, even though it may not feel like that at the time.
What does exam stress feel like?
Symptoms of exam stress may include:
- Feeling moody, low or overwhelmed
- Losing touch with friends and the activities you enjoy
- Losing your appetite or over eating
- Sleeping poorly and struggling to get out of bed
- Difficulty getting motivated to do anything
- Tense muscles or headaches
- Clammy hands or feeling butterflies in your stomach
- A racing heartbeat or feeling sick
- Having your mind going blank during the tests.
Why do we experience exam stress?
- You don’t feel prepared or didn’t have time to study
- You are worried about how well you will do
- You find it hard to understand what you’re studying
- You need a particular exam result to gain entry into another course or career path
- Pressure from your family to get good marks
- Experiencing stress in another part of your life.
- Feel you need to compete with others
What can you do?
Here are a few ideas and ways to help manage your exam stress and avoid the risk of burnout
1. Organize and Prepare for studying
- Have a clean and quiet work space, with any materials you may need in reach
- Make a clear plan of what you want to cover for your exam. Break it down into small tasks and work on one task at a time, so it doesn’t feel too overwhelming.
- Find out exactly what the exam involves; look at past exam papers and test patterns
- Ask your teacher if you’re unsure of what to expect or what will be tested.
- Create a mind map, a diagram to help you organise information. Use it to collect ideas and summarise thoughts, and use bright colours to help remember important links.
- Ask a friend or your parents for help. Sometimes it may be useful to have someone hear you summarise points or to practise an oral presentation.
- Take regular breaks and schedule fun activities
- Even the most intense study timetable will allow a little time for a break. Spending some time away from books helps you feel more refreshed and relaxed for next time you sit to revise
- This can include a 15 minute breaks during your revision, and longer activities that you can look forward to after you are done studying
- Go out for dinner with friends, watch a movie, anything that you like doing in your spare time that will take your mind off exams.
- Go out for a walk, or head to the gym. Along with keeping you healthy, exercise boosts your mood and helps you be more focused while revising.
3. Develop a healthy routine
- Get a good night’s sleep.
- Eat a well-balanced diet. When you eat, relax and allow yourself time rather than carrying on with your work.
- Reward yourself when you achieve your study goals, such as watching an episode of your favourite TV show or going for a run.
- Things to avoid
- Avoid junk food–it provides a sudden burst of energy which will disappear, leaving you feeling worn out.
- Avoid caffeine, energy drinks and other stimulants as these can make you feel agitated. It’ll also make it more difficult to get that much-needed sleep. Drink water instead
- Don’t set yourself ridiculous goals. Nobody can revise 10 topics in a day! Avoid setting the day up to be a disappointment
- Avoid other stressed people. You know the ones I mean. The ones with cue cards outside of the exam hall, frantically trying to remember key dates and equations. They will do nothing for your stress levels.
- Avoid the exam “post-mortem”. You don’t need to know how other people and friends did in the exam. You’ve done your best and you can’t go back and change your answers so the second you step out of the exam hall, focus on your next exam or relax
Tips for the day of your exam
- Prepare what you need to take with you the night before the exam and have everything ready–water, calculators, pens, admit card, etc.
- Eat a light breakfast–it helps with your energy and concentration.
- If you are going to a new venue, make sure you know how you plan to get there; always allow extra time for delays in public transport and traffic.
- When you sit down for your exam, take time to relax yourself and slow your breathing
- Calculate how long you have for each question or section and stick to it. You can return to complete the unfinished questions if you have time in the end
- Work on the questions that you find easiest first.