You can tell we have entered exam season by the fact that there are no available tables past 2 pm in the library. Well done 👏🏼 to those final year students who have finished their exams, but the lack of ‘BaneyBoy’ and Boiler Room sets blasting through halls right now, is a pretty strong indication that most of us are still working hard for our upcoming exams. With the recent warm weather and Love Island dropping on Netflix, the temptation to procrastinate is real. How we perform in these exams will determine our grade for the year which places enormous amounts of pressure on us to do well. So here are my 5 tips that are currently helping me to minimise exam stress which you might find handy.
1. Make a plan
As you may have experienced, exams are sometimes tightly rostered together with nearly no time in between them. Therefore it’s super important that you have a good idea of what you want to achieve each day. The saying “fail to plan, plan to fail” comes to mind 👀 I counted how many days I have until each exam and split my lectures and seminars evenly, giving myself enough time before the day of the exam to practice answering some mock questions and consolidating my knowledge through creating mind maps. If you’re struggling to revise, then check out my previous blog post on the different types of learning styles. Though more importantly, don’t overbook yourself with too much work, setting unrealistic goals will not achieve anything but disappointment.
2. Don’t overdo it
It’s so easy to feel like you’re on a roll by spending 14 hours in the library writing out pages of work, well it’s certainly gratifying. But this is a common symptom of someone who doesn’t have good time management skills which often leads to even more all-nighters and cramming before the exam, both of which add massive amounts of stress and anxiety. Instead, block out 6-7 hours of revision each day and the rest should be for relaxing and sleeping. It may seem strange that I give myself less time to get the same amount of work done, but keeping my evenings free to watch TV or see friends, has not only allowed me to chill out (and not think about work 24/7) but has also helped me to become more focused. Think of having the evening off revising as positive reinforcement for the good work you’ve done that day 🙃.
3. You still need a routine
Revision is likely to be taking up a big chunk of your day, but swinging like a pendulum between the library and your room is not healthy. Don’t let bad habits get in the way during exams, you should be doing everything you can to feel energised and refreshed every day. Keeping to your exercise routine is important as it helps to relieve stress and it gets those endorphins pumping through your body. Seems so obvious but so many of us are sleep deprived during exam period which profoundly affects our memory and retention efforts (find out more about sleep and learning here). You can also increase your resilience by continuing to eat a healthy and balanced diet, that means staying away from those meal deals (check the labels next time 🙅♂️) and making sure you’re eating hearty food in the evenings to recharge… and lots of water. Water is good, popping Pro Plus not so…
4. Revise with your pals
A UCL research paper saw that revising with peers is an effective study technique because it allows to individuals to better absorb their own notes. My friends and I help each other out a lot, whether it’s relaying an essay one of us has just written, or testing our flashcards with each other. Whatever you do, you’ll be able to expand your understanding of the topics because everyone brings their own ideas and their own ways of comprehending the content. Moreover, if you find yourself in a spot of panic, you’ll have your friends to support you which will help you become more confident. Testing each other helps us practice the process of information retrieval, by doing this and getting the correct answers will help to produce a more elaborative memory trace connected with your prior knowledge, so you’re building on what you know. Some work better on their own and that’s fantastic, it’s about finding out what works best for you. I like to chop and change where I work and with whom, which helps me remain focused and less restless.
5. Believe in yourself and you’re…
When we’re faced with a challenge, we often (more than not) doubt ourselves and overlook how far we have come and how much we have already achieved. Half the game (in my opinion) is motivation, I’ve had days where I really don’t want to get out of bed in the morning and start revising, I understand it can be tough and if you feel you are struggling then please get in contact with Alice Coombes, our Vice President of Welfare at the Students Union. If you are experiencing a negative thought, try and replace it with a positive one. For example, instead of thinking ‘If I don’t get at least 60%, I am a failure’, think ‘Whatever I get, I will be proud of myself because I have worked hard and value how much I have achieved so far’. Given that you have prepared well for your exams, there should be no reason for you to worry 💪🏼. If you are struggling with motivation, I feel watching some motivational videos on YouTube helps or calling your friends and parents for a pep talk can really help. Or memes, memes are good.