How To Manage Stress During Exam Time

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Be Organised

This should be a no-brainer–don’t leave everything until the last minute! Believe it or not, paying attention in class does help. Remember to revise shortly after you learn new information so that your brain can store it in long term memory. After all, the best defense is an effective offense.

Use your student diary. Have a calendar up on the wall with important due dates written in.

Before the exam: 

  • Go over the exam content and make sure you know what is expected of you.

  • Develop a study schedule spread over days or weeks to avoid last minute cramming.

  • Review text, notes and homework problems

  • Use flash cards to help with concepts and formulas

  • Have a look at past exams if possible. Do a practice test.

  • Study with classmates. Quiz each other on things that will be on the exam.

  • Just before the exam, avoid talking to much about it. This may in fact heighten your stress and anxiety and likelihood of drawing mental blanks. Instead, take some deep breaths and do a quick mental review of the content you have studied.

During the exam:

  • Be prepared and make sure you have all the writing materials and reference materials (if the exam is open book) that you need.

  • Use the perusal time wisely. Mentally separate the answers your definitely know, the ones you might know and the ones you don’t know and budget your time accordingly. Try and get the answers you know out of the way first so that you have more time to focus on the ones you’re unsure about.

  • Get as comfortable as possible.

  • Make use of the exam time. Don’t fret if you’re not one of the first people out the door–the most important thing is that you finish the exam with the RIGHT answers.

After the exam:

  • Give yourself a pat on the back.

  • Feel free to discuss the exam with your classmates, but don’t get into a defeatest view if you realise you may have gotten some answers wrong. Instead of jumping to the conclusion “I’ve failed, my life is over”, you should say to yourself, “okay, I may have gotten some questions wrong. I’ll wait until I get my paper back and/or receive my results before making assumptions.”

Look after yourself

Look after your mind and body so that you can maximise your performance. 

Get enough sleep. Incorporate adequate sleep into your study schedule. Having enough sleep means that your brain is more alert and you are able to concentrate and retain information.

Exercise. Go for a short walk, do some yoga. Stretch your body. Keep your body moving if you can. It’ll give you a hit of positive hormones which will  help to combat stress. 

Try relaxation. Get a massage. It will help reduce tension. A relaxed body leads to a relaxed mind.

The Queensland University of Technology has some good articles on relaxation exercises and deep diaphragmatic breathing in their self-help section.

Maintain a healthy mind. Give your mind a chance to take a breather. Try meditation or another activity, such as painting, which engages a different part of your brain. SImple breathing exercises can help immensely.

Exam time may bring about a heightened sense of worry and insecurity. This anxiety is usually brought on by lack of preparedness. Be aware of your thoughts and replace negative thoughts with positive, more constructive ones, eg. “I am stupid and I’m going to fail this exam” with “I have kept up with study throughout the semester and I have done well in my other assignments. I will be prepared for this exam. I will pass.” “I will do the best I can.”

Stay connected with others

During exam period it’s tempting to shut the world out and focus on studying. However, if you are struggling sometimes it’s better to talk to someone about it, whether it be a friend, teacher or counsellor. Talking things through with others may help relieve some of your tension and give you ideas on how to tackle your workload.

Stay social. Try not to neglect social activities.

Seek help if you need it. Talk to a counsellor. Many universities provide these services to students for free. It can do a world of wonders – just make sure to book in advance as they may be busy during exam time. They can also help you with other issues which may impact your ability to study.

Study with others. More minds can help solve problems.

I hope these tips assist you in making it through exam period. Best of luck!

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