How to Cope With Exam Stress

Feeling the pressure of your upcoming exams? Use these tips on How to Cope With Exam Stress to help you out. Ease the stress and up your chances of acing those papers!

Looking for the best tips on How to Cope With Exam Stress? We get it. This is one of the most stressful periods for any student. Luckily, we are here to help you calm your nerves so you can ace those exams like a pro! 

What is Exam Stress? 

Exam stress occurs when you feel an increased sense of panic or anxiety in the days, weeks or months before a test or exam. This might seem like a bad thing, but a little pressure can help you stay focused during your exam time. It only becomes a problem if it makes studying impossible. 

Signs and Symptoms 

A little stress during the exam time is normal, but if you notice that it’s causing some changes to your lifestyle, it can become a serious issue. The symptoms of exam stress may include:

  • Losing touch with friends and activities you enjoy
  • Feeling moody or upset 
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Trouble sleeping or getting out of bed 
  • A lack of motivation to start studying 
  • Tense muscles or headaches 
  • Sweaty hands or feeling butterflies in your stomach 
  • A racing heart or feeling sick 
  • Fidgeting, nail biting or teeth grinding 
  • Feeling confused or having your mind go blank during tests 

Why are Exams so Stressful? 

You may experience exam stress for a number of reasons. It’s important to keep in mind that a lot of students go through the same thing. It’s completely normal. You might feel stressed out because you:

  • Want to do well, but don’t think you can
  • Don’t feel prepared 
  • Need a certain mark to pass or get into university
  • Feel pressure from family to get good marks 
  • Find it hard to understand what you’re studying
Stressed out student staring at her laptop. Let us help you learn How to Cope With Exam Stress.

How to Cope With Exam Stress

Exams may be a big factor that causes stress in students, but they are an essential part of education. This is why it’s so important to learn how to cope with exam stress. Don’t let the pressure of the exam period affect your performance. Here are some tips to help you. 

In Preparation 

Before you start studying, make sure you have a clean and quiet space set up to work. It should contain all your study materials with no distractions.

  • Know What you Need to Study – Ask your teacher or consult your syllabus to check what topics you need to cover. This will give you an idea of what your study workload will look like.  
  • Practice on Past Papers – There’s no better way to prepare for an exam than by working through past papers. It shows you how an exam will be structured so you know what to expect. 
  • Manage Your Time Well – Avoid having to cram last minute by starting early. Break your study time into chunks over a few days or weeks. This will help you retain information better. 
  • Keep Your Mind and Body Healthy – You should eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water during this period. Get enough rest and do some light exercises to keep your brain active. 
  • Pace Yourself – Try not to do too much all at once. Create a study timetable and stick to it. Make sure you schedule regular breaks in between so you don’t become too overwhelmed. 

On Exam Day 

Gather all your study materials the night before so you don’t need to rush on the morning of your exam. Here are some other steps you can take to prepare. 

  • Eat a Proper Breakfast – Low energy levels is the last thing you want on an exam day. Make sure you eat a proper breakfast before you write. 
  • Arrive Early – You may already be nervous about the exam itself. Avoid the fear of being late by leaving your house early. It also gives you time to go through your study notes. 
  • Read the Questions Carefully – Before answering any questions, make sure you read through the instructions carefully. This avoids the chance of you answering incorrectly. 
  • Stay Hydrated – Your brain needs to be focused and work perfectly before an exam. Make sure that you stay hydrated. If it’s allowed, bring a bottle of water with you. 
  • Remember to Breathe – Come across a question you don’t know how to answer? Don’t panic! Just take a few deep breaths to calm yourself. This increases the flow of oxygen to your brain. 

After Exam 

Congratulations! You made it through your exam in one piece. So what happens now? You might still be feeling a little stressed out, but use the steps below to help you calm the nerves, 

  • Try to Avoid Thinking About it – This may be easier said than done, but keep in mind that your exam is over. There’s no use stressing over something you can’t change. 
  • Take Time to Relax – Get your mind off your exam by doing something you enjoy. Catch up on a TV show you missed while studying or go outside and play some sports. 
  • Treat Yourself – You put in the hard work. Now’s the time to spoil yourself. Order that pizza you’ve been craving or buy those pair of shoes you have your eye on. 

Where can I get Professional Support? 

While experiencing exam stress is quite common, it shouldn’t take control of your life. If you are struggling to cope and feel like nothing is helping, get in touch with a professional. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) is available to offer any support you need. Give them a call on 011 234 4837 or send an email to [email protected] to speak to a counsellor. 

Don’t Let Exam Stress Limit You!

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Last Updated: 27 November 2020