Sometimes a bit of stress can help you focus and perform more efficiently, but around exam time this often tips over into overwhelming anxiety, which makes it hard to sleep, study and make you either want to eat everything you see or not take a bite.
When the stress gets really bad it can have an adverse effect on your revision and sometimes even make it hard to focus when you are in the exam.
What exactly is making you stressed?
It could be that you tend to worry about most things, or that you’ve had a bad grade in a previous exam and need to do better this time to maintain your overall grade. You may have realised too late that you haven’t left enough time to prepare. Some people get stressed around exam time because they push themselves to get the highest grades every time and don’t settle for less than perfection.
Once you have an idea behind your stress then you can think about ways of coping with it.
For your end of year exams you should aim to start seriously revising six weeks before they start, as long as you have all the information and have attended the relevant classes. It’s about looking over what you’ve already learnt.
For those who don’t feel that they’ve left enough time to study: don’t panic. Think about the exam papers you have to sit and the core material you will need to revise to pass them. If you’re not sure, speak to your tutor and come up with a revision plan. The worst thing you can do is nothing – you’ll only be more stressed on the day of the exam.
Plan your revision
The best way to cope with exam stress is to make a detailed plan. Take a calendar and divide the days up that you have left before the exams, leaving at least one day free where you won’t study. It’s impossible to study 24 hours a day, and it isn’t efficient in any case.
Break each revision day into three blocks of two and a half hours and study for two of these periods. It’s important to rest your mind in between, so go for a walk, meet friends for coffee or catch up with housework.
The night before
With less than twelve hours to go before the exam, there’s no point cramming things in. Put your books away and do something else instead, like watching a funny movie or going for a good walk. Try and go to bed on time so that you are well rested.
Make sure you keep eating and drinking plenty of water in the run up to the exam, even if you’ve got butterflies and food is the last thing on your mind. Get everything ready for the morning: calculator, pens and pencils that work and details on where the exam is and what time it starts.
During the exam
If you’re feeling really stressed on your way into the exam hall then take a few deep breaths and get comfortable before you even think about turning over the paper. Make sure that you are feeling as calm as possible before you read through the questions.
When people are panicked they tend not to plan, but it’s important to read through all the questions at least twice before you start. There might be a question at the end of the paper that makes up the majority of marks, and the last thing you want to do is spend time on those that aren’t worth as much.
Keep an eye on the clock, and if you’re running out of time and still need to answer some questions, you can jot down the main points which could get you those all-important marks.
If the stress gets too much during the exam, take a minute or so and put your pen down and take a few more deep breaths, sip some water and move your head from side to side. All these techniques can help you to feel less worried. If you’re feeling really bad you can ask to leave the room for a few minutes. A bit of fresh air could really help you.
Exams are important, but most people build them up to be almost a matter of life or death. The best way to stay focused on completing the paper is to not let the stress overtake you.
Are you taking your exams soon and getting stressed about what you’ll do after? Take a look at the graduate management scheme, or if you’re not graduating for a few years, then our internship programme is a great way to get ahead.