I have a wealth of experience in this field, having sat innumerable exams throughout my education. From SATS, GCSEs, A Levels, undergraduate exams and even my PhD Viva, each one was just as stressful as the last one. I now see my own students undergoing the same exam stress I underwent, nothing ever changes.
The important thing to remember is that stress is the body’s natural, healthy response to challenging situations. The essential thing is learning how to manage those stress levels.
Tips for Dealing with Exam Stress:
- This has to be the most obvious, yet most overlooked tip: Get plenty of sleep! Sleep is the body’s way of processing the day, and with a lack of sleep, your batteries won’t be getting the full charge they require. If you’re struggling to sleep, as many do under stressful situations, there are many techniques you could try. For instance, meditation before bedtime or listening to relaxing music. There are also a number of excellent apps designed to help you to sleep, such as Calm.
- Make sure you’re eating plenty of the right foods. Fruits and vegetables are often overlooked when revising for exams – quite often we grab quick, processed foods to munch on when revising. Rather than going for chocolate or crisps, try apples, bananas, grapes or carrot sticks. Your body will feel so much better for it.
- Breaks are essential. Create a revision schedule that gives you plenty of breaks. The brain can only process a limited amount of information. without breaks, you will simply be wasting your time, revising and nothing will be learnt! A break could be a 10-minute walk around the garden, a quick shower, or baking a batch of cookies!
- Ensure you have a clean, tidy space to revise. This is essential as a messy workspace (or sleeping area for that matter) gives the brain too many distractions. Spend some time clearing your work station and this will also clear your brain and keep your mind free from clutter. Clear workspace = clear mind.
- Give yourself something to look forward to. This could be plans you have made for a special event, or something so simple as going for a walk at the end of a day of revision. Whatever it is, make sure you plan ahead for something you will get enjoyment from.
- Make Lists. Create a list of tasks for the day/week ahead and tick them off as you do them. This will give you a great sense of achievement as you see a physical representation of the work you have completed.
- Watch a comedy. Laughter really is the best medicine. Schedule some time to spend on making yourself laugh!
- Talk to someone. This could be a parent/partner/friend or even a diary. Make sure you have a way to vent your feelings to someone or something at this difficult time. Sometimes talking about something totally off topic from your studies really helps your brain to process the information you have learnt.
- Exercise. I get it, you want to spend all the time you have sat with your books. However, your body and mind would say different. Exercise is one way to reduce stress levels. This could be going for a walk and getting some much needed fresh air. Yoga is also a great stress reliever. You could always try something fun, like playing some music and having a boogie! This will also release those feel-good vibes!
- Finally, I wish someone had told me this when I was at school: You don’t have to compare yourself to anyone – don’t feel that you need to talk to your peers about your exams! I always found this aspect of exams the most stressful – friends would ask – how much revision did you do? What did you revise? You don’t have to talk to anyone about your revision or your exams! This is your journey, your experience which will always be different from everyone else’s. You’re not a bad friend if you ask not to discuss your revision/exams with your peers.