How to Cope with Exam Stress

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Another example from our level 4 assignments…

How to cope with exam stress

Stress is a feeling experienced when under pressure of being unable to cope. People experience it in many different forms, for many different reasons. This blog will look at methods of coping with exam stress, which is common for 16-21 year olds, although can affect all ages.

There are a variety of factors which can help minimise stress levels for example time managementexercise and dietsleep and mindfulness which we will investigate further.

The first step to tackling exam stress is to recognise you are suffering. Some noticeable signs of stress are:

  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Low mood
  • Negative thinking
  • Lack of sleep
  • Inability to concentrate

These can all make the idea of exams even more daunting, and cause you to actually perform worse due to the extra strains on your body.

Time Management

cliparti1_watch-clip-art_10.jpg.pngTime management is where you effectively organise your time, allowing yourself to dedicate adequate time and prioritise tasks. Utilising your time as best you can reduces the stress caused by workload.

How to improve?

1. Set yourself goals – this way you’re aware of what you’re working towards which will motivate you to keep working.

2. Make an action plan – prioritise tasks in order of what needs to be completed soonest, and tick off as you complete them.

3. Make a timetable – having a timetable for a whole day means you’re more likely to stick to the timings spent on revision and not spend too long on breaks. It’s best to work in short spells of about 30 minutes at a time

4. Test yourself – if you set out what you need to know for each topic of revision, and test yourself on them after each day of revising then you’ll be able to compare how you’re improving and what needs extra work on.

sicko-clipart-to-do-list-clip-art.pngAllow yourself breaks of about 10 minutes after half an hour to help keep concentration levels most effective.

Try to be aware of bad habits you might slip in to such as procrastination, what causes this to happen and how to avoid it.

Be organised, set alarms, stick to plans, and you’ll get more done in one day than before.

Doing all these techniques will help you to spread out your workload to avoid last minute cramming which is a massive don’t!

Exercise and Diet

Healthy eating includes eating a variety of food which provides the body with nutrients you need to maintain your health, feel good and have energy to carry out activities. Exercise is any physical activity which helps to improve health and maintain fitness and weight.

The brain requires nutrients just like other vital organs do. A healthy diet creates a healthy heart, as well as reducing a person’s blood pressure and cholesterol level, resulting in reducing illnesses such as heart disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Throughplate obtaining a healthy diet, such as high calcium foods and fat-free dairy products, it will provide your organs and tissues with the correct nutrition in order for them to work most effectively.

Exercise is a key component to a persons lifestyle, especially around exams period. This is because it helps get the blood flowing to the brain which helps to enhance thought processes, as well as helping to bring nutrients to the brain which makes studying more effective.

How to improve?

There are a number of ways in which you can improve both your exercise and diet. Firstly, it is advised that you eat breakfast in the morning before sitting an exam, as the nutrients in food helps provide the brain with more energy, therefore helping a person to keep focused. Some suggested foods to eat before exams are ‘Brain Boosting foods’ which are rich in protein allowing a greater mental alertness. For example, eggs, nuts and yoghurt.

In addition, its advised to avoid foods with flour in as these can be seen as ‘brain blocking’ foods as they require time and energy to digest. Some food has a L-tryptophan amino acid in them which is a chemical that makes you sleepy, which can be found in foods such as turkey so it’s advised to avoid these.

It is essential to drink water before and during exams in order to help keep yourself hydrated which helps to keep concentration. It’s recommended to drink around 8 glasses of water per day.

Exercising throughout the exam period is easier than it sounds. It is suggested that a person should spend 2.5 hours a week exercising, as this helps you feel more calm. Walking is recommended as it provides you with fresh air, resulting in a mood boost and the release of endorphins. Other simple ways to exercise is by participating in simple daily workouts, or joining a local club or a society at University.

The benefits?

  • Reduces stress
  • Boosts self-esteem
  • Improves sleep


  • Strengthens heart
  • Increases energy levels
  • Improves muscle tone and strength
  • Strengthens bones


It’s often hard to judge how much sleep we are actually getting. The NHS has a sleep self-assessment activity, which can help you to determine whether or not you are getting the right amount of sleep.

Getting enough sleep when revising and taking exams is crucial. Not doing so can mean that you won’t work at your best. The occasional bad night of sleep won’t do you too much harm, but if it becomes a regular thing, then it can start to have a serious effect on how you’re functioning. It will become more and more difficult to concentrate, something you don’t want around exam time.

How to improve?

It has been found that if you are looking at a screen in the hour before going to bed then it’s likely it will take you longer to fall asleep, and you will feel like you need more sleep than you were able to get. Therefore it would be advisable to avoid using screens in the hour before going to bedto ensure that you get a better nights sleep, and instead do activities to wind down, such as taking a warm bath.

Another important factor iscreating a regular bedtime routine. Trying to go to bed at the same time and following the same routine every night will enable your body clock to settle into a pattern, making it easier to fall asleep at the right time and wake up at the right time. By working out when you have to get up in the morning you can start to build a nighttime routine. The average teenager needs around 9 hours of sleep a night, so you can work backwards to determine when you need to start getting ready for bed.

Another important area to consider is – is your bedroom a good place to sleep in? It should be dark, a good temperature, comfortable, and quiet, which will help you to get a better nights sleep.

The benefitssleep2

Sleep is extremely important to help you get good results in exams, and has been shown that students who are sleep deprived will get worse results in exams. This video talks through reasons why sleep is so important and expands on some of the points already made here on how to improve sleep.


meditateMindfulness is a mental state achieved by being present in the current moment, whilst observing and accepting all current thoughts, feelings and emotions. As you learn to accept your thoughts as they come and go, you become aware that your thoughts do not have to control you and you can choose those you do and don’t act on, naturally leading to a more relaxed mental state.

How to achieve?mindful

Mindfulness is an art and just like all skills it needs to be practised. It can be achieved either through sitting meditationfollowing breathbody scanmindful hatha yoga or informal daily practices which we will talk about. Try this ‘5 senses drill’ to quickly reduce stress!

1. Stop what you are doing and take two deep breaths to help bring you into the present moment

2. Look around you and silently name 3 things you see

3. Open to the sounds around you and silently name 3 things you can hear

4. Bring attention to your body, silently name 3 sensations you can feel in this moment (for example tingling, warmth, coolness)

5. Bring attention to smell and taste, name 3 senses you can notice at that time. Take two deep breaths to finish this mindfulness exercise

Repeat this process to practice and build up resilience for dealing with anxiety and stress in exam periods.


As you can see there are many ways of reducing exam stress. If you have any further concerns visit the NHS Choices website or the Mind Charity website for further help and support.

And good luck!

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