Thursday, 30 May 2013

Tips for managing exam stress



With exams now under full swing I thought it would be a good time to share some tips to help you get through the season and minimise stress. As NEC’s Student Services Manager, my team and I talk to many students who are happy to share their best tips for getting through the exams. Last year I took a GCSE in Maths, so I can really appreciate how stressful it can be to juggle exams, revision and worklife!

First things first: don't put off getting started. Rushing around and trying to fit everything in at the last minute not only adds avoidable stress, but won’t sufficiently prepare you for the exam. Allow yourself plenty of time to cover everything you need to, and make sure that you not only remember it all but also understand it fully. Being able to memorise everything doesn't guarantee you'll pass with flying colours, and neither does parroting back practised answers - sometimes the questions will ask you to think on your feet and use what you know in a way you haven't pre-rehearsed for.
Remember to factor breaks into your revision schedule when planning your time, even if just to get up and walk around for a few minutes to clear your head. There will be times when your brain has simply had enough, and you may find yourself wanting to do something else for a little while (checking Facebook or Twitter is usually my choice!). Giving yourself enough time for occasional forms of procrastination means they won't become a nagging distraction during your studies, as well as giving your mind some much-needed breathing space.

If you find listening to music helpful to relax you while you study, go for ambients and instrumentals, and avoid music with lyrics. Your mind may become distracted by the words of the vocalist without you even noticing, preventing you from concentrating fully on what you're revising.

You've probably heard this one a million times before, but your diet can have a surprisingly large impact on your state of mind. Eating the right amount of the right things helps you sleep better, concentrate more, take in what you revise, and ensure that by the time you get to the exam hall and sit down to do your exam, your brain is sufficiently active to give you the best chance of tackling the questions - something that will be especially useful on those early morning slots you might end up with on your exam timetable!

Try some of the following:

- Drink plenty of low-calorie fluids
- Eat fresh fruit instead of a pudding
- Save high-fat foods for treating yourself
- Avoid processed foods where possible

Exercise goes hand-in-hand with a balanced diet. When you're busy revising for exams, taking a couple of hours to go out for a walk or bike ride can sound like it will eat too far into your study time. But there are always little things you can incorporate into your daily routine that take up less time and still make a difference. Using the stairs instead of the lift is a well-known example, but why not also try running up the steps instead of just walking?

Another immensely helpful thing to get plenty of is fresh air. Open a window to let the breeze in while you revise. During a break, try standing by the open window and simply breathing in and out slowly and deeply. It sounds rather basic, but it's nonetheless a surprisingly effective way to lower stress levels very quickly.

And of course, it goes without saying that a good night’s sleep before exam day will definitely help. Try to get into the habit of going to bed in good time in advance, and avoid staying up late, so that your body gets into the routine of falling asleep early. This should mean you’ll wake up on exam day feeling fully rested, refreshed, and ready to tackle the challenges ahead.

I hope you’ll find these tips useful in reducing stress and getting through the season. To all students out there who are taking their exams this summer, everyone at NEC would like to wish you the very best.

Good luck!

If you would like to take your exams next year, take a look at our range of courses.

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