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Exam Stress

Exam time can be challenging. While a bit of pressure can help keep you motivated, too much can cause stress. Check out these tips to help you manage stress during exams.

Cartoon boy procrastinating at work

What does exam stress look like?

Some signs include:

  • Feeling confused or indecisive

  • Losing touch with friends

  • Feeling irritable and low

  • Difficulty getting motivated

  • Trouble sleeping or getting out of bed

  • Feeling overwhelmed

  • Tense muscles or headaches

  • Pounding heart or feeling sick

  • Having an upset stomach

  • Fidgeting, nail biting, teeth grinding

Why do people experience exam stress?

People may experience it because they:

Fear failing

Feel unprepared

Have negative self-talk

Have high expectations

Have performance anxiety

Feel competitive

Need to get a certain result

Feel pressure from family

Have limited time to study

Have other issues happening in their life

Cartoon laptop desk

Preparing to study

It’s never too late to set up good study and revision habits. Here’s some helpful ideas:

  • Find a quiet place to study without distractions.

  • Have an uncluttered space to work, with access to any materials you need.

  • Find out as much as you can about the exam so you can prepare.

  • Ask your course advisor if you’re unsure of what to expect or what will be tested.

  • Learn to make ‘mind maps’ and use them to collect ideas and summarise thoughts, use bright colours to help remember important links.

  • Make a clear plan of what you want to cover in each study period. Break it down into small tasks and work on one task at a time.

  • Take regular short breaks – use this time to have a drink, get something to eat or play with a pet.

  • Ask for help. It may be useful to have someone hear you summarise points or to practise an oral presentation.

Practical tips to help with study

Try these tips and tricks:

Stick to a routine of going to bed at a reasonable time, eat regularly and still make time to have fun and exercise.
Get a good night’s sleep. This gives your brain time to recharge and process what you’ve learnt, storing it into long-term memory.
Give yourself mini rewards once you achieve your study goals – watch a TV show or go for a run.
Keep focused on your study – Try and let go of other stuff like relationship or friendship worries for the time being.
Avoid junk food - it will bring a sudden sugar high and then fall away quickly leaving you feeling worn-out.
Eat regularly and try to make healthy choices/eat a well-balanced diet.
Cut back on coffee or any other stimulants, as they can increase agitation; drink lots of water instead!
Allow yourself time to rest – try out some relaxation activities like deep breathing, meditation or listening to music.

Ideas for exam day

Here’s some tips to help exam day go smoothly:

  • Work out what you need to take with you on exam day and organise this the night before.

  • Eat a good, light breakfast – this will help with energy and concentration.

  • Go to the toilet before the exam starts.

  • If you feel yourself getting anxious before your exam - spend some time focussing on your breathing.

  • When you sit down to do your exam, take time to slow your breathing and relax.

  • Read through the exam paper carefully. Underline key words and instructions.

  • Work out how long you have for each question or section.

  • Aim to have time to re-read answers through and to make any changes.

  • Work on the questions that you find easiest first.

Cartoon girl studying

"Remember passing an exam is only part of the story. There’s always a second chance or another way to reach your goals"

If you’re feeling stressed about exams, you’re not alone.

Support is always available.

Talking to someone and finding ways to manage stress during exam time can help. Studying can be manageable and relatively stress free once you know how.

If you need more support managing exam stress, give us a call, start a WebChat or email us today.

If you are looking for more digital services and resources, check out Head to Health.

This content was last reviewed 14/02/2018

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