If you’re getting close to the end of term and it’s coming up to the exam period, you might be starting to feel a little (or very) stressed. Stress due to exams is completely normal, and it’s important to acknowledge that a little bit of stress can be a good thing. It can help give you that extra bit of motivation that might help get you through to the other side. Plus, we must be concerned about our exam results to be driven enough to study for them. Saying that it can be easy to let stress take over and have a negative impact on our physical or mental health. While our exams are, of course, very important, our health should be the priority. So, here are our top 6 exam stress tips for students at university.
Make a plan and stick to it
It can be overwhelming when we think about the amount of work we need to cover within a set period of time. So, break up the time you have into manageable chunks. The time chunks might be one hour or three hours, or you might want to break your days into morning, afternoon and evening. It’s become understood that we can only focus well for a few minutes at a time before we need to take a break, and breaks are good. Forty-five minutes of work followed by 15 minutes of break is a great way to divide your time. How about printing off a week-by-week plan that allows you to plot your day? Within your days, jot down the one or two things you really need to achieve. Don’t over-fill them as you will be discouraged when you’re not achieving what you need to. Remember to set some time aside for activities you enjoy so that you will be refreshed when it comes to the intensive study periods.
It’s a good idea to stick your planner up on your wall to keep yourself accountable. There’s something very satisfying about ticking things off as you achieve them too. Take note of when you are most focused in the day and use this to your advantage. Many people find that they do their best studying in the morning; others need a little more time to get their brains working and can study better in the afternoons or evenings. Whichever is the case for you, utilise your time well. Spend time with friends or exercise when you are having trouble studying – there’s no point sitting at your desk getting overly stressed about what you’re not achieving. The sooner you make your study plan, the better. When you’re stressed, take a look at your plan to remind yourself that you have time to allocate to the reading and work you need to do.
Did you know that taking yourself away from your desk and going somewhere completely different is proven to help information be digested and remembered? Plus, fresh air does us the world of good. So, take regular breaks and if you can get outside, do. Taking a quick 15-minute walk is enough to refresh your brain and body. New environments are a really good idea for the quality of your studying. Exercise is proven to be an effective stress-buster, so how about combining a study break with a quick run or a few jumping jacks outside? You don’t need to join the gym to get a good amount of exercise into your routine. London is full of beautiful parks, so it’s easy to find one to have a run around if the weather is good. If you have a coffee in the mornings, how about getting yourself a flask and combining your morning coffee ritual with a walk around the block?
Keep an eye on what you eat
As well as getting fresh air and exercising, what you put into your body is equally important. Getting enough fruit and vegetables will keep you healthy during the exam period. Avoid too many sugary snacks as these can lead to energy bursts and crashes which are the last thing you need during busier times. Equally, keep an eye on your caffeine intake for the same reason. It can be tempting to load up on caffeinated energy drinks or cups of coffee to keep you revising into the night, but caffeine affects the quality of your sleep, even if you’re avoiding it late at night. Swap some of those drinks for water – you can never drink too much of it. It’s recognised that staying hydrated helps with memory which is a real superpower when it comes to studying for exams. Regulating your energy and mood with what you consume is one of the best ways to stay on top of your stress levels. Remember that you can always treat yourself when those exams are out of the way.
Get plenty of sleep
Being well-rested is especially important when you’re studying for exams. It not only allows you to focus but also to deal with whatever everyday challenges might come your way. It’s normal to feel stressed when exams are coming up or when assignments are due, but if you’ve had a good night’s sleep, your brain and body can deal with this amount of stress and make rational sense of what is needed you. Getting 6-8 hours of sleep every night is recommended. The main thing most students need to do to improve their sleep is to spend less time on screens close to bedtime. We understand this is easier said than done, but it can make a real difference. Try to spend the last couple of hours of your day off your devices. Having a consistent bedtime ritual or routine allows your body to get ready for sleep, so avoid staying up late watching Netflix all night. And, did you know that keeping your bedroom a little cooler will give you a better quality of sleep? Just a couple of degrees might make some difference, so try sleeping with your window ajar if you feel comfortable enough to do so.
Mix up your studying to keep things interesting
You might be someone who needs peace and quiet to take information in. This is how most people find they can get the most out of studying. If you study at your desk in your room, try to keep it separate from any space in your room you keep for relaxing. So, don’t study from bed if you can avoid it, as you’ll unconsciously associate it with studying, which might affect your sleep. There are countless libraries in London, most of which are free to use, so if you like to find new and interesting places to revise, look at which ones are close to you. You could also find a café or co-working space close by to get a couple of hours of studying done.
As well as revising by yourself, you might find it helpful to use your classmates. How about getting a small group of 4-5 together for a few study sessions ahead of your exams? This might seem like time you can’t afford to lose, but it could actually save you some time. Try dividing up subjects or topics and delegating who studies what.
Then you can get together and tell each other the key points that need to be digested. Equally, if you have a flatmate or friend who isn’t studying the same thing that you are, you could ask them to test you on your subject. Your friends or family back home might be up for this too and this lets them into what you’re working on too.
However, you choose to study, try to vary it a little bit. Being cooped up in one place won’t help with stress levels as your body will become used to that being the place you go to revise, which it probably won’t feel positive about. As they say, variety is the spice of life!
Talk to others about any exam stress
The last thing you should do when you’re worried or stressed is bottle it up and keep it to yourself. Remember that everyone at university is in the same boat, so talking about it with your friends is a really good idea. If you feel like having a bit of a pre-exam meltdown, just have one. Keeping it to yourself will only make things worse. Equally, your family back home will understand if you feel concerned about exams. They might have even experienced it before themselves.
As well as these 6 exam stress tips for students, just remember that your next exam is only one of many. It might feel like the most important thing in the world right now and of course you should be taking it very seriously – but equally, it’s not worth panicking about. Take your revision topics one step at a time and remember that as long as you’re covering the subject content, all you can do is your best.
High expectations can cause stress on students, making them feel like they have to perform perfectly in order to meet the standards set for them. Managing exam expectations at university is crucial for reducing stress levels.
Here are some tips to achieve this:
- set realistic goals: establish achievable academic goals that are in line with your capabilities and the course requirements. Unrealistic expectations can lead to unnecessary stress.
- practice self-sompassion: be kind to yourself. Understand that it’s okay to make mistakes or not know everything. Treat yourself with the same kindness you would offer a friend.
- let go of negative thoughts. Promote a more positive and constructive mindset.