Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Overcoming exam season stress

As I write this article, it’s nearly the start of term 3, and we all know what that means – exams, dissertations, deadlines, stress and worry. It’s customary to be worried about exams – they aren’t fun and they’re an integral part of the uni experience, so they come with pressure. But the good news is that that pressure need not crush you. There is a lot that you can do to make term 3 and the exam period more manageable. I want to give you some advice, both on a practical level dealing with exams and on a personal level contending with the stress of exam season, in the hopes it’ll make this term 3 a little easier.

On a practical level, make sure you know what’s going on. Write a list of all your deadlines, your exam and any other important dates – hopefully, it’ll help make these looming dates look more manageable, and it’ll help you focus your time. If there’s only one exam coming up in the near future, you know to prioritise that revision, for example. Also, take a little bit of time to understand exactly what each assignment is asking of you, so you can better focus your time – if an exam will ask you to answer one question, don’t waste your time preparing for ten. Ask these questions – speak to your course mates and your module teachers, because it’s important that you know. No question is stupid or too small if it helps you feel better and more prepared.

Knowing a few things in greater detail is more beneficial

Make sure, once you know what to do, you set yourself achievable targets. It’s easy to say ‘today, I’m going to learn all of this module’, but it’s not very helpful or likely. Break down what you need to know into smaller chunks, and focus on one of these chunks each day – often, knowing a few things in greater detail is more beneficial than having a giant but a superficial overview of a subject. Often, when exams and assignments are stripped to the bare bones, they look significantly less scary, so making a plan and sticking to it is invaluable.

The same is true of dissertations. When I wrote my first one, I set myself the task of writing 400 words every day – it doesn’t sound like much, but it quickly piled up. Much of the material was rubbish, but simply getting into a routine helped me so much. On a personal level, this is something that I really want to stress – you need to work, but you also need to not work.

Take time off to relax, where you can chat with family and friends and do something completely different that will take you away from work because your mind will eventually tune out from constant revision. Even when you’re working, make sure to take lots of breaks – setting a timer on your computer or your phone can help with this. On a personal note, I only work from 8:00-20:00, and I often go for little walks or watch the TV in that time too. Efficient revision is more effective and healthier than drowning in your notes all day.

Once the exam is done, try to put it out of your mind

Although it’s easier said than done, try not to put too much pressure on yourself. Exams are difficult and not overly enjoyable, but you wouldn’t be here at Warwick if you couldn’t do them. You’ll be judged on a lot more than just these assignments, so a lower mark than you anticipated certainly isn’t the end of the world. Once the exam is done, try to put it out of your mind – you can’t do anything until you get your mark, so why torture yourself?

We all forget stuff, realise we could have phrased things better, but what’s done is done – and certainly don’t do what my sister does, driving yourself to insanity plugging every variable into a grade calculator.

Term 3 is a stressful time, and exams are important, but there’s so much we can do to get ourselves into a better place for them. Revise smart, and look after yourself physically and mentally, and you’ll find that the dark clouds of looming deadlines will swiftly become the warm skies of summer. Deadlines aren’t fun, but they’re a challenge that you can and will overcome.

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