Although we are only in March, the end of year exams, whether you are taking A-levels or university exams are beginning to loom quite large and many students will start to feel the stress over the coming weeks. Exam time is hard work, there is no denying it, but there are lots of things you can do to alleviate some of the stress that is often associated with exams.
Imagine your stress as a drink in a glass. If the glass is already half full before you start and then you add some more, the glass is going to overflow. There is inevitably going to be some stress surrounding the exams, but if you are starting with an empty glass, it reduces the likelihood of your stress levels overflowing.
Here are some tips to keep your stress levels low during the forthcoming exam period.
Get yourself organised by planning how much work you need to do well in advance. That way there will be no surprises. If you find you don’t have as much to get through as you thought, don’t use that as an excuse not to get started, think instead that you can get ahead of the game.
2. Contingency planning
However much you plan to do, stuff always happens that means things don’t go according to that plan. Be flexible and accept that your plan will not go as planned! Change it to fit in with circumstances as they arise and do not be hard on yourself for doing so. None of us are perfect.
3. Ask for help
Just because your lessons or lectures have finished does not mean that you can no longer ask for help. If you come across something that needs some further explanation, ask. Don’t let it brew and cause you stress. Confront the problem and deal with it.
4. Take regular breaks
You might feel like working for 12 hours a day is being productive, but if you don’t take regular breaks your work will become less productive as the day progresses. Most people can’t concentrate properly for more than 50 minutes consecutively, even if it’s just a 10 minute break to get up, wander round, make a drink, have a quick chat with some friends and then go back to it, you will feel much more refreshed and focused than you would if you just kept going.
5. Look after yourself
It is important to make sure you eat well, get lots of sleep and exercise regularly while you are studying. This all helps to reduce your stress levels and will keep you at your most productive. If you work through the night, eat junk food and top yourself up with caffeinated drinks to keep going, your brain will not function properly and studying will become an uphill challenge.
6. Try different ways of studying
For some people, reading back through their notes and highlighting important parts works, while for others, practising past papers or reading around the subject is more effective. We all have different learning styles and by trying different ways of learning, you are not only relieving some of the monotony of doing the same thing day in day out, but you may actually find a way which suits you better.
If you find yourself panicking, learning some simple relaxation techniques can help with this. Learning some simple relaxation techniques such as Yoga or Mindfulness can not only help during the pre-exam period, but deep breathing and visualisation techniques can also help with positive thinking and relaxing on the day of the exam.
8. Don’t bottle it up
If you do find yourself struggling, don’t just bottle it all up. Talk to someone, your friends, family, teachers/tutors or a school/university counsellor. Sometimes just talking through the issues that are concerning you is a great way to take a step back and realise they’re not as bad as they might seem. Someone else viewing the problems from their perspective can sometimes help you to see a way through that you might not otherwise have seen.
9. Keep it in perspective
Easy to say and not so easy to do when you are feeling the pressure to achieve certain grades, particularly if they are required for the next step in your education or career. However, in the long run, in the scheme of your life, these exams will not matter in a very short space of time. Even if you don’t get what you need or want, you will always have learnt something from them and there are always options open to you. No education is ever wated and failing an exam is not terminal!
10. Plan something as a reward.
After each exam, take the afternoon or evening off. Go out with a friend and do something you enjoy. Have a laugh and let the stress of the exam go. Plan a big reward giving yourself something to look forward to for after the exams and to keep yourself motivated.