A guide to dealing with exam stress

Across the globe, millions of students sit a handful of critiquing exams, to measure their progress in learning, and allow them to continue onto the next stages of their lives. Although written examinations provide a fairly clear picture of a student’s knowledge, the amount of stress accompanying them can often pull a pupil's grades down, therefore providing an inaccurate reflection of their capability. Very few young people manage exam season effectively, so with it creeping closer by the day, this article will offer real advice, from one student to another.


Mindset: Our mind is the holding place for all of the knowledge we acquire throughout our lives, so it is essential to protect and care for it in the same way we would for our physical body.

Positive affirmations - Incorporating personal mantras and gratification exercises into your daily routine can boost your mindset with ease and efficiency, without taking too much time out of your day. E.g look in the mirror and tell yourself the three, same positive affirmations every morning as part of your morning routine.

Exposure - By exposing yourself to the pressure you’ll be under during an exam, you’ll become comfortable being uncomfortable and therefore perform better under high stress situations, both in and out of the exam hall. E.g when completing past papers or practice essays, put yourself under timed conditions.

Reward systems - It can be very beneficial to include rewards into your revision plans, as a motive to start your work, and to appreciate your own achievements. E.g ‘If I complete this set of questions I can take my lunch break earlier’.


Revision: Although revision is arguably the most dreaded part of examinations, it has to be completed to recount, consolidate and reflect our knowledge of each subject. However, it doesn’t need to be as time consuming and draining as you think.

Planning - It is incredibly important to plan out a revision timetable that is actually realistic to your lifestyle and abilities, to ensure that you avoid being overambitious, resulting in negative self criticism. E.g block out times and dates you definitely won't be able to complete any revision in and work around them whilst you plan your revision timetable.

Exploring the right method for you - There are literally hundreds of revision techniques out there, and although the resources available to us nowadays can be very beneficial, they can also make us feel overwhelmed with choice, so narrowing down your options early on will save you unnecessary work, and will help you to memorise key information effectively. - E.g avoid simply reading a textbook or rewriting notes as the basis of your revision. Become the teacher, complete memorise and recall exercises and past papers instead.

Incorporating rest periods - Creating time for rest is just as important as blocking out our work time, so regular breaks should be carefully considered as part of your revision plan and timetable. See Self care section for effective ways to rest. E.g ‘Work for one and a half hours, break for half an hour, work for two hours, break for half an hour’ etc. 


Self care: Linking to our mindset, self care is a crucial part of reducing stress throughout exam season. Although different forms of self care should be carried out on a regular basis anyway, showing ourselves kindness is even more important before, during and after we take our exams.

Hygiene - Keeping routine and staying up to date with your personal cleanliness will in turn improve your mindset and confidence. Although our daily routines are more tricky to continue throughout exam season whether that be down to time or lack of motivation, it is still vitally important to maintain them even if that means they need to be edited or moved around to fit your needs. E.g push your morning routine forward half an hour and your night routine back an hour to free up an extra hour in your day.

Resting the right way - It's common knowledge that rest periods must be worked into a revision routine in order to prevent burn out, however most people are unaware of how to rest the right way. A break should not be based around screen time, as this will cause a decrease in your productivity when you try to regain attention and start revision again. Instead, aim to plan your breaks around meals, exercise or your own interests, working in some screen time throughout them if needed, but without it being the key focus. E.g Lunch then social media scroll for fifteen minutes, then a twenty minute walk outside.

Self reflection - It’s easy to fall into the trap of the ‘once the exam’s over I’m done’  mindset, however a key part of the revision process is reflection. This should take place after each set of past paper questions, essay practice or memorisation exercise throughout your revision as well as after the exam itself. E.g set yourself an aim for every revision session and reflect on whether you completed it or how you can improve your work so that you do after each session.


Despite the endless debates about the discriminatory nature of written exams, until a real change is made, they still have to be completed, as the grades and qualifications produced from them become the stepping stones towards the ultimate dream, whatever that might mean to you.