Jack's tips for overcoming exam stress

By Jack, a 16-year-old from the regional centre of Dubbo, in Western NSW.

Exam time is a stressful time for many young people around Australia. Personally, I struggle with the pressures of today's education system. I’ve failed to perform to the best of my ability numerous times, due to the pressure that’s placed on us around examinations.

The first time I completed a high-school exam was in year 7. At the tender age of 12, our year group took part in an imitation of the HSC exams. With 100 other students, we had to sit in complete silence and write an essay and an extended response, and answer a series of comprehension questions, all in just 60 minutes. That test was the beginning of my fear of examinations and of failure.

Now, at 16, I’m about to begin the last leg of high school and, finally, the HSC, the dreaded exam that teachers believe they have been ‘preparing’ us for since the age of 12. The pressure put on students by the exam system is intense, so it’s super-important to have a good coping strategy in place. Here are some techniques I’ve developed for how to look after yourself during exam time.

1. Meditation

Regular practice of meditation can help decrease stress levels astronomically! A free app that I use is called ‘Smiling Mind’. It offers short (two- to three-minute) meditations that help to clear your mind. I use it to help calm my pre-exam nerves, and it’s made a positive difference to my results.

2. Listen to your favourite music

Listening to music you enjoy can help to decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your body, which can help to counteract the effects of stress. Listening to your favourite tunes is also an easy way to incorporate a portable coping strategy into your daily routine.

3. Exercise

Exercise is a great way to cope with any stress that you may be struggling with. I find that if I exercise before an exam, it helps to calm my nerves, and then exercising after I’ve completed the exam helps me to let go of the stress that’s built up during it.

4. Sleep

Sleep is as important to our health as eating, drinking and breathing. A good night’s sleep helps me to remember content and plays an important role in my preparation for an exam.

It may not be easy to include all four of these strategies in your examination preparation routine, on top of all your studying and trying to remember quotes and facts, but I find they help me cope with examination stress as well as with everyday life. I've realised the importance of taking care of yourself and how it helps me cope with ups and downs. Try a variety of different approaches to find what works for you.

What can I do now?

  • Check out 5 great apps that you can download to deal with everything that exam stress can throw at you.

  • Hear more from Christo about how he found his own path to study when he didn't get the ATAR he needed.


Exam stress