Dealing with Stress

Stress Busting

12 tips on how to deal with exam stress 

Exam stress, like most stress, mainly comes down to feeling out of control. Do I know enough? What questions will come up? What if I do badly? This triggers reactions from feeling irritable to being unable to eat or sleep properly, feeling tearful or even panicky. Here are some tips on how to deal with exam stress.

1. Be prepared

Make sure you know what you are supposed to have learned and that you have all your notes, books and essays to hand. Do you know what format the exam takes and how the marks are allocated? If not, ask your teacher and/or study the marking scheme, which is often on the exam board’s website. This can be particularly important with A-level stress and GCSE stress, when there are so many exams, all structured in different ways.

2. Make a plan

Working out how much time you have to revise and planning how you can use it best by making a timetable is a key factor in how to deal with exam stress. Another technique recommended by all time management experts is taking what feels like an overwhelming task and breaking it down into manageable chunks. Perhaps you need to spend more time on some subjects than others? Vary the timetable so you don’t get bored. You can always update the plan, if necessary, as you go along.

3. Know when and where you work best

Work when you are most alert. We all have slightly different body clocks – are you a night owl or a dawn lark? Everyone has different revision styles – maybe you like to sit at a tidy library desk or under the duvet with your laptop. Wherever you feel calm and in control is the best place for dealing with exam stress.

4. Take a break

Psychologists suggest that we can only concentrate properly for about 45 minutes at one stretch, while neuroscientists tell us that the longer we try and focus on one thing, the less our brains are able to deal with it effectively. Take breaks to stay refreshed. Instead of cramming in more revision or, indeed, stressing over how to deal with exam stress, the best thing might simply be to do something completely different.

5. Eat well

Keeping your blood sugar levels steady so that you don’t have energy dips during the day and can sleep well at night is a vital way of dealing with exam stress. Avoid lots of processed, sugary foods like cereal, biscuits, sweets and chocolate. Lean protein like chicken, salmon or egg, plenty of veg and carbs that release their energy slowly like wholegrain bread, rice and pasta will keep energy levels steady. Pulses like chickpeas and lentils are great for vegetarians (and others), since they contain both protein and slow-release carbs.

6. Drink well

Staying hydrated with lots of water, low-cal sodas or herbal teas is key to feeling alert. Juices or sugary drinks can make you feel jittery and mess up your energy levels. Caffeinated tea and coffee perk you up, but stick to about five cups a day, and if you feel jittery or have problems sleeping, drink your last one in the late afternoon. Bear in mind that colas, energy and sports drinks may all contain a lot of sugar and caffeine.

7. Get exercise

This is probably one of the best ways of dealing with exam stress. Anything from walking the dog to going for a swim, run or bike ride helps reduce physical tension that can lead to aches and pains, and releases natural feel-good brain chemicals. If you can’t get motivated, rope in friends – it’s much harder to make excuses.

8. Avoid stimulants

Tea, coffee and other caffeine-based drinks can give you the impression that you are somehow dealing with exam stress. But they can all leave you craving more and, in excess, will either slow or bring you down, or over-stimulate you.

9. Sleep well

Tossing and turning the night before an exam is understandable, and our bodies are able to cope with lack of sleep for a day or so. Worrying about not being able to nod off only makes matters worse but there are many things you can do to help.

A hot bath and having somewhere dedicated just to sleeping (and not to watching TV or going on a computer, phone or tablet) will help you switch off. If you really can’t get to sleep, do something repetitive like a jigsaw or ironing. If you really, really can’t sleep, don’t panic. Sheer adrenaline will help you get through most exams the next day better than you might expect.

10. Relaxation

If you are really anxious, find a calm, quiet space and try breathing deeply in and out for a few minutes, focusing your mind on something pleasant, like a beautiful place with happy memories – anything that helps you wind down. 

11. Talk about it with someone

Almost everyone finds exams stressful – so you are not alone. Expressing your worries to a good friend, family member, your school tutor or a student counsellor will help get them out of your system.

12. Reward yourself

Build in treats to your timetable – anything you can look forward to as a reward for sticking to it. Plan something exciting to celebrate the end of the exams.

Remember that everyone suffers stress during exams and you are not alone. Please speak to your teachers for extra support and advice.

You can find out more on how to deal with exam stress on the BBC and the Student Minds websites. You can also email our wellbeing mailbox wellbeing@christs.school. All emails are treated with the strictest confidence.

  • 01:36 PM - 12th June, 2024 Well done to the u15 girls cricket team who played very well against Grey Court on Monday pic.twitter.com/2BRBqFMK7N
  • 01:35 PM - 12th June, 2024 English Schools Track & Field Cup Regional Final with the inter and junior boys teams! pic.twitter.com/5qalfVA81Y
  • 04:03 PM - 11th June, 2024 We're recruiting for Term time support staff for September.Learning Support Assistants/Cover Supervisor. Maybe you're considering teaching and want classroom experience/have a passion to help SEND children. Visit our website for more info/how to apply. Read more pic.twitter.com/rHoXHK075b
  • 09:09 AM - 11th June, 2024 19th June is National Thank a Teacher Day. If you would like to nominate any member of school staff please click the link Read more pic.twitter.com/D7NaFsXeZT
  • 09:07 AM - 11th June, 2024 Pre-order your copy of Alastair Chisholm's new book ready for his visit on 19th June. pic.twitter.com/6ydJBg3c71
  • 07:14 PM - 10th June, 2024 Congratulations to who has been selected and playing for The Ugandan U18 Mens National Team in the FIBA U18 CHAMPIONSHIP 2024 🇺🇬 Watch out tomorrow for live links when Uganda take on Kenya.#basketball -team 🎨 pic.twitter.com/fQZmbqXs09
  • 01:42 PM - 10th June, 2024 We are really looking forward to our visit from next week. Year 7 are busily crafting their questions for the Q&A Read more
  • 12:40 PM - 7th June, 2024 We're recruiting for a new school Chaplain.Term Time only, Full/part time - NJC point 21 to 25 (FTE £34,491 – £36,657), required for September.For more information, please visit Read more Applications to be sent to hr.school by 9am on Monday 24th June. pic.twitter.com/6iROcdBBEg
  • 07:15 AM - 7th June, 2024 WIN; Year 7&8 Girls Cricket Team beat Twickenham in tonight’s borough league match. pic.twitter.com/51xUzNHJ2N
  • 12:12 PM - 5th June, 2024 Student performers needed for the Summer Concert and the PSA Summer Picnic -sign up in the Music Block if you are interested pic.twitter.com/jn09ZzzO5A
  • 12:08 PM - 5th June, 2024 Our Summer Concert will be taking place in the next few weeks - any student who wishes to perform, please sign up in the Music Block pic.twitter.com/vQ4R1Iby7T
  • 02:58 PM - 3rd June, 2024 We're excited to launch our new Christian Union "The Well". Starting Thursday 6th June 3pm in the School Chapel. All welcome! pic.twitter.com/GNGx2wgP3H