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Dealing with exam stress #2

Now that I’ve talked about stress during revision, it’s time to deal with the stress that comes before, and after the exam. This is the only part of the exam process that stresses me out, I think that the minutes before you go into the exam room are more stressful than the hours and weeks before. So finding a coping mechanism will help a lot.


The night before the exam

So, you’ve managed to cope with the stress so far. But now the exam is tomorrow and you begin to think that you haven’t done enough. What can you do to try and make yourself feel better?

To start you need to learn how to relax, this is easier for some people than others but is a vital part of remaining calm. If you’re relaxed, then you can start to gather your thoughts and stop yourself from panicking. If you manage to relax, then you can treat yourself with comfort food, a long bath/shower, or something else that you enjoy doing and enjoy it more than you would if you were stressed out.

If you’re finding it hard to relax then try to organise yourself instead. Being organised for the exam gives you time to think, if you organise your pencil case for the exam then it means that you don’t panic about it just before the exam. You don’t have to organise your pencil case, you can make sure that you know exactly where the exam will be so that you can arrive early instead (or as well). Being late will make you anxious. You could even organise your other revision to try and take your mind off the subject that you are going to be tested on, if you find yourself thinking about every other subject than the one that you are going to be tested on then it means that you have relaxed – which is the whole point of this article- and can begin to do other things instead.

If you’ve organised your things and still feel stressed out then you should try to take your mind off the exams by doing something completely unrelated to the exams. This could be watching a movie, TV show or YouTube video, reading a book/comic, or playing your favourite game. As long as it takes your mind off the exam and it’s something that you enjoy it should work. You could even do something that you don’t enjoy that much so that you can think about how much you dislike it instead of how much exams stress you out.

If you’re feeling under the weather then try something that makes you feel better. This could be eating something to calm your stomach, lying down, stopping to have a nap. Anything that will make you feel better so that you can get a high grade in the exam. It’s also important that you keep yourself hydrated and remember to eat. You don’t want to have the whole room hear your stomach rumble in the middle of the exam! And you definitely don’t want to faint due to a lack of water. If you’re dehydrated then you will also find it hard to concentrate which will mean that all of your revision will have been for nothing.

Just before the exam

You’ve managed to cope with the stress so far but now the exam is about to happen and you don’t know if you can do it. How do you bring your confidence levels back up?

If you’re standing outside the exam room and beginning to panic then I know how you’re feeling. I found that the best way to cope with this was to make sure that I visited the bathroom before it was time to queue up. I also made sure that my water bottle was filled up and that I had all of the equipment that I needed. Even if you’ve checked your seat before going to the room check it again! With the way that those seating plans are printed it’s so easy to look at the person above or below by accident. The main thing to remember is that you have done as much as you can so there is no point in panicking, just go into the room and do what you have been preparing for.

During the exam

Just as you began to feel better they started to let people into the exam room. Now the panic is back and you don’t know what to do.

If you find yourself becoming stressed out during the actual exam then you need to learn how to cope with this stress so that you can achieve high marks. The first thing that you should do is make yourself comfortable, make sure that you’re not too hot or cold, that you don’t need the bathroom and that the sun isn’t blinding you or making too hot. Adjust your clothes if they are uncomfortable or close your eyes and try to relax.

You have a choice of what to do first, do you want to read all of the questions first so that you can begin to think about them? Do you want to do the difficult questions first while you’re alert, or do you want to do the easy ones first to boost your confidence? It’s up to you how you start the exam. The most important thing is that you do what you feel more comfortable with first. Depending on the exam a plan can help you a lot; it’s a necessity in English exams but you obviously won’t need to plan your answers for a maths exam. If you get stuck on a question then leave it! You can go back to it later.

The most important thing that you should do in the exam is manage your time. You should work out how much time you want to spend on certain questions. Ideally one mark would be one minute but if it’s a one word answer then it isn’t going to take you a minute to write it. The times that you come up with are guidelines, you don’t HAVE to stick to them. But it will probably help if you do. Personally the only exams that I used timings on were the English ones because they are easy to split up and if you miss a question then it has a massive effect on your mark.

If you are struggling with a question then don’t waste your time on it! Leave it and if you have time later, you can go back to it then. The fact is, you may not be able to answer all of the questions so you need to make sure that you answer all of the ones that you definitely know the answers to.

Make sure to take a clear bottle of water into the exam, you should drink it all over the course of the exam to keep yourself hydrated. It can also prevent you from feeling ill and will also help you to keep your concentration levels up. Just make sure that it is a CLEAR (not opaque) bottle otherwise you won’t be allowed to take it into the exam and then you’ll be left with no drink.

If these don’t help you to get your panic under control then stop and close your eyes to try and clear your mind. Move around as much as you can without distracting other people. If you can’t stop yourself from panicking then put your hand up and get a member of staff to escort you to a private room or the toilet. Sometimes all you will need is a short break from the exam room or a splash of water on your face to refresh yourself.

After the exam

It’s finally out of the way! You’ve spent as long as 5 years preparing for that exam and now it’s done. But you just remembered that you have another exam tomorrow and it’s made you anxious. How do you get yourself back to 100%?

After you finish the exam you should treat yourself; you have worked hard! You should do something that you enjoy to take your mind off any unanswered questions or future exams. Everybody needs a break. You could talk about the questions with your friends if you feel comfortable doing that. If you don’t then make sure that they know so that they don’t talk about them to you. If your group of friends really wants to talk about the exam then you could go to the toilet or something similar that will give them a quick 5 minutes to talk about it while you’re gone.

If you have more exams coming up then try to clear the one that you just did from your mind. You can’t go back and change your answers so you should look to the future and think about the next exam, or you could take a break and relax if you find that thinking about the future stresses you out.

Final thoughts

The most important thing that you should remember is something that I mentioned in my other article…

Exams aren’t the end of the world!

There are a wide range of options for your future that don’t rely on getting top grades and, sometimes employers will choose people with better life skills over people with better grades. Half the time they want to train employees themselves anyway. You are not a walking exam result and you can find a way to be successful and express yourself even if you don’t achieve the grades that you want.

Help and advice

If you feel like you can’t cope before, during or after the exams then find somebody to talk to. It’s not healthy to bottle it up!

You could:

  • Talk to family or friends about how you are feeling.

  • Speak to a teacher that you like or get on with at school.

  • Make use of revision groups.

If you’re near a Visyon base then you could go to a meeting to talk about how you are feeling, use the café to revise/relax, use the art or music rooms to take a break. You can check the Visyon website at or phone us up at 01260 290000.

If you want more resources surrounding exam stress, check out our resources page here! You can download and print help sheets to support you and your friends.

Other help services:

Childline: 0800 1111 – They offer confidential help for children or young people. – They provide an online counselling chat for people aged 11-25 – They provide information and support for young people under the age of 25.

BBC Bitesize – Bitesize offers a wide range of revision and revision help.

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