How to… Stay calm during exam season

Exam season is upon us, and while there may be a temptation to just bury your head in books (or the sand), it is important to approach things methodically. We have five top tips to help you deal with the exam stress.

How to… Stay calm during exam season

Revision guides. Essay plans. Flashcards scintillating before your eyes. Does that all sound familiar? You’re not alone: what I’m describing is a typical feeling for GCSE or A-Level students. You’re suffering from pre-exam stress. Here’s how to bust the nerves and conquer each test in the weeks to come. 

1. Fuel your bodybunny eating GIF

Nobody can function on high-energy sports drinks alone. Although sugar or caffeine are popular sustenances, the brief spike in performance will be quickly followed by a low which will make you go grappling for more food or drink. And, I’m sure we’ve all seen that episode of The Inbetweeners...

Instead, choose wise fuel: fruit, long-burn carbs, and protein. I’m talking eggs for breakfast, no toast, and certainly no skipping the most important meal of the day. Pack bananas for break and something light for lunch. Imperatively - keep hydrated. Take large water bottles into exams with you and keep swigging away. 

2. Plan around the fun stuff

Friends Ross GIF

When creating that all-important revision timetable (which I know you’re all doing right now *winks*), plan around your hobbies rather than the other way around. Instead of revising up to Chapter 6 before the tennis match, schedule in your tennis match and build studying around it. 

This way, you’ll be motivated throughout revision in order to enjoy those hobbies. But for this to work - no procrastination! 

3. Avoiding procrastination. *runs, hides*

kermit the frog muppets GIF

By avoiding procrastination you’ll use time efficiently which has all sorts of benefits: more sleep, more free-time, and more time to revise.  

But I know, I know. It’s hard. Especially when Instagram is just so easy to scroll through! So take measures: delete social media apps just for those two months during exam season. Clearing your head of the toxic endless scrolling means you’ll feel less pressure to feel up-to-date and so focus more clearly on the task at hand. 

Recognising procrastination is the important part. After that, we can either choose two options: to fight through the grey fog or to turn away, and come back later. Both are equally good, but make sure you only chose the first if you can really focus properly. 

4. Find the perfect study spot

mr. mackey library GIF by South Park

Distraction is Satan when it comes to revision. We’ve already covered that. So in order to eschew procrastination fully and completely, you need to find an ideal place to revise. 

Quiet, undisturbed and preferably inspiring. Chain cafes are often noisy and busy so maybe find a smaller independent coffee shop with free WiFi. Libraries are great if you need to read around subjects or if you want motivation from head-down ear-phoned students. 

5. Take advantage of teacher’s knowledge

High School Teacher GIF

Likely as not, your tutors will have been teaching this exam for years. Even if you’re part of the new GCSE or A-Level cohort, a large proportion of the qualifications have remained similar and unchanged. This means you can make the most out of your teacher’s knowledge. 

After tests, be proactive in finding out what more you can do. Don’t just stick to the scarlet pen comments, but go further and ask about the subject. Most importantly, don’t be afraid of asking questions in class. Immediate peer pressure - will they think I’m stupid? - is outweighed if you consider this question appearing in your paper next week. It’s also likely your classmates will be confused too, and aren’t brave enough to ask.

Choosing the right foods will ensure your brain is performing to its highest during the next few weeks. And if you combine the right diet, savvy organisation, avoiding procrastination, finding the perfect place to study and making the most of your knowledgeable teachers… Well, results day will be a breeze.

I have every faith in you. 


Sienna James

Sienna James Voice Team

Formerly Assistant Editor, Sienna now studies History of Art at the University of Cambridge and loves to write about the intersection of politics, history and visual art. Sienna is author of the Creative Education and Instaviews series.

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