5 Tips for Managing Exam Stress


Whether you are worried about an upcoming assessment or stressing about a virtual exam, we’ve got 5 key tips to help you manage any exam, school or university related stress this spring.

1. Prepare in advance

We know you’ve heard this one a thousand times, but preparing in advance really is key to managing your stress levels. Doing 10 minutes of revision well in advance of any upcoming assessment or exam is far better than cramming in hours of revision a few nights before the big day. Gradual bites of varied revision at different intervals throughout the day is one of the best ways to solidify your knowledge of important exam material. Preparing in advance not only increases your information retention but also helps to build confidence in your potential to perform to the best of your ability come exam day.

2. Get some proper sleep

Getting a full 8 hours sleep may seem like a challenge to some but it can really help prepare your brain for effective revision.

Sleep is essential for productivity and has been proven to make all the difference when it comes to exams. Anything less than 8 hours sleep has been shown to decrease concentration levels and negatively affect brain performance.

If you struggle with sleep or find it hard to get to bed early try searching for sleeping techniques on Youtube or listen to a calming audio book before bed, put away any blue light emitters like phones or laptops, and try some breathing exercises to help you nod off.

3. Look out for your mental health

Whilst it may seem that exams, assessments and coursework deadlines are make or break points in your life, your mental health should always take priority. Take time away from your computer screen to move your body and give your mind a well earned break.

If you find yourself falling down the rabbit hole of self doubt and worry, try writing down your thoughts and feelings onto paper, talk to a friend or family member or take yourself outside into fresh air for a walk or jog.

Expressing how you’re truly feeling is the best way to snap out of an anxious moment and can help you better manage your emotions around exam time.  Be sure to make time away from revision to cook, exercise, meet up with friends and relax as part of your revision period. No matter how bad it gets, don’t hide or bottle up how you’re feeling. Always remember there are always people around you either online or in-person who are there to help you!

3. Do some passive revision

If you’re a professional procrastinator who can’t face the thought of settling down for a long revision session, passive revision might just be the thing you need.

If you’ve worked hard all the way up to a couple of weeks before your first exams/assessments it's a good idea to mix up your revision techniques with passive revision.

Watch a course related documentary, read and contextually relevant book, or listen to an insightful audiobook to add depth to your knowledge and a new way of approaching revision.

4. Take regular breaks & fuel your body

When you’re revising for exams, it’s all too easy to get caught up in your work and not take any breaks because you’re in the rhythm of working. But regular breaks are crucial for your brain! The brain actually functions better and recalls information more effectively when you give it time to rest and recover. Even if you just take a 10 minute break every hour, it will give you a pause to recuperate, talk to a family member and stretch your body.

Alongside breaks, it’s really important that you’re fuelling your body with healthy snacks. Foods which are rich in nutrients, like nuts, green vegetables, fruit and fish, will feed your brain and keep you focused. Try having some berries, dark chocolate and walnuts as your afternoon snack when you’re feeling a bit worn out from revision. Whilst these healthy snacks may benefit your brain, make sure you’re eating a big dinner and having your favourite foods to make revising that little bit easier. Do make sure you’re eating enough - revising for exams is hungry work and food is fuel!

5. Learn to manage your time

One of the things students get most stressed out about when preparing for exams is their time management. Exams require you to write a lot or answer a lot of questions in a short time period, and it’s tough to get your timings right. We know that it’s no fun, but the best way to perfect your time management is by practicing with past papers.

By revising with past papers, you get used to the format of the exam questions, the layout of the paper and the exact marking criteria that will be used to mark your answers. You can find old past papers online for all exam boards, including AQA, OCR and Edexcel. Time yourself completing these papers and keep going until you can confidently answer all the questions or finish your essay during this time.

When it comes to humanities subjects like English and History, you’ll want to spend a little time planning your essay before you dive into writing. Try to spend no more than 10 minutes on the plan; ideally 5 minutes if you can manage it. This will give you as much time as possible to spend on the body of your essay, which is the important part as that’s what will be marked by the examiner!

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Elise Pearce

As our Head of Content, Elise’s role involves everything from email campaigns to web content; if you spot a typo, you know who to blame. A lover of all things creative, she studied History of Art at St. Andrews enjoys running and painting in her spare time. At home, when she's not busy chasing after her two Labradoodles, Flossy and Rupert, you'll catch her doing handstands on her yoga mat.

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