Exam season can be a stressful time for anyone. Feelings of anxiety and nervousness can take over, to the point where our performance in the exams actually suffers. In a terrible twist of irony, the more we worry about our exams, the worse we end up doing in them.
You need to find effective ways to manage your exam stress and maintain a steady and productive period of study so that when the time comes, you can face exams with confidence. Here are some great ideas to get started on dealing with exam stress.
1. Start Review Early
The first thing to remember is that it’s important to start your review work early. A lot of exam stress originates from procrastination when you set a task to one side day after day and keep putting it off. Eventually, you will have to do it, and it will invariably be under much more pressure than if you just started early.
The best habit to develop is a continuous review cycle. For example, at the start of a semester, you’ll have your first week of learning. In the second week, make time to review what you covered in the previous week. Reviews don’t have to be time-intensive, especially if you’re consistent, making it more manageable. Following such a pattern means that as the exams draw closer, you’ve already spent time reviewing the work, and you’ll feel more confident.
2. Maintain a Proper Sleep Routine
It’s tempting during periods of stress to think you can “tough it out,” stay up all night and get everything done in a short time. You might think that you are helping yourself here. But, in reality, this will only cause you more stress and anxiety.
The answer is to maintain a proper sleep and work routine. Aim to get around 7-8 hours of sleep per night and keep your regular bedtime and wake-up times without disruption.
Sleep isn’t wasted time. It actually helps you to study better. When you’re asleep, your brain processes the information you have taken in and puts it into better order. Have you ever experienced confusion over a question or problem, gone to sleep, and then suddenly the answer just came to you after you woke up? That’s the power of sleep.
3. Eat Well and Exercise
Besides sleep, you should also keep up a good nutritious diet and exercise routine. We don’t mean that you have to work out 2 hours a day in the gym. Even a walk each day in the open air can do wonders for your mental and physical state. Eat your regular three meals a day, and drink plenty of water. It’s tempting to “temporarily” substitute junk food to save time, but try to avoid that because it can be high in sugar and ultimately leaves you with less energy.
We mentioned drinking water, and this is an essential part of a healthy study pattern. Remaining hydrated will help maintain your energy levels, prevent headaches, and generally make you feel more comfortable as you study.
4. Be Realistic in Your Study Goals
Next, don’t set goals for yourself that are unrealistic or unattainable. This is the path to disappointment and extreme exam stress. When you think you can cover ten different topics in a day, and then you inevitably don’t, you will feel more stressed out. As we said in the first point, start your study and review process earlier in the semester to set yourself realistic and attainable goals.
5. Find Study Buddies
You may have to face the exams alone, but there’s nothing that says you have to study by yourself. It can be effective and relaxing to find someone in the same program and study for exams together.
Another strategy is to find a study buddy that allows you both to complement each other’s strengths, where one fills the gaps that the other has in their knowledge. Sometimes what students need the most is to hear the same information told in a different way, and the result is often that things just start to “click” in their minds. When it does, you won’t then worry about those questions coming up on the exam.
6. Take Breaks
It may feel counterintuitive when you are busy, but regular breaks are important for the same reason as sleeping, eating, exercising, and drinking water. Your brain benefits from being a little distracted from the stresses of life on occasion. Just as with a good night’s sleep, turning your attention to an episode of your favorite show or a few songs on your playlist can help you process information and start to see things more clearly.
7. Ease Off the Caffeine
As with the temptation to stay up all night and study, another temptation is to rely on stimulants such as caffeine and energy drinks to stay awake and do more. Unfortunately, this kind of energy is not conducive to effective study. The result may be that you end up sleeping longer in the daytime and thus losing more of your overall study time.
These stimulants also heighten your senses in such a way that can amplify your stress and won’t help you relax at all. Being more relaxed is the key to staying productive.
8. Finish the Exam and Put it Out of Mind
Finally, as you finish each exam, and you’ll usually have several, you must put the test out of your mind and move your focus onto your next task. What many students do after an exam is immediately consult their notes and start checking if they were right about their answers. This is a pathway to increased stress because you might start doubting everything you did in the exam. As each exam finishes, put it out of your mind.
Conclusion: Remember to Reach Out When You Need Help
One final bit of extra advice on dealing with exam stress is to reach out for help when you feel you need it. There’s no point suffering in silence. If you are too stressed, struggling with your workload, or otherwise feeling worried about tests and other assessments, reach out to those around you: friends, family, teachers, and others who can offer you help. There is no shame in needing help, everyone needs help sometimes.
Sometimes, getting that support can be the difference between exam success and failure. Even if exams this time around don’t go your way, it’s not the end of the world. Try to keep things in perspective and never think that it’s too late to get a better outcome next time.
If you’re looking for an educational institution with friendly, caring staff to support you, contact CSI today.