How to deal with exam stress

Exam season can bring on levels of stress and burnout that can hinder your studies. Here are some handy tips on how to manage your anxiety

May 23 2017
Students taking an exam

Exam stress affects most students in varying ways. It is important to manage this stress and find little ways of helping to eliminate the risk of burnout. 

For some students, exams can be a breeze; revision is second nature to them and they could ace an exam with their eyes closed. But for others, sweaty palms and heart palpitations are just a part of the territory, and it seems that nothing is more impossible than sitting down and revising. Here are some handy tips that can help to dissipate stress and make sure you can get through exam season. 

1. Take regular breaks and schedule in fun things to look forward to

Even the most intense exam timetables will allow a little time for a study break. This can include 20-minute breaks during your revision day, and longer activities that you can look forward to. Go out for dinner with friends, go to the cinema, attend a gig, anything that you like doing in your spare time that will take your mind off exams. Spending a little time away from the books will leave you feeling more refreshed and relaxed the next time you revise.

2. Exercise and get outdoors

Easily one of the most frustrating things about exam season is that it seems to occur just as the weather brightens up. Use this to your advantage and go out for a walk, or a run, or head to the gym or swimming pool. As well as keeping you healthy, exercise is known to boost your mood and can help to make you more productive while revising. 


More exam resources

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3. Don’t (always) listen to others

As the old saying goes: "comparison is the thief of joy". While it is helpful to discuss topics with fellow students and often to revise together, try not to compare other peoples' revision to your own. Chances are you’re doing just fine, and listening to other people talk about what they’ve learnt will only stress you out and may make you feel like you aren't progressing as well as them. Plus, if they themselves are stressed this can rub off on to you and other people’s stress is not what you need right now.

4. Speak to someone

If the stress gets to a point where it is overwhelming, and is affecting your day-to-day life, try and speak to someone about it. Your university or school should have a service where you can speak to people about your concerns, and will be able to offer more advice on how to manage it. If that seems like too big a step, open up to a family member or a friend about the pressure you feel. You’ll be amazed to know that you aren’t alone in feeling like this.

10 quick ways to help eliminate exam stress 

  • Watch a film, a TV show or listen to a podcast or comedian that makes you laugh.
  • Drink some herbal tea or a hot chocolate. It’s a well known fact that hot drinks are known to soothe the soul (avoid too much caffeine though!).
  • A shower or a bath can help to relieve stress.
  • Cook or bake something. Just the thought of having something delicious to eat can bring you joy. As a bonus side note, try and cook something healthy too. You can’t feed your mind well, if you don’t feed your body well.
  • Get some sleep. The virtues of a good night’s sleep during exam season should not be underestimated.
  • Keep things in perspective. Yes, exams are important. But you are so much more than your exam results..
  • Avoid other stressed people. You know the ones I mean. The ones with cue cards outside of the exam hall, frantically trying to remember key dates and equations. They will do nothing for your stress levels.
  • Avoid the exam "post-mortem”. You don’t need to know how other people fared in the exam. You’ve done your best, you can’t go back and change your answers so the second you step out of the exam hall, focus on your next exam.
  • Be flexible. While having a revision time table is one of the best tools in your arsenal for exam success, don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t stick to it. If you accidentally oversleep, don’t write the day off.
  • Write down everything you feel like you need to do and try and tick one thing off. Just the act of feeling like you are in control of your revision can help. 

 Read next: 5 revision tips to help you ace exam season

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