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Top tips to combat exam stress

If you feel as if you’re drowning in exam stress, teacher Nick Gough suggests some advice to help alleviate the pressure.

Keep things in perspective

These are only exams and the most you can do is your best. If you can do your best and aspire to higher education, then whatever your results you will have ended up at the place that best suits you. 

Working hard, extended concentration and following a plan are the real skills that you will take into future life. 

 

Plan out your time

One of the best things to do to relieve exam stress is to plan your life week by week. Work out when you are going to work, rest, see friends and make the plan as realistic as possible. Also make it as specific as possible. For example, don’t just write ‘maths’, write the specific questions you are going to practice and how many you are going to do. 

Once you have a plan, you will then feel good ticking those items off the list and that feeling of progress will help you have ‘guilt free’ rest. You can also sleep safe in the knowledge that there is a plan and that if you stick to it you will be fine – this should assert the right amount of pressure on you.  

Create a good working environment

The set up that you have for your work at home (or in a library) will impact the productivity of your work. In an ideal world you will work efficiently and rest peacefully. I appreciate that there are more and more great resources online, but working on your computer can be a distraction and have a negative influence on your productivity. If you have to use a computer, give yourself a time limit and be disciplined about the websites you use (obviously no social media or Netflix!). 

Your phone should not be within grabbing distance and you should put it on aeroplane mode. 

Finally, work out the optimum amount of time you work for. Personally, I work best for 45 minutes followed by a five to ten minute rest, with a maximum of four of these periods in a row. You might be able to work for shorter or longer than that but concentrating for long periods of time will make you tired and will have a negative influence on productivity later in the day.      

Look after yourself

Sleep: you need to try to sleep at least eight hours a day. If you don’t this will have a knock-on effect on the quality of your work and more importantly your wellbeing. This means being disciplined with bed time and not sleeping with your phone next to your bed. 

Eat and hydrate: if you are working hard then it can be easy to eat unhealthily – be aware of this and don’t fall into the habit of constantly consuming sweets and energy drinks.  

Relax, socialise and exercise: you cannot work every hour of the day. Having down time is a critical part of being productive when you work, so this should be planned in from the start. 

Mark your progress

Sitting in front of books and reading notes doesn’t work (for almost everybody). In your plan there should be specific tasks that can be evidenced, for example answering past exam questions. 

Questions should always be done under time pressure and nearer the time it is always a good idea to have done a whole paper from start to finish under timed conditions. Be deliberate about how long you are going to spend on each question during the exam. 

Be aware that just doing practice essays can be very time consuming and you don’t cover that much material. I would recommend doing seven or eight essay plans for every essay you write in full under timed conditions.

Keep things in perspective

Yes, this one at the end as well. Going to school or college is about working out who you are and what you are interested in, and learning how to work hard. Hopefully you will have achieved both of these before the exams start so the results will look after themselves. Good luck! 

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