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6 tips to beat exam stress

Exam time can be super stressful, and sometimes no matter how hard you try to keep your cool, things get on top of you. Learn how to reduce stress with these tips!

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Credit: Dean Drobot (left), Rebecca Fondren Photo (right) - Shutterstock

Ah, that old familiar knot in your stomach that tells you exams are looming. While some people like to believe a bit of stress can be good for you around exam time, science suggests otherwise.

When we're stressed, our brains release high levels of cortisol which clouds the way we think and gets in the way of rational thoughts. Therefore, stressing about this stuff is likely to lead to you performing less well on exam day than if you were totally nonplussed – it's a cruel world!

Taking steps to de-stress will increase your productivity, help you absorb more of the information you take in, and stop you from having a breakdown. Wins all round!

Check out the Surviving Revision Hell episode of our podcast, No More Beans, for more great tips and a bit of light relief!

How to deal with exam stress

  1. Prioritise your time

    harry potter ron weasley

    Credit: Warner Bros

    Prioritising your time, subjects and workload will help reduce your stress levels, as you'll be able to ensure that the really important stuff is covered – and at the right time.

    If you've got more than one exam to tackle, draw out a simple diagram with dates of each exam and how many topics need covering for each. This will give you a clear idea of how much time you need to dedicate to each exam topic and when you need to get started on your revision, so there won't be any nasty surprises.

    As you progress through your revision, tick off the topics that you've completed – this will give you a small sense of achievement, knowing that you've finished something and are making your way to the finish line.

  2. Make yourself a revision timetable

    revision timetable

    Credit: Cmspic - Shutterstock

    This is pretty closely related to the tip above, but we can't stress enough how taking a bit of time to get yourself in order will make you feel more confident for these exams.

    As our handy six-step guide to becoming the most organised person on the planet so rightly states, making a revision schedule and writing to-do lists each day will keep you super prepared and on track to getting everything done – and on time.

    Working out a daily routine and sticking to it is also good for the soul, as you'll feel a lot more in control of how your day pans out. Remember to factor in regular breaks (we recommend at least 10 minutes every hour and a half or so, if not more) as these will do you wonders.

Keen on mastering the art of productivity? Check out our guide to getting stuff done!
  1. Exercise and eat well


    Yeah, we know, you're exhausted. Sometimes the idea of exercising during times of high stress feels like the last thing you want to do, but we guarantee you will feel better afterwards (and could even have a bit more energy to do an hour more revision afterwards if you're feeling up to it).

    Exercise gets your blood flowing and your heart pumping – the result being that you sort of 'wake up on the inside'. As a result, once you stop, you're much more alert then you were before.

    Give yourself that push to get out for a run, go to the gym or just do a short work out in your bedroom. Exercise is a proven stress buster as it fills your brain with endorphins, which are basically happy hormones.

    Eating the right foods during stressful times is also absolutely crucial for mental health – we have an entire list of the best foods to eat during exam time for you to check out. Not only have these snacks been proven to reduce stress, but they also increase brain power!

  2. Avoid social media

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    This will be a tough one for many students, but if you can bear to part with your beloved Instagram for a few days, it'll do wonders for your stress levels.

    Checking your Facebook during revision period is the worst type of procrastination possible, as we all know how quickly the time disappears when you're snooping on your news feed.

    In addition to this, many of your friends will be in the same boat, so are likely to be talking a lot about how much they're studying (or not studying). This is likely to stress you out even more, or at least influence how much time you're spending revising.

    If you need a bit of help unchaining yourself from your phone, give the Hold app a go. Hold gives you real rewards (including Amazon vouchers, cinema tickets and free coffee) for simply avoiding the use of your phone.

    You get points every 20 minutes, meaning you can break up your revision periods with some well-earned rests (and well-needed – science says that revision is much less effective if you study for any longer than about 90 minutes straight!) every now and then.

  3. Have some perspective

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    Credit: Lovelyday12 - Shutterstock

    This is perhaps easier said than done, but try not to give yourself such a hard time. You're doing your best and that's the best you can do! Keep your eye on the bigger picture, and remember that one "meh" result isn't the end of the world.

    Putting yourself under a lot of pressure will only have a negative effect, and as much of a cliché as this is, worrying really doesn't solve anything.

    Being good to yourself during periods of high stress is likely to give you a bit more motivation to work harder, so try splashing out on a massage to cheer yourself up, or go out for dinner with a friend to take your mind off things.

    You've probably managed to save a bit of money by not going out much during exam period, so now's the time to spend it!

    Have a look at our student deals page to see if there are any good discounts going so you can keep costs down – you're still a student after all!

  4. Cut out the caffeine, alcohol and nicotine

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    We know, we know, cutting out the coffee during exam time seems like an impossible task. How are you ever going to stay awake long enough to memorise that 300-page textbook without your good friend caffeine to get you through? Or your trusty cigarettes to help you relax afterwards?

    Well, caffeine is a stimulant and will increase your stress levels rather than reduce them. The same applies to nicotine. Avoid drinking more than one cup of coffee a day and cut the cigs. And remember, less fags means more savings!

    If you can't cut them out completely, try to at least monitor your consumption. You could always try swapping the coffee for herbal tea or water, which will keep your body hydrated and allow your body to cope better with stress. And swap the ciggies for chewing gum!

    This might seem obvious, but try to avoid alcohol during exams periods too. Alcohol can act as a depressant when consumed in large quantities and as a stimulant when consumed in smaller quantities. Neither of which are helpful as they'll both send your stress levels through the roof!

    Cutting out all of these substances will also improve your sleep which will also make stress easier to manage 🙂

If your stress is due to leaving everything to the last minute, have a look at our guides on how to revise in one day and how to write a 3,000 word essay in 24 hours!

Check out this uni that introduced anti-stress dogs to help students unwind during exam time!


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