Dealing with the stress of exams

Stress is a very normal, common part of life and unfortunately, we will all experience it at some time or other in our lives. Although it is inevitable that you will be facing stressful things at Uni such as exams, it doesn’t mean their looming stress has to be all consuming. At the end of the day, we are here to learn and enjoy the experience.

In order to perform to your best ability in exams it is important to learn how to deal with stress, and this starts with preparation. An Olympian wouldn’t take on their event without consistent and systematic training in advance, would they? So, let’s think of your exams as your Olympic sport, and the revision is your training. (Congratulations on making the Olympics).

An image of a illustration of exam stress word cloudFive key things to help you through the stress of exam season are:

  • Routine
  • Organisation
  • Motivation
  • Self-love
  • Be proactive

Firstly, a routine is important in order to devise a manageable schedule. I find it helpful to schedule in study time, personal time and any other responsibilities around your timetable. It is also important to keep a written record of your schedule (old fashioned I know). Never underestimate how satisfying it is to tick things off a to-do list, you’ll be much more aware of how much your accomplishing.

Organisation goes hand in hand with routine, but it is not just organising the revision session that is important but organising the revision itself. Once your exam timetable is released, which is well in advance of the exams, you can organise the order of what you study for when. It is also beneficial to organise the structure of your study sessions. If you set yourself two hours of time one day and try and work solidly through that time you will become overwhelmed and most likely frustrated. But if you divide that time, giving yourself breaks in regular intervals, you will find the task at hand more manageable.

Motivation to study can be driven by different things for different people. For some the thought of achieving a 2:1 is all they need to get them into the revision groove. It is not uncommon however, to see students being motivated by their next snack break, or by rewarding themselves with a Netflix binge. University is in part, a personal learning experience of getting to know yourself and growing as a person. So, when it comes to motivation, you have to find what works for you.

Self-love may sound slightly out of place when talking about revision, yet it is so important when dealing with stress. From personal experience I know how easy it is to get weighed down with the pressure of exams and you can bring on more stress from a personal fixation with your own goals. This is why I have learned to factor in personal time every week. Allow yourself to do something each week just because you want to. For me, I schedule in regular workouts in the uni gym, but not only this I allow myself to have lunch with friends, or visit the Gulbenkian cinema when there’s a film I really fancy seeing. These small things give you time out, to focus on yourself and keep hold of your happiness and sanity. Self-love also comes down to being proud of yourself no matter what, and acknowledging your achievements however big or small.

Finally, I listed being proactive, and by this, I mean be proactive with helping yourself. If you need help, exploit the resources provided for you. You can take out books from the library if you need more information. Professors will always be willing to answer questions via email or in their office hour. Not only this but we have a learning support centre where you can make appointments to get one-to-one advice and support with whatever may be troubling you.

If you can do these things, then I predict success in your academic ventures.

This post is by Becky Rye.