Excel in Your Exams: Preparation and Reducing Stress are Key

Exams are always going to be stressful. After months and months of study and hard work, it all comes down to how well you do in this set amount of time, which really does put a lot of pressure on you. Some people just naturally aren’t good at exams, and even the most level headed students can have an off day, and so if you have the date looming- chances are you’re going to be worried. Thankfully, there’s plenty you can do to get yourself as prepared as possible, reduce stress and go into the exam on the day knowing you’ve done everything you can. Sometimes, this thought alone is enough to give you the confidence to go in there and do your best. Read on to find out more.


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Draw up a revision timetable

To properly revise a subject, you need time. Leaving it until the last minute and cramming is only going to add to stress levels, so get prepared and go about your revision in the right way. Once you’ve got an exam date, you can work out how much time you have to revise each topic, and set out a timetable giving you time each day to put in the work you need.

Find a method of revising that works for you

We’re all individual, and each of us will have our own methods of revising which work best for us. Some people are very visual, and find drawing up spider diagrams, posters and post it- notes to stick around the house can be effective. Others do better listening, you could read out all of your notes and record them on an app on your phone, and then listen back to them. Some people find that physically writing out all of their notes again with a pen and paper helps to secure it in their mind. And others might do better with things like flash cards and getting quizzed by others. Find a way to revise that works for you, and the information will sink in and stay in your mind much more easily.

Keep stress levels down

Stress makes everything worse. An anxious mind is far less likely to retain information from revising, and it can stop you from sleeping well. And we all know that when you’re tired, learning can feel impossible. While there’s always going to be an element of stress when it comes to exams, it’s important to find ways to cope. Have a relaxing bath, do some exercise or meditate as a way of managing the symptoms of stress and clearing your mind. You’ll do far better and will be able to focus more. Herbal remedies and over the counter medicines such as Rescue Remedy and Kalms can be effective if you’re really struggling. If your stress levels are impacting your life, you might even need to speak to your GP.

Take mock tests

A great way to test yourself, practice for the real thing and have a ‘test run’ of the exam is to take a mock test. These are often papers from previous years, and will give you a feel for the wording and what exactly it is the exams are looking for. Some companies offer specialist mock exams for specific subjects, you can find out more about this here. See if there are any online mocks as part of your revision materials from the school you’re studying at. If not, ask your tutor for some past exam questions and have them go through your answers with you to see how well you did. While the same questions won’t crop up again, if you’re able to answer these it shows you know the material well, and should be able to do just as well in your own exam. If you’re doing well in mock exams, it can really give you the confidence on the day to do your best on your own. If you’re struggling, you know that you need to put more work in. Better than turning up on the day and realising you weren't as prepared as you thought!

Speak to your tutor

If you’re able to get in any one-on-one time with your tutor, definitely use the opportunity to do so. Go armed with questions, and have them explain in more detail anything you’re not sure about. Classes in schools, colleges and universities tend to be fairly large and so it’s not going to be often that you get this kind of time with your tutor, so if you do, make the most of it. They should also be available via email to get back to you with any questions you have too. Don’t be afraid to ask, it’s their job to make sure you know the information. So if you’re stuck or unsure, let it be known.

Think about the day of the exam

On the day of the exam, you want to walk in feeling refreshed, well rested and confident. Do your very best to get a good night’s sleep, which will improve your mental clarity. Eat a light breakfast and make sure you’re well hydrated, since dehydration can lead to reduced mental performance. Have everything you need to take with you packed the day before, and even lay your clothes out. That way you can get up, get ready with no stress or messing around. Plan your route so there’s no risk of running late or getting stuck in traffic. This can help you to get off to the best start, so you can breeze in, do what you need to do and then breeze back out. You could have a notebook with a few points written down to revise on the day, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. With the right preparation you’ll have already covered everything you need to do and the knowledge will be in your head and ready to be used.

Do you suffer with bad exam stress? What do you do to ensure that you keep stress levels down enough to perform well?