Managing exam stress
Please read carefully, answering YES or NO to the following questions:
1. Do you feel a cloud of pressure whenever you think of the word 'exam'?
2. Do you fall into a deranged panic whenever you start to revise?
3. Do you have a recurring nightmare of being in an exam hall, faced with a paper full of questions that you have no knowledge of - hoping the ground will swallow you up?
4. Are you planning to abscond from university to forge a career as a fisherman in Outer Mongolia, in a bid to avoid any exam?
If you answered yes to most of the above questions (give or take number 4), the probability is that you're suffering from a bout of exam-induced stress. This is a normal strain of stress, which is temporary and can be somewhat remedied. So, this diagnosis really is nothing for you to be worried about.
In fact, the last thing that you would want is to completely rid yourself of any exam-related stress. This is because stress means you care about the issue at hand. Channeled correctly, stress also provides you with the adrenaline to perform. If you can keep these pressures in perspective and not let it develop into debilitating anxiety, then it can be positive tool.
However, if you are worrying excessively, fearful, withdrawn or mentally/ physically ill, this kind of stress needs to be controlled. Here are some handy tips that might help you to manage and reduce exam related tension:
Plan your study time in advance
Plan your studying in advance so that you can put designated slots in place. It’s good to do this in slots (1 hour long), ensuring that you give yourself breaks of 10-15 mins. This prevents you from becoming overtired; resulting in headaches and jumbled information. This will also allow you to relax without that cloud of fear during your leisure time.
Use techniques that ‘mark off’ what you have studied
This technique is effective to avoid covering old ground and neglecting important information. If you plan your studying in advance, you can schedule topics that need covering. You can then mark off the areas as you go, clearly outlining the areas that you still need to revise. This also serves as an effective tool to monitor your progression. Visual representations such as these can really help to map out how much you have covered. This will give you a sense of achievement and satisfaction.
Bring a bit of fun into your revision
Multiple-choice circling, exam question or dare? OK so I’m mostly joking about these, but exam revision doesn't have to be clinical and academic. Enlist the help of your friends, partner or flatmates. Get them to help you with flashcards, questionnaires or topical games.
Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle
A healthy body really does encourage a healthy mind. And although these phrases can sound like clichéd rhetoric, they really are helpful mantras to live by. Try eating less junk food, and instead cleanse yourself with healthier options and plenty of fluids (preferably water). Exercising really helps to rejuvenate your mind too, getting the blood pumping through your body and then brain. This will provide you with natural energy that can sustain you throughout the day.
Manage your expectations
In other words, do not try too hard to reach perfection. If you are only hoping for a first or you’ve failed - then you are creating difficult mountains and worsening your stress. Try instead, to achieve the absolute best of your capability. Then you can only be happy with your results and escape self-loathing and disappointment. Your best will be much better than you imagine.
Believe in yourself
I think that this is the most important tip. How many times have you predicted ultimate failure, only to surprise yourself with an average, or even exceptional mark? We are always our worst critics, so believe in yourself. Self-belief can be channeled into motivation and maximise performance.
Keep your anxieties in perspective
Most importantly though, don’t over-sensationalise the pressures of exams. Think back to undergraduate study and how you perceived each essay/ exam as the beginning and end of the world. Although your exams might feel like the most crucial thing today, you will look back at them in the same way that you do your undergraduate study, A Levels and GCSE’s.
However, if you fear that your anxieties are beyond this then you can always find counsel in your local health centre or SU incentives such as the Are you OK? Campaign.
Your life and career can be just as enjoyable and successful, despite the result of this forthcoming essay. Discuss…