Exam Anxiety

Whether it’s SATs, GCSEs, A-Levels, university end of year exams or degree finals, exams can be a challenging time. No matter how much preparation you have done, it is common to feel worried or nervous before a test. 

Unfortunately, there’s no magic short cut to really knowing your stuff, you just have to put in the hours revising. However, you can make sure you are on top form on exam day by putting your worries to one side and embracing your exams, knowing you have done all you can to prepare.

Neil Shah, from The Stress Management Society provides his best tips on how to handle exam anxiety, while remaining calm and focused:

1. Manage your study time:

It is important to plan your work in order to stay on track. Draw up a balanced and realistic revision schedule and stick to it. Although it's important to study hard during exam time, revising for extended periods will not benefit you in the long term as human brains can only maintain concentration for 90 minutes at one time. Take regular breaks and schedule in time to do things you enjoy between studying. 

Also, be aware of the time of day when you work best. Some people prefer studying early in the morning and others prefer to stay up late. When are you most productive? See our tips for managing your time here.

2. Stop comparing yourself with others; adopt a revision technique that works for you:

Everyone has a different approach to revision. Some people prefer revising alone in a quiet room while others prefer revising with a friend, going to the library, playing music in the background and so on. Some people prefer working on a computer while others find it more helpful to write things out by hand. Finding the revision style that suits you will help you to study more effectively and reduce stress. 

3. Manage your study space:

Avoid unnecessary technology such as television or social media when you are studying. Keep your study area clean and tidy to avoid distractions and keep your mind clear and focused on the task in hand.

Make sure that your work station is set up correctly to maintain your posture while sitting for long periods and avoid eye strain, neck or back pain. 

4. Keep a healthy lifestyle:

Eat a healthy balanced diet and don’t skip any meals, especially breakfast. Good nutrition fuels your brain as well as your body! Also make sure you drink enough water as your brain can only function at its best when hydrated. 

Keeping active is important too. When in the state of stress, our bodies are expecting a physical response – fight or flight. Engaging in physical activity such as a short walk in the park, going to the gym or some simple stretching, is the best way to reduce tension and regain your focus.

Relaxation techniques for exams can help to reduce tension and relieve nerves. Take a few minutes away from your book to relax and re-energise with some simple breathing exercises.

5. Get support:

If you are feeling stressed, allow yourself a break to spend some time with family or  friends. Some social interaction will take your mind off revision for a while and give you a mental break. Then when you go back to your revision you will feel refreshed and re-energised. 

One of the best ways to learn is to teach, so why not prepare and present different topics to different friends? Finally, don't be afraid to ask for extra help if you need it. Needing some extra support around exam time is normal and having a study buddy can help to take off some of the pressure and reduce exam nerves.