Update March 2018: Since writing this blog post, I have created a FREE eBook called 70 ways to ace your exams. This eBook contains strategies students say they use to help manage stress and anxiety when it comes to preparing for and taking exams. You can get your free copy here.
I just got home from presenting to the year 12 TEE students at Kalamunda Senior High School. For a group of students whose exams start next Tuesday and who have had tests and assignments due in all week, they seemed to be doing really well. I was impressed!
Even though the focus of my talk was on study skill strategies today, I feel they may have benefited from learning some simple stress management strategies.
Let’s face it, you can’t learn effectively if you’re stressed/freaking out. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, stress makes you stupid.
So here are 3 simple ways students who have exams coming up can decrease their anxiety and stress levels.
1. Breathe deeply
This isn’t just any old breathing. I’m talking about deep breathing.
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the amount of study you need to do and whether you’ll be able to get it all done in time before the exam, I want you to stop. Find a quiet place. Sit up right. Breathe in deeply for the count of 5 (counting in your head 1…2…3…4….5), pause by holding your breath for 5 (1…2…3…4…5) and breathe out for the count of 5 (1….2…3…4…5).
Keep doing this (as monotonous as it may seem) for 2-3 minutes. Just trust me on this one. Do it. It will calm you down and you’ll be able to think clearer and work more effectively.
In my 7.5 years of study at university this has been the best way for me to decrease my stress levels. One hour at the gym everyday during exams has made the biggest difference. Of course, you’ll find yourself thinking But I don’t have time to exercise! I must study! but that’s just flawed thinking.
Engaging in one hour (or even just 30 minutes) of exercise will be an investment in your studies.
I recommend that you find a friend who is going through the same painful experience of doing exams and go exercise with them. Just make sure you don’t spend the whole time being negative about how terrible it is that you need to do these exams, trying to predict the exam questions, etc.
We all know and accept that taking exams isn’t a fun experience. Why waste your time and energy dwelling on this? You just want to get through this tough period. So by cutting out the negativity, you’re ensuring exercise is an uplifting experience for you. Not a downer.
3. Take breaks
I recommend putting a timer on for 45 minutes, study for that period of time and then when 45 minutes is up, take a break. Should you go on Facebook? Instagram? You could, but what will be better is to do some push ups/star jumps, go outside and get some fresh air … you want to get the blood circulating throughout your body. This will help to sharpen your focus and concentration for the next study session.
For some more general tips on preparing for exams, click here.
So I wish you all the best of luck with your exams. (Luck isn’t really the right word … but it will do!).
My advice is simple: do the best you can and just get through this tough time.
But do what you can to keep your stress levels down because stress impairs your ability to learn and recall information.
Remember to breathe deeply and hang in there folks!