Exams are an unfortunate but very real part of academic life and often bring with them the unpleasant experience of stress.
Stress can affect different people in different ways. How we cope with it can be quite unique, depending not only on how stressed we feel, but also our confidence levels and the supports we have in place to help us when necessary.
However, there are certain steps that you can take to prepare for any stressful occasion and certainly help reduce the stressful impact of exam pressures.
Here are a few of them:
1. Be organised
Stress tends to grow in chaotic situations so if you know study is required for an exam, then make a revision timetable or schedule.
2. Keep it simple
Find a simple system that works for you in terms of taking notes, highlighting, making revision cards etc. You can get tips on this from friends, teachers and various educational websites.
3. Trust your instincts
Study using a routine that works best for you. Some people like to work in their room, others in a library or some while listening to music. Find the one which makes you most productive and stick with it.
4. Ask for help when you need it
When you are working on something that you find difficult, do not discard it or spend too much time focused on this one issue. Ask for help – it could be from a teacher or friends or even an older sibling who was good at the subject.
5. Timing is important
Try to give yourself enough time in your schedule to cover all the work required. If you run short of time, prioritise. Work out what are the most important topics you need to cover. Is anything compulsory for what you require?
6. Eat well
Studying for exams takes energy so make sure you eat healthily and regularly. Concentration can be seriously affected if your energy levels are low. Avoid excessive sugary drinks – they may give you a boost for a while but you will crash and burn afterwards.
7. Get good quality sleep!
Sleep is very important for our physical and mental well-being. It affects how well we process our memories and if we do not get enough good quality sleep, then concentration levels can plummet.
8. Avoid cramming
As tempting as it may be, cramming is not an effective tool for learning. People generally only “cram” for an exam when they have not given themselves enough relaxed time to learn it in the first place.
9. Take time away from your books
All work and no play is not a good idea and can lead to anxiety. You need to find a balance between studying for exams and remaining sociable and active. Find some activities you can do to relax and take your mind off your exam stress.
10. Talk to someone
Where you feel the pressure and stress is just getting too much, let someone know how you’re feeling. Parents, friends, teachers and relatives will want to listen, and simply talking about something that is frustrating you can be a great help.
11. Remember, exams aren’t everything!
As important as getting good results in exams might be, remember, it is not the only option in life. There are many career choices that can be made outside of sitting academic exams. Academia isn’t for everyone so find your strengths, work hard and everything will be fine.
The upside of stress
Despite all the negatives that stress brings with it, it can also be a good thing. We can feel a very positive sense of achievement when we either solve or complete the problem that was causing the stress in the first place.
It is a good life lesson because stressful events are likely to pop up many times in our adult lives and we need to feel confident that we can respond to them successfully.
Don’t shy away from the problem that is stressing you. Explore your options and when necessary, talk to those you trust who may be able to help.