Re-Thinking Exams: Dealing With Exam Stress

It is that time again: the dreaded final’s week is around the corner. To many students, exams are something to be afraid of. There are many reasons why someone might fear exams, whether that is the pressure, the uncertainty, or a myriad of other factors. However, it does not necessarily have to be that way. By re-thinking exams, you might just change your view about them.

Changing perspective: Exams as opportunity

By taking a step back and thinking long-term, it becomes clear that you are studying with a purpose. You are preparing yourself to enter a career in your chosen field by acquiring the required skills and knowledge during your studies. Viewed from that point of view, exams are not only a measure to evaluate your current level, but they are also the milestones which mark your advancement towards your goal. As such, exams should inspire confidence that you are becoming more and more competent in your area of expertise. Additionally, exams also allow you to deepen your learning by putting it in practice in a tense scenario. It is often in those moments that you realize your strengths and weaknesses which gives you the opportunity to either build upon what you are good at or correct the shortcomings you currently have. Failing a test is not the end all be all, but more so a chance to take responsibility about your own learning, improve yourself and get closer to being ready for the career you aspire to. It also important to keep in mind that exams allow you to practice a variety of valuable skills and qualities such as time management, dealing with stressful situations, and staying focused.

By reminding yourself that the purpose of your studies is less about acquiring a degree than it is about learning and preparing yourself, exams might just become a little less scary. It is completely normal to feel somewhat stressed during an exam week. However, there are ways to change perspectives about exams and begin viewing them as a healthy challenge that enable you to grow. You might even find yourself looking forward them if you can identify how they help.

Dealing with exam stress

While you should accept stress as something normal and very common, it can also make it more difficult to prepare for your exams. A When stress is not address early it can shadow all of our efforts to keep going. A good way to address stress is to acknowledge it. Once you can accept that you are stressed, reflecting how you have successfully handled stress on previous occasions and what you can repeat now to reduce it are some of the first steps.  Still, there are some general tips that could help you deal with stress specifically when revising for exams.

To reduce stress as you are studying for your exams, it is important to take good care of yourself:

  • Take a short break after 40-60min of studying to refresh yourself and get some rest.
  • Daily exercise helps maintain your focus and keeps you energized
  • Find stress-relieving activities and integrate them into your study plan. You could for example go for a walk while listening to your favorite songs.
  • Maintain a balanced diet, eat regularly, and try to avoid junk food that would drain your energy.
  • Try to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep each day. The few hours you might gain are less helpful, than the rest you are missing out.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out for support. Talk to your parents, friends, or counselors.

Besides maintaining self-care, an effective way to reduce stress is to create a study plan that works best for you.

  • Find a place for your studies where you are quiet, comfortable, undistracted and try to keep the space clean and organized.
  • Make sure that you know what you need to prepare for your exams. Check Blackboard and your notes to review what exactly the exam hopes to test? What is it evaluating?
  • Break down what you need to prepare into smaller tasks that you can get easily started on and estimate how much time they would require.
  • Create a daily schedule with your study goals. Clearly write down what you want to achieve during each study period. Don’t forget to take breaks and don’t worry too much if you don’t get to everything you wanted to.

Now that you have prepared for your exam with as little stress as possible, it is time to deal with writing the exam itself. Here are some tips for staying calm on the exam day:

  • Have everything you need for your exam ready the night before.
  • Know where you need to go and plan in enough time to get there.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast on the morning of the exam day.
  • Avoid people that might make you feel anxious.
  • As you sit down, take some deep breaths, and try to relax as much as possible.
  • Once you are given the exam, read the instructions and questions carefully. Make notes about what you need to answer.
  • Be strategic:
    • Estimate how much time you need for each question and try to stick to it.
    • Start with the questions that you know the answer for.
    • Move on if you are getting stuck. Return to unfinished question at the end.
    • Make time at the end of the exam to read over your answers and correct small mistakes.

Once you are done, don’t forget to reward yourself and get some well-deserved rest. You have earned it!


What helps you the most with dealing with exam stress?

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