How to Deal with Exam Stress?

Exam season can be difficult. Most people dread exam season and the pressure it brings with its tedious hours of revision, last-minute panics, and anxiety-inducing post-exam chats with friends.

It is normal to feel a bit worried about exams and achieving the grades you would like. Exam stress can even cause you to feel anxious and depressed as well as affect your sleep or eating habits.

You are not alone if you relate to any of these feelings more than 42% of students reported experiencing serious personal, emotional, behavioral, or mental health problems. If you have exam season coming up soon, here are a few things you can do to reduce your stress during this time.

Exam Revision DOs and DON'Ts

DOs

  • Be realistic with your study plan and don’t schedule an unreasonable amount of revision each day as this will just make you more stressed.
  • Try breaking up your revision into chunks and create a daily revision timetable. This will make revision seem less overwhelming and more manageable if you know exactly what to work on when.
  • Get support from family and friends. It may help you to reduce your stress if you discuss how you feel with others.
  • Join a study group or start your own. Working through questions with others can be useful and it’s a good way to get support and boost morale.
  • Do mock exams to help you prepare. The best way to build your confidence for exams is to practice. Not being sure of what to expect or what questions you may be asked only will increase your stress.
  • Improve your exam time management. Practice questions under time pressure to simulate what it will be like in the exam.
  • Ask for support if you need it. Most universities have mental and wellbeing services students can use. If you are worried you could speak to your personal tutor to get some advice.

DON’Ts

  • Don’t compare yourself to others. Everyone is different and comparing yourself will just cause unnecessary stress.
  • Avoid stimulants like coffee or energy drinks. They both include caffeine which increases stress and in the long run will actually make you feel more tired. If you can’t cut it out completely try to reduce your intake or replace them with alternatives such as tea or water. 
  • Don’t leave revision to the last minute. It’s important to prioritise your time when revising to help reduce stress and anxiety. You will ensure that you will have time to revise all the important topics and allow extra time if you need it.
  • Don’t work without taking regular breaks from studying. You could try the pomodoro technique to implement breaks into your routine where you study in 25 minute blocks with a 5 minute break. Read more
  • Don’t neglect your physical health during exam seasons. Try to maintain a healthy diet, stay hydrated and try to keep a good sleep routine. As it will be difficult to revise and retain information if you are tired or your energy is low due to a bad diet or lack of hydration. Try to keep active in your breaks from revision, for example going for a walk.

Remember to look at the bigger picture. Exam success does not define you as a person. If you don’t do as well as you hoped in an exam, try to keep perspective. After you have done an exam try to not think about it worrying won’t change anything. Be kind to yourself. Remember all the things you have already achieved and acknowledge how hard you have worked. A good way of doing this is practicing self-care.

Revision Tips

Advice from students

 "If you struggle with motivation, start in good time by doing SOMETHING. It doesn’t matter how small, just something that helps with the upcoming exams early on."

Katherine

“Use apps to block social media websites temporarily so you don’t get distracted.” (Like SelfControl, Cold Turkey or others)

Shay

“Grab a good pair of headphones and play some instrumental music. Lyrics make it harder but instrumental music settles in the background and helps you sharpen your focus.”

Ben

“Focus on you and don’t worry about anyone else. Remember your best is good enough!”

Molly

“Remember that you’re not a machine. You deserve time off! Make sure you factor in time to watch a film, go out for a drink with friends or grab a coffee. The most productive brains are those that rest properly too!”

Rachael