Dealing with Exam Stress: Before the Exam

Holly Smith·26 April 2016·6 min read
Dealing with Exam Stress: Before the Exam

Without a doubt, exam period at uni is one of the most stressful parts of a young academic’s life. Regardless of how prepared you may think you are, the grips of anxiety can still get to you in the weeks leading up to examination. If you’ve been following my previous articles then hopefully you will generally be okay in terms of exams, however it is still very common to get overwhelmed at this point. This being the case, I urge you to take a step back for a moment and enjoy this article.

After all, not only does reading relieve stress, but this specific article is aimed at reducing stress during this busy part of the year. So take a deep breath, and let’s get started.



Easier said than done, I know. But this tip, no matter how simple it is, is fundamentally your ticket out of exam-stress. A great ways to relax would be to do something that’s easy on the mind. Studying and writing essays is very strenuous on your cognitive resources, so when you take breaks, you want to do things that help you zone out.

Play a videogame, watch a TV show or even something as simple as going for walk. Now obviously you still need to study, so I’d recommend taking little ‘relaxation breaks’ in between bouts of revision. What I like to do is have a videogame set up and whenever I start feeling my head hurt from all the studying, I’ll play that for twenty minutes or so, to help me recharge. If you figure out an efficient studying to chilling out ratio then you’ll get more done than you can ever imagine, as well as keeping stress at bay.

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Speak to People on Your Course

There’s nothing more comforting for a student to hear than the words “I haven’t done that assignment either.”

When you’re in the depths of university work, it’s easy to beat yourself up for having a bad few days where you don’t get much done. Finding people who can empathise with your struggle, really helps you feel less alone. Definitely talk to your course mates about your worries and uni work. You’ll find that almost everybody is in the same situation as you, and there’s nothing to worry about. As long as you keep moving forward in your studies, then you definitely have no reason to be stressed.


Use the Weekends for Fun

It’s easy to get bogged down from all your work and end up spending all day every day in the depths of a knowledge binge. This again, will just overwhelm you, you shouldn’t feel bad about having time off. I think it’s very important to allocate a specific day to just letting your hair down and having a break from all your work. Even if you didn’t get much done that week, just forgive yourself and promise to do better the following week.

You don’t have to hit the town on an all night bender. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to drink to have fun. Go for a day out with some friends, play a sport maybe – anything that just takes your mind completely of your responsibilities for a bit. Of cause, nobody’s going to hold it against you if you do end up getting hammered. It is uni after all, just don’t overdo it.

Again… easier said than done.

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Test yourself

There’s nothing worse than feeling unprepared for your exams. So why not just skip that awful  sinking feeling and make sure you’re confident that you are going to pass.

Do practice papers and mock questions to test your knowledge. The best way to test yourself is to simulate the exam at home. Then, you can compare the score you get to the grading criteria. Knowing that you’re definitely going to pass will take a lot of stress of your shoulders. If you’re not passing the practice papers, then keep on revising and test yourself every week until you do.


All in all…

Stay focused, but relaxed at the same time. Don’t lose sight of what’s important, but at the same time don’t lose your mind and overwhelm yourself with work. Maintain this philosophy in the weeks leading up to exams and not only will you be stress-free, but you’ll study a lot better, as you will be more relaxed when you work.

The truth is however, no matter how relaxed you may be, when it comes to the night before the exam pre-test anxiety may come back with vengeance. That is why in the next article, I’m going to cover specifically exam day. Stay tuned for the final instalment in your guide to exam stress.

Check in next time for a guide to dealing with stress during an exam.


By Thomas Anderson