9 Top Tips for Successful Exams

16 DEC 2020

The exam season comes with stress, anxiety, burnout and the serious need to maintain a balanced approach to life. Of course, a little stress can be a good thing as it can be the motivational push that we need to get things done.

And for some students, exams can be a breeze; revision is second nature to them and they could ace an exam with their eyes closed. But for others, sweaty palms and heart palpitations are just a part of the territory, and it seems that nothing is more impossible than sitting down and revising. And, with an increase of students seeking help for studies-related mental health issues, it’s clear that students are under more pressure than ever before.

Here are some handy tips that can dissipate stress and make sure you get through the stressful exam season.

  1. Remember to breathe

Setting aside a couple of minutes every day to practice mindfulness techniques, such as breathing exercises helps you to calm down your body’s stress response and shift your attention back to the present moment. In turn, this gives you time to rationally think through the anxieties you have, rid yourself of unhelpful thought patterns and enables you to deal with a large number of exams and begin more effective revision.

  1. Eat, sleep and exercise well

Pulling all-nighters, surviving on a poor diet, and getting minimal amounts of movement into your day can increase symptoms of anxiety. For your body’s best performance, make sure you’re getting 8/9 hours of sleep, enough slow-release carbs, less caffeine and more water, and at least half an hour of exercise per day. Even a short walk is worth it, as it is one of the quickest and most effective ways to de-stress. Fresh air will clear your head and perk you up.

  1. Set realistic goals

Setting realistic goals, whether you have several weeks, days or hours before your exam, helps you to put everything into perspective. Acceptance of your situation and working within the realms of what you have maximises your productivity without the risk of burning yourself out.

  1. Don’t go it alone, even in an online school!

Revising with peers is an effective study technique as it allows individuals to better absorb their own notes. Furthermore, the emotional benefits of social support tend to include a better sense of confidence and autonomy. Group study sessions with classmates can be a helpful and entertaining way of studying; however try not to compare other peoples’ revision to your own as listening to other people talk about what they’ve learnt can lower your confidence and may make you feel like you aren’t progressing as well as them.

  1. Pace yourself through panic

Panicking before, during or even after an exam is common among students. If you experience it at any point, take six deep breaths, hydrate yourself, and then go back to the problem at hand, being sure to break it down into several, manageable chunks. Remember that there is usually a rational solution to every problem, even if you can’t see it at first glance.

  1. Believe in yourself

When being constantly faced with new challenges, we often forget to look back at how far we have come and how much we have already achieved. Given that you have prepared well, there should be no reason for you to worry. Therefore, when experiencing a negative thought, try to replace it with a positive one. For example, instead of thinking “If I don’t get at least an ‘A’ I am a failure”, think “Whatever I get, I will be proud of myself and value how much I have already achieved”. You can do this!

  1. If you feel like you are struggling, talk to someone

Asking for help is never shameful. In the most extreme cases, it can help save a life. When struggling, talk to friends, family, or your teachers about how you are feeling. Alternatively, don’t be afraid to seek professional help and support.

  1. Exam Day
  • On exam day, stay away from people who may be feeling anxious or make unhelpful comments that increase your anxiety.
  • When you first sit down to do your exam, take time to slow your breathing and relax.
  • Read through the exam paper carefully. Underline key words and instructions to ensure you’re answering what is being asked.
  • Work out how long you have for each question or section and stick to it. If you have time at the end you can return to complete unfinished questions.
  • Work on the questions that you find easiest first.
  • Allow time before the end of the exam to re-read answers and make any necessary changes.
  1. Avoid the exam “post-mortem”.

You don’t need to know how other people fared in the exam. You’ve done your best, you can’t go back and change your answers so the second you step out of the exam room, focus on your next exam.

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