May 1, 2019, by Sunita Tailor

Exam stress tips – from A levels to Uni life

This blog was written by first year English student, Phoebe Raine.

Hello, I’m Phoebe, a first-year English student. A year ago, I was sat exactly where you are – surrounded by colourful mind maps, struggling to add (or delete) those extra 500 words for coursework, and questioning whether it’s all worth it. From somebody who went through it, ate about five million custard creams, and came out alive, I can guarantee that it is worth it, and it will all be okay.

In a few short months you get to enjoy your first taste of university life – the lengthy summer holiday! I’m talking sun, sleep and screaming “YES, NO MORE TINY EXAM DESKS!”, but first, it might be worth considering a few tips that helped me get through A levels (and university exams, too).

Shake it like a Polaroid picture

I’m not suggesting you wiggle your notes around (sadly the words don’t go in by osmosis) but by changing the style of revision, and the place you do it in, you do can help to keep things more interesting.

Have you tried flashcards? Mind maps? Videos? Drawing pictures? Recording yourself? A personal favourite of mine is to find a family member or friend and try and teach them what you just revised. (Trying to teach a nine-year-old about the French Revolution was definitely one of my more taxing revision strategies…)

Look after yourself                                      

One of my biggest faults is shoving everything to the side when revision takes priority and as a result, I didn’t do my washing for about three weeks… nobody wants to smell that!

So, I would say take some time (it doesn’t have to be long) to deal with the little things. Take a shower, tidy your desk (be warned, this may take a LOT longer than anticipated) or do the washing up. Just something to keep yourself ticking over.

Motivation *dances in a motivating cheerleader style*

Know what motivates you, and keep it in moderation. It might be another biscuit (I really love custard creams, okay!) or a TV episode. Reward your hard work! Think about your end goal too – university is an amazing experience and you are almost there! A world of independence, new friends and new learning is on its way, so keep pushing.


If you aren’t the most athletic this might make you groan. But I promise you, a little walk, jog, or internet class can be just the thing to give you a break and a boost.

Side note: if you are an exercise lover, don’t over-do it. I know the temptation of going for one more rowing session, one more jog, another game of footie…remember to sit down and get some work done before you head back out again.

Accept help

The idea of going to a teacher or lecturer for help used to bring trembles to my knees, but once I bit the bullet I got nothing but positives from them. Whether you are at uni, school or college, you still need help and people are there to help you. This year alone I went back to one of my tutors four times because I kept changing my coursework idea, and each time I was given advice and direction.

Other people can be a blessing or a curse

Coming to uni, I made more friends than I knew was possible, which is lovely in so many ways but also, when you are all stressing about exams it can get a lot. It’s okay to step away and just do your own thing for a bit. You have the whole summer to complain about question 2c and why they used that experiment or case study. Next year, if you are planning on living in halls, your friends will be readily available (sometimes just a wall away) and temptation is rife. Know what you need to focus on and don’t worry, they will still be there afterwards.

These tips helped me handle the heat and I’m now at my favourite place (cheesy I know, but it’s true). Everyone tells you ‘University is the best time of your life’ and so far, it really has been incredible.

Exams are only a little part of your life, so make the most of this time. Exams don’t get easier, you just get better at them, so by first year you will be a pro exam-taker, ready to revise AND do your washing (how to get through washing machine stress is a whole other blog post for another time). Even if it takes you chanting ‘Summer, summer, summer’ in High School Musical style, do what you need to do to get some amazing grades, because it’s worth it.

Good luck!


Image: Author’s own

Posted in Student WordsTips/Advice/Guidance