Beating exam stress

Exams are pretty much always stressful. But it's completely possible to manage some of the stress that's brought on by exams if you use different strategies. If there's stuff you're not strong on, or you're really stressed out, there are people who can help you.

This will be useful if:

  • You have to do exams 
  • Exams stress you out
  • You have trouble planning or concentrating on study
  • You need help with some stuff you're studying
  • You need help planning your time
boy sleeping on blue chairs

Exams are a hassle

We're saying it because it's true. No one likes doing them, and cramming information into your brain over a short period of time is stressful. A bit of stress can get you going, but too much can make you exhausted, angry and annoyed.

Tackling exams

There are a whole bunch of things you can do to help you get through exams the best way you can.

Manage your stress
You'll be less stressed if you've got an idea of how the lead-up to your exams is going to look, so plan what you're going to study and when, and stick it up on the wall, or on your desktop. Break it down into manageable chunks and start working through it at the rate you planned. It's probably more boring at the start, but it's far less stressful. Plan some break times and days off too!

Take the pressure off
Deal with pressure and expectations by realistically assessing how you think you'll go, and working to do the best you can. If other people's expectations are pressuring you, talk to them and try to get them to back off. If you're putting too much pressure on yourself, try to realise failure isn't fatal. It’s likely that the worst that can happen is that you take it again, with a massive head-start from the work you've already done.

Do it together
There are other people studying for the same exam, and they probably don't like having to lock themselves away to study any more than you do. Get together with them and take the books outside from time to time. If you're not as strong in certain areas, it could help to talk to other students as well. If you are good at it, share the brain-wealth.

Go easy on the substances
All of them – caffeine, cigarettes, coffee, no-doz, alcohol, marijuana, Ritalin, Dexamphetamine and any other drugs. Any drug you think will help you study is actually a short-term fix that'll probably make you feel much worse and cause you to underperform later.

Get enough sleep, eat good food, and keep moving
It's really important you look after your physical health when studying for exams. Make sure you're stopping to eat regular meals and try to set aside 30 minutes a day to do some exercise, even if it's just going for a walk. Having enough sleep is also really important, so check out our fact sheet, 'Getting into a sleeping routine' for some tips.

Have options
Make sure you don't pin all your hopes on one outcome. Have a few options, and realise that if your heart's set on one thing there are always going to be other paths to it.

If you're really stressed

If you're finding things tough, ask for help. It's your teacher, lecturer or tutors job to help you understand the subject, so if you're not understanding stuff, tell them and they should be able to help. If your study load or exams are driving you mad, there should be a counsellor at your education institution who can help with that as well.

What can I do now?

  • Grab a notebook and start planning study, and activity breaks.
  • Take regular breaks, it actually helps you study better.
  • Try practicing meditation to help you relax.
Last reviewed: 24 August, 2015
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3 Comments

  • ty_ty505    (94 days ago)

    i cant remember how many times I've had exam stress and im a yr 12 student doing my hsc

  • gail    (1080 days ago)

    Hey Powermo0142, Good question! Sometimes those moments leading up to the exam are the hardest of all. Have you had a look at the factsheets on relaxation training and ways to relax? I find that right before I walk into an exam I get really nervous, and for me, learning some quick and easy relaxation techniques has been key in making sure that I'm in the best possible state to sit my exams. Focusing on my breathing is a big one, and there's a few other strategies in those factsheets that you might find helpful. There's also a factsheet of tips to help you get through exams, with some ideas of things to do on the day to avoid exam stress getting too much. Have a look, hopefully there's some ideas there that help you out! Gail Ways to relax: http://au.reachout.com/Ways-to-relax Relaxation training: http://au.reachout.com/Relaxation-training Tips to help you through exams: http://au.reachout.com/Tips-to-help-you-through-exams

  • powerm0142    (1084 days ago)

    how can you handle the stress right before sitting the exam. just before sitting the exam i always seem to feel the most pressure and i am unsure how to deal with it