Managing stress during exams

What is exam stress?

Exam stress can take many forms and it can hit people before, during or after an actual exam. It can cause minds to go blank, and carefully memorised facts can disappear out of consciousness. For some, panic can set in at the very thought of exams, for others, depression may kick in after an exam is over.

Is stress a bad thing?

Stress is the body’s normal response to a challenge, threat or excitement. The physical symptoms associated with stress are caused by the presence of adrenaline, produced to prepare the body for ‘fight or flight’. A certain amount of exam stress can be used as a motivating force. However, if adrenaline levels become excessive unpleasant physical symptoms take over.

Preparation is key

  • Create yourself a study timetable and prioritise your workload – organisation allows the brain to understand and retain information.
  • Colour-coding helps the brain to make sense of information.
  • The use of graphics can help with the retention of information.
  • A list of things “to do” is helpful.
  • Only study in blocks of 25-40 minutes followed by breaks of 10-15 minutes.
  • Do not study late at night – stop at least one hour before bed.
  • Engage in peer revision.

Look after yourself

  • Eat foods that are rich in vitamins and proteins they will help your brain to stay sharp.
  • Eat super foods such as berries – boost concentration, energy and mood.
  • Don’t drink too much coffee or fizzy drinks they can reduce the clarity of your thinking.
  • Ensure you rest – the body requires a minimum of 7 hours sleep to function so do NOT pull all-nighters.
  • Regular moderate exercise boosts energy, clears the mind and helps to reduce stress (30 minutes light-moderate exercise daily)

Before the exam – strategies for reducing stress

  • Do not stay up revising the entire night before – it is important you get a good night sleep.
  • Have a light but adequate breakfast before the exam.
  • Prepare all your equipment in advance.
  • Know where and when your exam is.
  • Avoid coffee and nicotine
  • Leave plenty of time to arrive.
  • Do some relaxation techniques.

During your exam – strategies for reducing stress

  • Use a body relaxation technique to calm your body – use positive statements about yourself and be in the moment.
  • Always read the question carefully.
  • Plan your time effectively
  • Choose the order in which you’ll answer the questions
  • Try to leave time at the end to check your work

After your exam – strategies for reducing stress

  • Review how it went practically.
  • Try to relax after the exam before you start studying for the next exam.
  • Do not dwell on the exam; this is a complete waste of your energy.
  • Most importantly…. Reward yourself!

General tips

  • Believe in yourself and maintain a positive attitude.
  • Keep things in perspective.
  • Be realistic.
  • Spend time with people who have a positive effect on you
  • Access support and guidance if you need it, admitting you are stressed is not a sign of weakness it is a sign of strength.
  • Rest and recreation are important.
  • REMEMBER exams are important but they are NOT the only key to a successful future

Rochdale Sixth Form College is the founding institution of the Altus Education Partnership and the number one Sixth Form College in the country for value added performance for the fifth year.