The dreaded exam season- an inevitable part of both high school and post-secondary schooling. While there’s no escaping the stress and anxiety that comes along with exams, there are many strategies to manage it the best you can.
1. Plan Ahead
Start early. Your teachers have probably mentioned this more than once; and for good reason. With so much to do and what feels like never enough time to do it all, it’s critical to use the time you do have, appropriately. This includes taking the time to determine which assignment/exam requires the most amount of work/studying, and vice versa.
Tip: Write out everything that needs to get done and how much time you have. Categorize which classes are your biggest challenge and which are a bit easier. From there you can decide which percentage of your time can be allocated to each class, according to their level of difficulty. Remember, studying “harder” does not have to mean spending more time, but rather putting in the work with the time that you do have. That’s what matters.
2. Take Time for Yourself.
Self-care is so important. If you want to give all that you can to exams, you need to make sure you have something left to give. If you try and just study every waking minute, you’re going to fall into the trap we described above- inefficient studying. It is OK to take a break; you deserve it! It will actually help you!
Tip: find activities that lift you and leave you feeling rejuvenated, such as yoga, going for a walk, taking a salt bath, hitting the gym, or grabbing tea with a friend. Do your very best to leave the stress and worries of exams behind you for the entirety of this self-care activity.
3. Designate a “Worry Chair”
By designating a “worry spot”, you are allowing yourself to express any worries you may have, but in a controlled manner. It is healthy to feel stress and anxiety. It can motivate you to achieve great things and it shows that you care. However, anxiety and stress can become a problem when it starts to overcome every minute of your day.
Visit this spot 1-2x a day and allow yourself to express any worries currently bothering you. Before you leave, ensure you are leaving in a positive state of mind. Practice mindfulness, deep breathing, or whatever trick helps you the best. Remember, do your best not to allow yourself to worry anywhere but during this designated time/place.
4. Try the Post-It Note Trick
This involves writing out questions on post it notes and hanging them up around your home. These types of questions might be what you think you might get asked, or topics you know you need to practice more often.. Then every time you see them, you must answer the question before carrying on with your day.
Tip: Put them somewhere you visit frequently (ie. fridge, bathroom mirror, bedroom door, etc.)
So often we find ourselves cramming the night before the exam because we know our time is running out. This can put us into a hyper-anxious state going to bed. Instead, allocate the proper amount of time so you are left only reviewing the day before the exam. This will then allow you to finish early and go to bed at an appropriate time.
1. Give yourself more time for everything (ie. breakfast, commute, getting to your classroom etc) to avoid feeling rushed which will only heighten your stress/anxiety.
2. Avoid discussing the exam with your friends. Listen to music, stay outside and walk around. Whatever you need to do to prevent provoking your anxiety further.
3. Once you have taken your seat but are awaiting the start of the exam, visualize yourself successfully completing the exam. Imagine yourself deliberately calming yourself down once anxiety hits, and seeing yourself resume the exam. Be detailed. Imagine the room, the people sitting beside you, the pens/pencils you are using.
4. Once the exam has begun, find a question you know you can answer and start with that (you don’t have to start with the first question)
Once the exam is complete, remind yourself that there is nothing left to be done and you did the best you possibly could. Once the grades come in, try your very best not to punish yourself. Celebrate all the marks you got right!
Be gentle with yourself. You are doing the best you can.