Exams are coming up fairly soon, and if you are taking important exams this year, it can be a very stressful time period. Teachers tend to throw a lot of work at students leading up to exams, which can be helpful at times, but more often than not, the workload tends to be overwhelming and stress inducing. That’s not necessarily the teacher’s fault, they just want you to practice and have lots of preparation before the exam, which is great, but sometimes too much work can make you panic and stressed, and in this article I’m going to hopefully put your mind at ease, and provide some tried and tested advice on what NOT to do (and what to do instead) when it comes to exams.
I’ve had my fair share of exam stress, like most people, but from this I’ve learned a lot about the way I handle stress, which is important to recognise in order to manage emotions effectively. From panic attacks and almost vomiting, I’ve realised all the unhealthy ways I’ve dealt with stress in the past has definitely not helped my grades, and more importantly my mental health. Having a mountain high pile of essays, tests, and assignments that need to be completed, along with time pressures and that feeling of not having enough time in the day to complete anything can be very overwhelming. When studying leading up to the exam, I’ve compiled a list of a few things you definitely should NOT do in order to study effectively.
Avoid doing work until the last minute. Procrastination is so common, and trying to keep focused and motivated can be so difficult when you’re getting stressed about studying. The best thing, which isn’t always the easiest thing when you’re struggling with motivation, is to start studying well ahead of time before the test. One of the worst things to do is to do it at the last minute, as you’re trying to absorb way too much information at once, and it’s likely that you won’t perform as well on a test it you’re too stressed attempting to cram everything. If you’re struggling to motivate yourself, maybe meet up with some friends that can help you in the areas you struggle in and have a study session together, or perhaps attend a session a teacher has set up in your school/college/university. Or maybe talk to someone at home who can test you on your knowledge.
Trying to do too much at once. The first thing to do when faced with a huge workload is to break it down. There’s no point in diving into everything straight away, as it can lead to becoming unorganised with work and time management, and the last thing one needs when studying for exams is more stress. Never attempt to do an all-nighter. By working all night with very little energy from lack of sleep will not improve your grade in the exam. A great thing to do is to make a revision timetable. If you’re unsure of where to start, there are websites that can help make a template for you to customise to suit you and your schedule. Stick to your schedule, and you won’t need to stay up all night worrying. One website that I used is https://getrevising.co.uk/ which helps you create your own revision timetable that you can easily edit to suit your needs.
Notifications on mobile phones. If possible, when studying, it’s probably best to not have your phone in the room, or at least turn the notifications off to minimise the temptation. Social media keeps you constantly connected to other people, and when you see the screen light up telling you your favourite musician sent a tweet, or your friend has posted a new status, it can be really distracting and tempting to scroll through social media for hours on end. (We’re all guilty of it!) There are some great apps out there that can disable social media for a few hours while you revise. A great one that I personally use is called Forest, which is available on android and iPhone, and the app allows you to set a time for your study session, and in that time it grows a tree to add to your forest. However, if you leave the app to check social media your tree dies, and you’re left with a dead tree in your forest. No-one wants a dead tree, so it helps get you into the habit of not checking social media as often while you work.
Having loud noises around you when you study. On the topic of staying focused and not getting distracted, loud noises can be a huge distraction when studying. Find a quiet environment to study, maybe your bedroom, or if you live in a noisy household, maybe a library or a coffee shop will provide a peaceful study space. Some people find listening to music helpful when studying, but I’d recommend listening at a low volume, and listening to music without words or lyrics, as sometimes you find yourself listening to the words, and there’s nothing more irritating than having song lyrics stuck in your head! I personally listen to film soundtracks that are usually orchestral, but there’s a great radio station that streams constantly on YouTube, that plays jazzy hip-hop beats that are relaxing but have a steady beat to keep you motivated. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohQPySWJToo
Sitting in front of a screen for long periods of time. For a lot of subjects, computers can be really useful and helpful for studying and help get work completed a lot quicker, however it’s important to take breaks from staring at a screen regularly, as the screens can strain your eyes and it is important to look after yourself! Take regular breaks from the screen, maybe walk around and stretch your legs, and I can guarantee you’ll feel more refreshed, and you’ll put less strain on your eyes, and it can help you feel less tired.
Working for a long time without breaks. When exams are on the horizon, and you may feel that you’ve not got a lot of time to complete the work you want to get done, it can be easy to slip into the bad habit of not taking breaks. However, it is important to prioritise your health over the work, and you need to take time to stay hydrated and make sure you keep drinking water, go for a healthy snack to keep your energy levels maintained, and…relax. Working for long periods of time can increase stress levels and decrease your mood, and motivation to continue studying. If you’re overworking yourself, you aren’t going to be able to maintain your energy levels, and you won’t be motivated to work. Taking breaks increases your ability to absorb information, as you’re not constantly forcing your brain to learn too much at once.
If you do feel overwhelmed at any point, make sure you talk to someone about what exactly is causing your stress. Maybe talk to a parent, friend, teacher or councillor. Something that can be useful in decreasing your stress in the moment is stress toys/stimulant toys, as having something physical in your hand that you can squeeze or fiddle with can be comforting and help you calm down. Of course, talking to someone is a better solution long-term, and stress toys are only designed to help manage your emotions in the moment! Hope this article helps in any way, and if you’ve found something that helps reduce stress that I’ve missed, feel free to let me know!