Exams are life. Well, not like that. Not in a positive, can’t-live-without-them-kind-of-way, but more in a they’re-just-part-of-life-so-gotta-get-on-with-it-kind-of-way. Pretty much everyone will have to do an exam at some point in our lives. And whilst some sail through periods of revision and subsequent testing, others get clammy palms and heart palpitations at the very mention of the word ‘test’.
Of course, some stress can be a good thing: it can be the motivational push that we need to get things done. In fact, the name for that little portion of stress that helps us stay on track is called eustress which quite literally means, ‘good stress’. However, too much of it (especially during exam season) is tough.
And with 2017 research from Unihealth and reported by The National Student saying that 82% of students are suffering from stress at UK universities and the NSPCC reporting that it delivered more than 3,000 counselling sessions on exam stress in 2016/17, learning how to deal with the stress during exam season is actually paramount to staying mentally healthy throughout the whole year.
Here are some ways to cope with it, just in time for our epic stress management and mindfulness event coming up in June 2018.
Have active breaks
Staying cooped up in your room for hours might seem like a very necessary means to an end, but you’ve got to remember to take breaks and get moving when you do. According to a study by Hiroshima University, and reported upon by The Atlantic, the optimum amount of time for a break is 17 minutes, followed by 54 minutes of work time and the most productive people used their breaks for exercise or talking to others. Frequent periods of rest inbetween intense bouts of work can help us stay on-track long term. And other studies show that you’ll boost your overall energy levels by engaging in an activity during your break. So don’t stay at your desk; go for a walk, do a few sit-ups, or whack on a Youtube workout.
Find your work streak
Science seems to be on the side of those who are early risers and complete work first thing in the morning. But if you find yourself running on empty and foggy-headed at 7am, don’t worry because everyone has different work patterns – you just need to find out what suits you. And whether you’re a lark, a night-owl or a mid-afternoon power house, you’ll still need to create a revision and exam schedule that works for you which means planning ahead. Try making a daily schedule or to-do list which breaks your time up into 45 minute slots, or a daily check-list. This means you can satisfyingly tick off your tasks as you complete them – what else could bring you more joy during exam time?
Don’t study solo…
Okay, we know that focus goes hand in hand with isolation most of the time. But too much time spent on your jays can result in less productivity when it comes to remembering info, and low mood. UCL University noted that a 2004 research paper found that revising with peers is an effective study technique because it allows individuals to better absorb their own notes. Furthermore they note that there are “emotional benefits of social support” when studying in groups, which promote “a better sense of confidence and autonomy”. Get that study group sorted, people.
…But avoid people that panic you
You know the ones we mean. The people running around the exam hall five minutes before you’re due to go in, asking you what quotes you’ve memorised or which dates you’ve learned. Avoid at all costs, because they will just get you more panicked than you need to be. As the Times Higher Education notes; “listening to other people talk about what they’ve learnt will only stress you out and may make you feel like you aren’t progressing as well as them. Plus, if they themselves are stressed this can rub off on to you and other people’s stress is not what you need.” Too right.
Don’t sleep on sleep
The temptation to pull an all-nighter right before a big test may be strong, but if you swap sleep for studying, you’ll probably do worse than if you’d prepared in advance and got a good night’s rest beforehand. Sleep is optimum for brain functionality and repairing our body – not sleeping well during exams will make you more irritable and make it harder to absorb information meaning work will become more of a struggle and stress you out further. Not good. Try to clock up a minimum of 8 hours a night to reap the immediate benefits of being well rested.
If you bear all this in mind (and put in a decent amount of hard work as well, obvs) there’s no reason you won’t sail to top marks. Good luck!
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