10 ways to beat exam stress

If you have to sit them, you may as well try and pass them too...

Holly Maxwell-Stevenson
Monday 13 January 2014 12:12

It’s that torturous time of year again; when we come to the sad realisation that university might actually require some work. No matter how many times you’ve sat in that exam hall staring hopelessly at the clock, exams just don’t get easier. We were always told these “tips” at school but let’s be honest, none of us too any notice. Here is a guide to surviving studying for your exams from a student to a student.

You are sitting that exam

Regardless of how often you pretend the exam isn’t going to take place, or pray for another outbreak of snow or swine flu, the exam is happening. It’s silly to kid yourself that the exam is further away than it is or just to block it out of your brain completely, that helps nobody. The exam is going ahead and, like it or not, you’re going to be there sitting it. As soon as you accept that you can get on with actually revising.

Not everyone is the same

Some people like to wake up early and revise, others prefer to take the nocturnal approach and stay up into the early hours. Don’t organise your time based on what other people seem to be doing or what appears to be the norm. As long as you are studying at a time when you feel fully functional and you think that you’re getting the most out of your time that is all that matters.

People like to scare you

We all have that one friend who claims to have been studying for 20 hours a day since before you even attended university. To be honest, they probably haven’t been and if they have, then good for them. Whether they’re trying to scare you or just make themselves appear clever and confident, it is not going to help you by worrying about how much they’ve done, so don’t.

People like to pretend they don’t revise

On the other hand, there are always those people who say they’re going to fail and that they know nothing because they never revise. Let’s be honest, they wouldn’t be at university if they didn’t ever study, and if they are telling the truth then they’re going to fail. Joke’s on them when they fail all of their exams, but don’t jump on the bandwagon and think it’s cool not to revise.

You can’t revise all day every day

Whilst revision is obviously of paramount importance in the run-up to exams, it can’t consume all day every day. Don’t feel guilty for going to the pub for a pint or for seeing a film at the cinema. As long as you’re on top of your revision and know you’ll manage to have enough time to cover everything, you deserve some time off.

Get a change of scene

Sitting at the same desk in the library or surrounded by thousands of sheets of paper on your bedroom floor, being in the same place for a long time gets boring and can feel claustrophobic. You would be surprised at how simply changing where you’re revising can make you feel refreshed and ready to revise again.

Have a plan

We’re constantly told to have a revision timetable and whilst we should all organise our times however suits us, we do need to organise it somehow. The day before you start revising work out how you are going to allocate each day and you will feel like a huge weight has been lifted from you as you begin to realise you can manage these exams.

Get outside

It might be to do half an hour at the gym or simply a walk to stock up on revision snacks, but getting some fresh air really will help. It’s important to clear your head before it becomes a jumble of knowledge, and going on a walk is a cheap and quick way to do so. You could even bring a friend to talk about the exam or to test each other, or just to chat with to get away from revision for a bit.

Find that thing that helps you relax

For me, it’s definitely having a bath. It could be listening to a certain album or baking some brownies, but it’s vital to have an activity that truly allows you to escape exams for a short space of time. That way, when you come back to revising you haven’t just wasted an hour but you are actually refreshed and ready to tackle your books.

There is no point worrying afterwards

So you’ve made it to the exam but afterwards can be just as stressful as before you took the test. People saying what they wrote and making you worry is not helpful in the slightest. Convincing yourself you have failed weeks after the exam when you can’t even remember what the questions were is really not a good thing to do either. You’ve done your best and nothing can be changed now so getting yourself stressed out is just a waste of time.

Further reading: The science of exam stress: Beating the study blues

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