Tips for Coping with Stress During Exam Season

You won’t find many students who look forward to exam season. It can be an incredibly stressful time owing to the vast amount of things on your mind and the pressure to do well. In the run-up to exam season, you may have a stream of questions running through your mind, such as, “Do I fully understand the subject matter? Have I done enough revision? Am I getting enough sleep? Am I taking good care of my body and mind?”. 

All of these thoughts can result in you feeling stressed. Just so we’re clear on exactly what stress is, stress refers to a feeling of emotional and/or physical tension. It can make you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Students in places such as IB schools in China know how important it is to maintain good mental health and look after themselves, which should be a priority in intense International Baccalaureate programmes. 

As all students know, it’s best to avoid getting stressed – but how? Here are five tips for coping with stress during exam season.

#1 Create a revision plan

Often, the best way to reduce stress is to document what you’re doing to tackle the things that are making you stressed. Creating a revision plan will help decrease stress levels and help you plan for each exam and what needs to be done to prepare for them. You can create your own revision plan using a pencil and paper, using a computer, or you can use online tools like the revision timetable offered by GetRevising (it’s free!).

#2 Take it one step at a time

It can feel tempting to think about everything you need to do to get ready for exam season. But in truth, this isn’t helpful. It’s much better to focus on what you need to do in the next few hours, or at most, what you need to do today. In addition to your general revision plan, create a daily plan that dictates what you’re going to spend your day doing. This could be just a loose plan you have in your head or something you jot down on a piece of paper. 

Try not to dwell on what you need to do tomorrow or the next day – you already have this accounted for in your revision plan. Taking things day by day can be really helpful in reducing your stress levels.

#3 Forget multitasking

Today, plenty of people multitask throughout the day – for example, watching a movie while scrolling on their phone, eating lunch while listening to a podcast, revising while they’re playing music. Multitasking can feel very natural, and it doesn’t affect how well we carry out each task. In fact, the human brain is not very equipped for multitasking

It’s really difficult for our brains to concentrate on two activities that require a lot of brainpower. When revising, don’t multitask – it won’t help to reduce your stress levels since it will make it hard for you to focus on what is making you stressed (revision and exams). So,  turn off the TV, put your phone on airplane mode, so you’re not bothered by notifications, and forget listening to music (if you absolutely must listen to music while revising, play some classical music or something without lyrics).

#4 Self-care

During exam season, it’s important to allocate some time for yourself so that you can relax and recharge. Did you know that the human brain actually becomes more productive if you allow it a break once in a while? Have some downtime in the evening before you go to bed where you could read a book, have quality family time, or spend time doing a hobby. 

You should also take short but frequent breaks while revising. The length of time you spend working and then taking a break is up to you, but some studies have found that 52 minutes of productivity followed by 17 minutes of break time can significantly increase productivity overall.

#5 Get good sleep

This is a really important measure. Sound sleep can make a world of difference to your productivity and stress levels. When it’s exam season, try your best to go to bed and wake up at the same time – this “sets” your body clock, i.e., your body gets used to these sleep and wakefulness hours, and you’re less likely to feel fatigued during the day. 

This is particularly important the night before an exam since you’ll want to get the best night’s sleep you can in order to perform your best. When you know you have an exam the next day, you can feel nervous, which makes it harder to fall asleep – on the eve of an exam, try to go to bed 20-30 minutes earlier than usual so that you have some extra time to fall asleep. 

It will all be over soon

Use the above tips to help you combat stress. But, also remember that even though exam season can be stressful, it will end. All you can do is your best, and once it’s done, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you tried your hardest. If you’re feeling particularly stressed about exam season, the best thing to do is to talk to your teachers and let them know how you feel so they can provide you with some extra support. You can do it – good luck!

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