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Exam time can equal freak-out time. Tension’s running high, there’s lots of pressure, school can be competitive and friendships can get a little feral. Friends can be a great source of support during exam time, but they can also distract you from studying. They may even add to your stress levels if they’re not handling their own exam preparation well.

Here’s how you can keep your friendships positive, even when it’s stress city.

Couple looking at a device together

1. Figure out what works for you

Everyone learns and studies differently. Do you learn best from discussing ideas? From teaching others? Reading notes? Listening to lectures?

If you learn best from teaching others, find some friends who prefer to learn the same way as you and start a study group with them. This is more likely to be a positive, productive study method for you than one where you don’t have to contribute in an active way.

Figure out what works

2.Take a break from friends if you're all getting stressed

Take notice of how you and your friends are speaking to each other and what you’re talking about. For example, a young person we spoke to said, “All my friends were getting stressed. When one gets stressed, we all generally get stressed.” This is called stress contagion.

While social media group chats can be awesome for learning, they can also be a huge distraction. Group chats can create stress contagion if everyone is talking about studying but not actually doing anything.

If you think stress contagion might be happening, say something about it and agree to spend a certain part of the day not talking about exams or study. If this doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to take a break from that person or those people – do your own thing, or hang out with other people for a day or two.

Take a break

3. Support those friends who support you

The best thing friends can do is support each other. Many young people report that friends help calm them down when they’re feeling anxious or stressed.

If someone is being a big support to you, such as by helping you with a particular subject, ask how you can assist them in return. It could be by helping them with a different subject, by reading and commenting on an essay they’ve written, or even by doing something fun together – such as going for a walk – to take a break.

Support those friends

4. Try to stay in your own lane

Learning environments can be tough, especially in years 11 and 12 when it’s easy to compare yourself with your friends. Try to think about what your own personal strengths are, and focus on your own performance.

Keep a chart at the back of your diary with the marks you get for each subject and assignment. Aim to beat your own personal best every time you sit an exam, instead of comparing yourself to anyone else.

Try to stay

5. Reach out to family and other supports

If you feel like your friends are stressing you out or you’re not sure what to do about a situation with a friend, reach out to others in your support system; they might have had similar experiences and may be able to help you talk it out.

Remember that you can also reach out to school counsellors, your favourite teacher, a mentor or tutor, or your extended family and friends. Or talk to us here at ReachOut on the forums.

Reach out to family

What can I do now?