Working towards exams can create feelings of worry and being under pressure, especially at university when you are working towards your degree.
It is a perfectly normal reaction to feel stressed in the lead up to or during an exam which can be a busy and intense time . The stress you feel can actually be of benefit as it motivates you, helps you complete tasks more efficiently and boosts your memory.
It’s really important that you try to look after yourself as best you can during the exam period to ensure you perform optimally, there are a range of things that you can do to help deal with the stress that you might be feeling.
Unsurprisingly, revision and being prepared for your exams is the best way to reduce anxiety. Work out the basics; which exams you have, how the marks are allocated, and how much you have to learn for each one. Don’t expect to learn everything; but having in mind where you’ll get the marks can help you prioritise. Break your revision down into small chunks, and form a plan. Once you’ve got a plan, you won’t have any more dilemmas at the start of the day about what to work on.
Take frequent breaks, psychologists say we can only concentrate properly for 30-45 minutes. Schedule in plenty of free time to unwind, and protect this time. Nobody can work all day every day. If you give yourself plenty of rest you can do the same amount of work in half the time or less. Find activities that help you relax; maybe it’s a hot bath, watching a TV show, going for a walk or a creative activity – schedule this down-time into your timetable.
Setting realistic goals, whether you have several weeks, days or hours before your exam, helps you to put everything into perspective. Acceptance of your situation and working within the realms of what you have maximises your productivity without the risk of burning yourself out.
When being constantly faced with new challenges, we often forget to look back at how far we have come and how much we have already achieved. Given that you have prepared well, there should be no reason for you to worry. Therefore, when experiencing a negative thought, try to replace it with a positive one. For example, instead of thinking ‘If I don’t get at least a 2:1, I am a failure’, think ‘Whatever I get, I will be proud of myself and value how much I have already achieved’. You can do this!
Everyone copes differently in different situations and there’s so much more to your personality than how well you can respond to an exam. Whatever happens in your exams, you can still be successful in life afterwards. So if you don’t do as well as you’d hoped, try to keep things in perspective.
Eat well, keep a good blood sugar level to avoid highs and lows of energy, by eating slow-release foods like bread, rice, pasta, fruit and veg.
Drink water, lots of water hydration will help you keep focussed.
Keep active, even a short walk will do. Exercising is one of the quickest and most effective ways to de-stress. Fresh air will clear your head and perk you up.
Get a good night’s sleep, avoiding stimulants like caffeine, alcohol and drugs will aid your ability to sleep and they also affect your energy and concentration!
Nobody can revise the full core textbook in an evening. Set yourself manageable goals, study bitesize chunks and revisit them to keep them fresh in your memory. Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting impossible targets, this will lead to disappointment and can discourage you from working towards the exam. Set SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely
Revising with peers is an effective study technique as it allows individuals to better absorb their own notes while gaining differing perspectives and understanding from their peers Furthermore, the emotional benefits of social support tend to include a better sense of confidence and autonomy.
If you’re feeling really worried or anxious, chat to a good friend, family member, or tutor. It helps to get it out of your system, and they may well be able to help think about practical strategies to deal with exam stress. Asking for help is never shameful. In the most extreme cases, it can help save a life. When struggling, talk to friends, family, or your personal tutor about how you are feeling. Alternatively, don’t be afraid to seek professional help and support.