Finding your exam calm

It’s exam season, and you’ve got a million things rushing through your brain. Your friends and family are saying: “it will all be fine, just try and relax”. But all you’re thinking is: “how can I relax? This is my future!” We get it, 100%. Here are our tried and tested techniques to help you manage any feelings of anxiety or nervousness during your exams.

1. Give yourself a break

And we mean literally and figuratively. It’s very easy to burnout during exam time, so paying close attention to what your mind and body need is key to keeping those nerves at bay. Remember, exam success doesn’t define you as a person. Everyone copes differently, and there’s far more to who you are than how well you respond to exam pressure.   

  • Make it a priority to unwind after each exam: go for food with friends, or choose something nice to cook at home; catch up on a Netflix series; let off some steam in the gym; or chill in the tub. Whatever you choose, the aim is to give your brain some respite and prevent you from fixating on your exam performance. 
  • If you need to continue revision for upcoming exams, make sure you have frequent breaks. We can only concentrate effectively for 30–45 minutes at a time, so shackling yourself to your desk will be counterproductive. Apps such as Forest use the Pomodoro method which can help you achieve the balance between focus and relaxation.
  • Don’t cut out all the enjoyment from your life during your exams. It’s tempting to knuckle down and ‘focus’ (even on the weekends), leaving no time for fun or distractions, but you’ll struggle to maintain that focus if you feel unfulfilled in other areas of your life.   

2. Eat, sleep and exercise well

Let’s pull the plug on surviving on super noodles, getting minimal amounts of movement and staying up all night revising. Cutting out these unhealthy habits will minimise stress and anxiety during the exam period, and your body will thank you for it in the long run too. 

  • Make sure you get a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night. If you struggle to nod off, create an evening routine that helps you wind down and, more importantly, stay away from blue light devices. They only make it harder!   
  • Keep active. Exercising is one of the quickest and most effective ways to de-stress; even a short walk will do. Fresh air will clear your head and the exposure to sunlight will release serotonin in your brain, boosting your mood and helping you feel calmer and more focused 
  • Avoid highs and lows of energy by eating slow-release foods such as multi-grain bread, oat porridge, nuts and vegetables. Try to reduce your intake of caffeine and junk food too. They might provide a quick energy boost, but their effects are short-lived and can leave you feeling sluggish. Not ideal when you need to bring your A-game to that exam room.   

3. Get ready and feel organised

It’s normal to feel uneasy the night before an exam but try not to cram information. Have one last read over your revision notes and then get your things ready so you feel more relaxed and prepared in the morning.  

  • Check your exam details e.g location, time and required equipment 
  • If you’re going to travel to an exam location, schedule and plan your route Leave plenty of time for issues with parking, public transport etc. 
  • Prepare everything you need for the exam: water, student ID and any equipment or medication you might need.  

4. Believe in yourself  

When we’re faced with challenges, we often forget to look back at how far we’ve come and how much we’ve already achieved. Making time for reflection before each exam will help to boost your confidence.   

If you start having negative thoughts, try to replace them with positive ones. For example, instead of thinking: ‘I’m a failure if I don’t get a B for A level English’, think: ‘whatever happens on results day, I will be proud of my efforts and value how much I’ve already achieved.’   

You’ve got this. Good luck!