April 24, 2017, by Siobhan
A Revision Survival Guide: How to Beat the Panic and Stress of Exams This Summer
Yeah, you guessed it, it’s another ‘revision top tips’ blog. I’m sure you’ve stumbled across far too many of these, but whether you want some genuine exams advice, or are looking to procrastinate some more, then I suggest you keep reading…
An exam survival guide: how to beat the stress
The summer time: the months filled with sunshine, singing birds, sweet smelling flowers, and exams. That last one really just ruin these delightful months, doesn’t it? As long as I can remember, I’ve always had terrible exam stress and anxiety. Right from SATs in year 6. For my A2 exams, myself and a couple of friends started revising soon after Christmas, and its fair to say I exhausted myself making timelines, writing essays, and reciting biological processes. Needless to say, I did pretty well, my hard work paid off. But that wasn’t without some cost. My health literally plummeted. I caught every bug going, I was moody, upset, and everything seemed to make me tick. I was drinking my body weight in coffee every day and I would not let myself rest. When I think back to it, it was a really horrible time. This time around, with my first university exam season ahead, I want to try and avoid the unrelenting stress, poor diet, and generally neurotic psyche that I possessed last year. And the year before. And the year before that.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you how to revise. I’ll be honest, I should be revising now, but instead I’m pawing over this blog post. Obviously, it’s far more important. Much like taking all my clothes out of my wardrobe and arranging them into colour order was important yesterday, and how cleaning all my makeup brushes was the day before. I cleaned them twice. So yeah, I’m not going to pretend I’m some kind of revision genie with an impeccable work ethic. But I am going to say that there are certain things that should be prioritised over giving yourself hand cramp because you’ve sat at a desk writing non stop, or laying in bed crying because you think you’re going to fail, or miss your spot at university. Your number one priority is your health. It can be difficult to think about anything other than revision at a time like this, especially when university places, job offers, and years abroad depend on it. But if you neglect your health, and ignore the way you’re feeling, it can have consequences you can’t compensate for.
I remember sitting in my A2 History exam last year, writing for about ten minutes and having to leave the room because I’d worked myself into a complete state. The only words that filled my head were ‘you’re not getting into Nottingham, you’re not getting into Nottingham’. On repeat. The way I see it, you should treat exams like a sports event. Imagine you’re on a start line. Half of the battle is a psychological one; you tell yourself you’re going to do great, you’re going to run the fastest, score the most goals, jump the furthest. Your teammates are doing the same, they’re supporting you. You’re ready to do well. Now if we all had this mindset for our exams too, I think there would be a lot less stress surrounding them. Instead we sit outside the exam hall, torturing ourselves about how we haven’t revised enough, how we’re going to forget everything when we sit down, or we discuss things that conflict with our own knowledge two minutes before we’re expected to sit down. What good is this going to do? I know it didn’t do anything but bad things for me. Instead of talking yourself into believing you’ll fail, tell yourself how great you are. If you need to, sit alone before the exam. The last thing you need is for other peoples nerves to rub off on you.
My main point is: listen to yourself. Your mind, your body, fuel it with what it needs. You wouldn’t tell a friend that they were going to fail, you wouldn’t reduce your friend to tears by making them panic, you wouldn’t deprive them of nutritious food that their brain needs to work well. So don’t do it to yourself. At the end of the day, your well being is far more important than any mark on an exam.
I bid you all the luck in the world for your upcoming exams. I don’t want this post to make you think you can just relax and not work hard. I’m just saying that finding a balance of work, play, and self love and care is absolutely imperative. Now that you’ve had a little break reading my rambling post, make yourself a cup of tea and get back to some much needed revision!
It’ll happen again every year. I think stress is an inherent feeling for all students before exams. And not because they don’t know anything, but rather because they’re not confident in their abilities and that’s normal.
Thank you for your valuable message! I agree with you that balance is very important. If you are sure that you have done your best to prepare for the exam and have really worked hard, then praise yourself and think positively. This is incredibly important!
Because of my uncertainty, I had already failed several exams before, but I was able to retake them after working harder.
I can also advise all students to read this good motivational material about learning skills and how to deal with exams correctly: https://www.accountingisfun.com.au/resources/ It has changed my thinking a bit and I think it is good for other students too.