On Exams, Stress and Everything In Between.
Updated: Sep 22
Have exams coming up? Do you feel overwhelmed by pressure? If yes, we are here to find the best way of coping with the exam stress.
What is exam stress?
When finding out exams are coming up we all tend to panic. But some of us tend to panic more than others. Although pressure can be a motivating factor for many of us when felt at an inappropriate extent, where it tends to take more part in our life than it should, this means it has turned into a form of anxiety. As we all know stress is pretty hard to describe, keeping in mind we all feel it differently and at different times, but if you are in secondary school, middle school or even elementary school there is a really high chance you have experienced this form of stress by now in a test-taking situation. When you find yourself struggling it is important to know that you are not alone and we are here to help and find what is the best solution for you.
How do we identify exam stress? What symptoms or signs does our body give us?
Because we as people tend to be very different and react differently in certain situations there are many signs your body can give you in order to let you know it is struggling. The most common symptoms for exam stress can include:
Losing touch with friends
Feeling low and overwhelmed
Experiencing mood swings
Having trouble with decision-making
Losing your appetite or overeating
Having trouble sleeping
Having difficulties getting motivated to start a study session
Experiencing headaches and migraines
Experiencing increased heartbeat
Fidgeting, nail biting or teeth grinding
Experiencing your mind going blank in a test
Experiencing muscle tension
Why do we experience exam stress?
Let’s clear something out. It is perfectly normal to feel nervous before an exam. But feeling stressed or anxious is a bit more than that and here are some reasons why the nervousness might turn into stress before an exam.
The worry of failure (even though you have studied you might still feel like you are not grabbing the subject well enough)
Wanting to do really well (sometimes us students tend to have really high expectations from ourselves, but in order for satisfaction to be felt, expectations need to be lowered, especially when we are talking about grades)
Competition between students (all humans are somewhat competitive, it is a normal part of life but always comparing yourself to the ones around you might lower down your confidence and make you apply even more pressure on yourself)
Not feeling prepared enough (this is the right moment to have a little bit more confidence in yourself and your knowledge, you can do it!)
Not having enough time for studying
Extra pressure from family to get good marks (parents or other family members do tend to put extra pressure on children thinking that this would help the child stay motivated and get good marks)
Having other problems or issues troubling them in their personal life
What is there to be done in order to reduce exam stress?
There are many things that can be done in order to reduce exam stress and make sure you get great marks. Firstly it is never too late to set up good study and revision tips as well as daily habits that will make sure the maximise your potential when studying and taking a test.
Revision and study tips:
Having a clean organised set for studying (having a place that is destined for studying, free of distractions is likely to make sure your mind is at its sharpest and your concentration is high)
Make a study plan for each study session (make sure you know exactly what the exam involves and have your materials ready beforehand)
After your first study session mark what is unknown and ask your teacher a few days before the exam (asking your teachers only a few days before the exam, will make the information fresh and ready to be used at your exam)
Visually illustrate your notes for example create a mind-map (words are harder for the brain to retain than visual images)
Break your studying down into smaller study sessions and make sure to take regular breaks (taking regular breaks refreshes your brain which increases its productivity and energy levels, as well as the ability to focus)
Try studying with a friend when you feel like stress is overpowering your brain (this doesn't necessarily work for everyone but it certainly works for some of us because working with a friend makes the process more fun and enjoyable)
Daily habits which help with an efficient study session:
Make a good eating and sleeping schedule
Make sure you get a good night sleep since this is what gives your brain the chance to recharge
Make sure to reward yourself with small things or gifts after a successful study session
Make sure to try and not mix your personal life and worries with school and studying
Try to avoid eating junk food during the period of days when you have to study. Junk food gives your sudden bursts of energy which fall away quickly leaving you with the feeling of being burned-out.
Eat a balanced diet which should contain lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, cereals, grains, nuts and protein. These are very good for your brain and will raise your energy levels smoothly.
Make sure you allow yourself to rest and do activities you enjoy. To release stress make sure to try: breathing exercises, meditation and listening to music.
Drink lots of water and cut down on energy drinks.
There is more to life than grades!
Although marks can be the boundary that helps you jump to the next level in your academic career, most of us tend to think that exam marks and school grades are indeed the only way of measuring our knowledge, success and hard-work. But this is certainly not true. When starting to stress out about marks it is really important to process and think about what exams were actually created for. Exams were invented to evaluate and assess your general knowledge of the topic as well as your ability to apply that information. So try and think about them as a way of seeing how good you were able to grab that information and what could have been done for a better result. Do not forget that most of the time you can talk to your teacher and plan a retake after you have reorganised your studying and reviewed all the material. It is not the end of the world!