It’s only natural to feel a bit stressed before exams get underway.
Whilst for some going through an exam is a breeze – revision comes naturally and it is easy to stay calm – for others: sweaty palms, procrastination and nerves are all too common.
Whether you’re feeling confident about your exams, or need a bit of extra reassurance and guidance – there are practical ways you can prepare as exam time looms. Take a look at our advice to improve your productivity, manage exam stress and increase your chances of succeeding during exam season:
Start your revision early and prioritise your tasks
Making an early start on your revision can help you come prepared for your exams. By starting sooner rather than later, you’ll have enough time to go over the material at a steady pace. If you feel overwhelmed, remember that revision is about refreshing your knowledge of topics you’ve already learned – it’s not about learning anything new.
More than this – prioritising your time, subjects and workload will help reduce your stress levels, as you’ll be breaking down a big task into more manageable chunks. As a starting point, you could put together a simple table with the dates of each exam you have, and the topics you need to revise for each. This will give you a clear idea of how much time you need to dedicate to each exam – which can help you structure your revision plans.
Boost your exam time management
Getting the timings right during an exam can be tricky. Spend too long on a question, and you might run out of time at the end and leave questions unfinished. Equally, if you panic and rush through questions too quickly, you may end up finishing the exam too early and missing out key details and vital marks.
Again, this is where revision and practice can really help. Go through some mock exam questions, and be strict with yourself over timings so you don’t run over time. It might take a bit of time and more than one try, but eventually you’ll know how long you should leave yourself to answer each question, and be able to use that time to your advantage confidently.
With all this practice, by the time you reach your exam, you’ll be confident managing your time and, as a bonus, will have a good idea of what kind of questions to expect.
Eat, sleep and exercise well
We all know that life can get busy, and that’s before you throw revision and exam preparation into the mix! However, to help you manage exam stress, it’s crucial to look after your body and mind during this time. Exercising regularly can help to clear your head, whilst fuelling your body with a well-balanced diet will boost your energy and help stressful tasks seem more achievable. Going to bed at a reasonable time ensures your brain has sufficient time to recharge and really absorb what you’ve learnt. It is also worth cutting back on alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes during revision season, to help keep your mind focussed.
Recognise when you’re panicking
Having a panic is common, whether it’s before, during, or even after, your exam. If you feel like you might be panicking: take a deep breath, take a moment to acknowledge this feeling, have a sip of water, and then go back the problem at hand. Remember that every problem usually has a solution, even if you fail to pick it up at first glance.
Take breaks and plan things to look forward to
Studying long hours won’t necessarily get you the results you’re aiming for. Plus, overworking leaves you vulnerable to exhaustion or even burnout long before exam time arrives. You need to give your mind a chance to rest and recharge after a revision session. To this end, schedule time away from your studies to wind down and do something you find relaxing and fun. This could be as simple as going for a walk or reading a book.
Take time away from social media
To avoid any unnecessary distractions, it may be best to log out of social media for a little while. Social media can become a major source of procrastination. A quick check of your Facebook or Instagram can quickly turn into hours of swiping through your social feeds. Not only this, but it is likely that many of your classmates are in the same boat. They may be talking about how much they’re studying (or not studying) on social media, which provides an added distraction!
Keep up a routine
Keeping up a regular routine can help give you a sense of predictability, which can be really helpful when preparing for something like an exam, which is in many ways unpredictable. For example, going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, having regular time to rest and having dedicated times during the day for studying.
Believe in your abilities
When faced with a stressful challenge, we often focus too much on what could go wrong. However, by shifting the focus to what is already going right, you can help yourself to maintain composure and lift your confidence.
As you have worked hard and prepared well, there is no reason to worry about your ability to face the challenges of exam time. So, when you find yourself experiencing negative thoughts, try to replace them with positive ones by thinking back to what you’ve achieved already. For example, instead of saying “If I don’t get [this grade] on this exam, I am a failure.” You could say “Whatever I achieve, I am proud of the hard work and effort I have put in.” It’s also worth remembering that results are not the only measure of success, and they don’t define you as a person.
Focus on you and don’t compare yourself to others
As Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “comparison is the thief of joy”. Try not to make assumptions about how others are doing, or compare your performance to others. On the surface, it may look like others are spending more time on revision than you, or just not stressing out about their exams as much. However, we all cope with exams differently and that is ok. In reality, your friends and classmates are in exactly the same position as you. No one’s results are guaranteed – so it is likely they are feeling just as worried as you are.
If you feel like you are struggling, talk to someone
It’s ok to reach out for further help and support if you need it. There are so many people, organisations, and services out there to help you cope during difficult times. When struggling, talk to friends, family, or your personal tutor about how you are feeling.
Alternatively, if it’s available to you, don’t be afraid to seek professional help and support. You could consider seeing your GP or mental health professional for extra help and a referral.
Further mental health support at The College of Animal Welfare
If you’re a student or staff member with us, and you’re struggling with stress, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your teacher, head of course or line manager – they are there to help and support you. We also offer lots of additional mental health support that you can access free of charge. To find out more visit www.caw.ac.uk/wellbeing
Follow us on social media to be the first to see new blog posts: