coping with exams

Getting through exams can be challenging, but try not to panic. There are ways to beat exam stress and ensure that you get the best possible results. 

Good planning and a realistic revision schedule can turn a heavy workload into something manageable. And knowing you have a schedule can help you manage your nerves.

It's wise to revise

It sounds obvious, but revision really is the key to exam success. Being fully prepared for your exams is the most effective way to overcome stress and anxiety, and gives you the best chance of getting the best grades you can.

Before you start revising, the amount of work you have to do might seem overwhelming. Many exam timetables require you to study for lots of different subjects at once, and it’s easy to feel daunted.

Deal with this by making a revision schedule you can stick to. Work out how much you have to do and the time you have to do it in, then break it down into chunks. Allocate yourself a few hours of revision a day, and mix up your subjects so that you don't get bored.

It's also important to find a revision style that suits you. Studying alone in a quiet room suits many people, but not everyone likes working in silence. Try playing music quietly in the background, or revising with a friend (but don't let them distract you).

You could customise your notes to make them more personal. Experiment with colour coding, note cards, diagrams or whatever helps you learn your topic.

If you come across something you don't understand, try to find a new source of information rather than just memorising it, as this won't help you in your exam. Don't be afraid to ask your teacher or a friend for help if you need it.

Looking at past exam papers can also be useful, as you can familiarise yourself with the layout and type of questions you'll be asked. Practise completing the exam paper in the set time limit so you know what you need to do to improve your exam technique.

Rest and relaxation

Revision is an essential part of exam success, but it's also important that you don't overdo it. Studying for hours and hours without a break will only make you tired and ruin your concentration, which may make you even more anxious.

Stress is a natural feeling that's designed to help us cope in difficult situations. In small amounts, it's good for you because it pushes you to work hard and do your very best.

However, too much stress can cause problems such as headaches and loss of appetite, and can make you bad tempered. Avoid excess stress by taking frequent short breaks while you're working. A break every 45-60 minutes is about right.

During your breaks, do something relaxing, such as reading a book or going for a short walk. Taking your mind off your work will help you come back to it feeling refreshed. It can also help if you reward yourself after each revision session. For example, with a long bath or a good DVD.

Stress is a natural feeling and helps us cope in difficult situations. In small amounts, it's good for you because it pushes you to work hard and do your best

When you're not revising, use your spare time to get away from your books and do something physical. Exercise is good for taking your mind off stress and keeping you positive, and it will help you sleep better.

If you're still feeling stressed, it's important to talk to someone you trust, such as a family member, teacher or a friend. Many people find exams difficult to deal with, so don't be embarrassed to ask for support.

On the day

It's natural to be nervous on the day of your exam, but don't let your nerves take over. Start the day with a good breakfast, and give yourself plenty of time to get to the exam hall. Remember to take everything you need, including pencils, pens and a calculator. A bottle of water and some tissues are also useful.

Once the exam has started, take a few minutes to read the instructions and questions so you know exactly what's expected of you. Ask an exam supervisor if anything is unclear; they're there to help you.

Plan how much time you'll need for each question. Don't panic if you get stuck on a question, but try to leave yourself enough time at the end to come back to it. Even if you're really stumped, an educated guess is better than leaving it blank.

When the exam is over, don't spend too much time going over it in your head or worrying about it. Resist the temptation to compare your answers with those of your friends. If you have more exams to come, focus on the next one instead.

sleep well

Simple lifestyle changes can make a world of difference to your quality of sleep.

Following these 10 tips from The Sleep Council can help you have a more restful night.

 

  1. Keep regular hours

Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time every day will programme your body to sleep better. Choose a time when you're most likely to feel sleepy.

  1. Create a restful sleeping environment

Your bedroom should be kept for rest and sleep. Keep it as quiet and dark as possible. It should be neither too hot nor too cold. Temperature, lighting and noise should be controlled so that the bedroom environment helps you to fall (and stay) asleep.

  1. Make sure that your bed is comfortable

It’s difficult to get restful sleep on a mattress that’s too soft or too hard, or a bed that's too small or old. If you have a pet that sleeps in the room with you, consider moving it somewhere else if it often makes noise in the night.

  1. Exercise regularly

Moderate exercise on a regular basis, such as swimming or walking, can help relieve some of the tension built up over the day. Make sure that you don't do vigorous exercise too close to bedtime, however, as it may keep you awake.

  1. Less caffeine

Cut down on stimulants such as caffeine in tea or coffee, especially in the evening. They interfere with the process of falling asleep, and they prevent deep sleep. The effects of caffeine can last a long time (up to 24 hours), so the chances of it affecting sleep are significant. Instead, have a warm, milky drink or herbal tea.

  1. Don’t over-indulge

Too much food or alcohol, especially late at night, can interrupt your sleep patterns. Alcohol may help you to fall asleep initially, but it will disrupt your sleep later on in the night.

  1. Don’t smoke

It’s bad for sleep. Smokers take longer to fall asleep, they wake up more frequently, and they often have more disrupted sleep.

  1. Try to relax before going to bed

Have a warm bath, listen to quiet music or do some gentle yoga to relax the mind and body. Your doctor may be able to recommend a helpful relaxation CD.

  1. Write away your worries

Deal with worries or a heavy workload by making lists of things to be tackled the next day. If you tend to lie in bed thinking about tomorrow's tasks, set aside time before bedtime to review the day and make plans for the next day. The goal is to avoid doing these things when you're in bed, trying to sleep.

  1. Don't worry in bed

If you can’t sleep, don’t lie there worrying about it. Get up and do something you find relaxing until you feel sleepy again, then return to bed.

how to feel happier

Try our five tips, designed to help you feel happier, more in control and able to cope better with life’s ups and downs.

manage your stress

Being in a stressed state of mind a lot of the time can make it easier for you to overreact or feel negative compared to someone who is relaxed.

Managing your stress can be a gradual process. Look at your lifestyle. If you have a lot of stress in your life, find ways to reduce it, such as asking your partner to help with chores in the house, taking a relaxing yoga class, or talking to your boss about changing your working hours.

Introduce regular exercise and time to yourself. These are positive changes. Taking control of your time in this way can effectively reduce stress.

If you have feelings of anxiety along with your stress, breathing exercises can help. See Relaxation tips for stress for advice.

use humor and enjoy yourself

A good sense of humour is a great inner strength. Try to see the funny side of situations, and you’ll often be able cope better. Jokes have a way of making worries seem less important.

Doing things that you enjoy is also good for your overall emotional wellbeing. Watching sports with a friend, having a soak in the bath, or meeting up with friends for coffee are examples of small activities that can improve your day.

Doing something you’re good at, such as cooking or dancing, is a good way to enjoy yourself and have a sense of achievement. “If you’re feeling low, tell yourself how good you are at the activity. It really gives you a lift,” says clinical psychologist Isabel Clarke.

Avoid things that seem enjoyable at the time but make you feel worse afterwards, such as alcohol, or clothes shopping if you’re on a tight budget.

build up your self-esteem

Self-esteem is the way you feel about yourself. Lots of things can lower our self-esteem, such as a relationship break-up, not getting the job you wanted or putting on weight. None of these things makes us worth less, but it can feel that way.

If your self-esteem is low, it’s important to learn how to improve it. Clarke says the best way to improve your self-esteem is to "treat yourself as you would treat a valued friend", in a positive but honest way. Notice when you’re putting yourself down, such as thinking: "You’re so stupid for not getting that job," and instead think: "Would I say that to my best friend?". You probably wouldn’t.

Tell yourself something positive instead, such as: "You’re a bright person, you’ll get the next job."

have a healthy lifestyle

Making healthy choices about your diet can make you feel emotionally stronger. You’re doing something positive for yourself, which lifts your self-esteem, and a good diet enables your brain and body to work efficiently.

Aim to have a balanced food intake that includes the main food groups including everything!! Fruit

Do some exhappercise

Even moderate exercise releases chemicals in your brain that lift your mood. It can help you to sleep better, have more energy and keep your heart healthy. If you’re trying to reach a healthy weight, exercise will help you lose the pounds.

Choose an exercise that you enjoy. If it helps, do it with a friend or listen to music. Adults should aim for 150 minutes a week.

Get enough sleep

Around seven to eight hours is the average amount of sleep an adult needs for their body and mind to fully rest. But this can vary. Some people need less and some need more before they feel ready for the day.

Whatever the case, make sure that you make sleep a priority. Some people, such as new parents and those working shifts, can find this very hard. Ask your partner or a family member to help you so that you can catch up on sleep.

talk and share 

Communication is important, whether it’s with a friend, family member or counsellor. Communication enables you to release tension rather than keep it inside. Isabel Clarke advises: “If you’re talking about your innermost feelings, be careful who you talk to. Make sure that it’s someone who has your best interests at heart.”

Talking about your feelings doesn’t have to be formal or too serious. You can discuss small things that annoy you or make you sad. You might end up laughing about a previous difficult experience. It helps you to strengthen your relationships and connect with people. Resilience grows by making something worthwhile out of painful times. Starting a support group to help others, or making something creative out of bad experiences, such as writing down what has happened, painting or singing can help you express pain and get through hard times.

You are the most important person to us….we are always here to listen.