How to Stress Less During Exams

The word “exam” conjures up a range of different thoughts and emotions. When I hear it, some of the thoughts that cross my mind are: 

”What is going to be in the exam?” 

”How many marks do I need to get to pass?” 

”Do I know everything that I need to know?” 

And on top of that, I start to feel worried that I do not know what is going to be in the exam, afraid that what I do know will not get me enough marks to pass and above all, stressed that I just do not know enough.

And in my experience, it is common for all of us to feel like this. In situations where we are being tested and scrutinised, there are nerves that come with it, and a level of anxiety that cannot be helped. As a result, the stress that comes with all of this can be so debilitating and limit our ability to prepare effectively.

So I think it’s not something we can completely get rid of, but definitely something we can manage and reduce as much as we can. To help combat your exam stress as much as possible, I offer these following five tips:

Tips for reducing your exam stress:

  • Make a plan: cramming for an exam is the equivalent of rushing an assignment the night before. Just like how there is a deadline for when you need to submit the assignment, the exam date is the deadline for your study. Instead completing that essay, presentation or poster, by that date, your goal is to know as much about the topic as you can. So it makes sense, that to do the best job you can, you should have a plan, and give yourself the most time and opportunity to study! Having a solid plan also means that you are able to cover all of the topics that will feature in the test as well!
  • Stick to the above plan: so this tip might seem silly, but just making a plan is not enough! You have to stick to it as well. Setting aside time is the best thing you can do, time that is dedicated to one topic or one set of material, and spending time on a topic is the best thing you can do, whether it is reading a textbook, answering questions, or discussing it with friends, the more time you spend, the better.
  • Have a study method: there are many people who will say that some methods of studying are better than others but the best study method is the one that works for you. If you do not have the time to experiment, I would recommend picking one that you have used before, whether that is taking notes, doing practice questions, or using flashcards. There are so many different ways people study and it can be overwhelming to think that you are not using the most effective or efficient method but as I said in the previous tip, time spent and hard work are the two things that will help you the most.
  • Study under test conditions: a phrase often thrown around in sporting circles is “you play like you train, so train like you play”. There is no reason why this is not the same when when it comes to study too! Letting your concentration wander between questions, or pausing lectures to respond to messages will affect your ability to pick up information, and hence, will affect your ability to put it down in your exam. This is one of the reasons why the Pomodoro technique has grown to become incredibly popular for study and work, as it removes distractions for a period of time, and allows the brain to reset at set intervals so you can refocus again.
  • Work in a group and study with others: I should preface this by saying that this is not for everyone. Group study and be both rewarding and demoralising at the same time. It creates a great social environment to discuss and learn from each other. We often work harder for the people around and it helps keep us accountable and on track. It encourages us to bring something else to the table and learn a bit more about a topic that you would not otherwise because of the obligation to the group. But occasionally the feeling of being left behind by your peers can make you feel as if you are not achieving anything. It is where sometimes you have to put on a thick skin and have the courage to say that you do not know the answer to a question, or do not understand a certain topic in front of your study mates. But if you can, it is definitely one of the most helpful and fun ways to make the most out of your study time!

So that brings us to the end of our exam study tips! If you have any questions about any of these ideas or would like a more in-depth explanation or review of different study techniques, get in touch and we can discuss what would work best for you!

Keep learning!

Eamon

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