Do you often face stress and feels burned out during the exam season?

I’m Sana, a full-time student, mum of two and now a blogger. I began bachelor degree in 2012 and graduated 3 years ago. With the support of my husband and his family. I’m studying a postgraduate course. Here’s my journey as a student.

I’m often asked by Mums that how I manage the exam stress with so many responsibilities in line. A while back, I used to get sweaty palms and anxiety during the time my assessments were due. I’d had an uncontrollable feeling of being lost within my everyday routine. But soon, I realized that the exam stress was hampering my capability to study and that I have to act upon it promptly. I learned the primary reason behind my exam fear, which could relate to you too, and that was ‘not being ready for the exam.’

I know some of my friends who excel well to manage the pre-exam revision period, and it’s a piece of cake for them to pass a subject with their eyes closed. Alas for the others, the heart palpitations are a permanent part & parcel.

Since I’ve been able to manage my exam stress, I became more efficient in my study. In one of my previous posts, I’ve provided helpful tips to study while raising kids. Though managing stress levels is another crucial factor to ace in your exams, so keep reading till the end, because in this post I’ll reveal the secrets by which I achieved the highest score in my English language exam while my college exams were due.

1. Prepare beforehand

My stress levels dropped straight after I began preparing myself for the upcoming assessments. How long before the exam should you begin preparing for the exam? The answer is: Even before your first lecture, as soon as you get access to the university’s online portal. This way, you’ll feel prepared for the final examination and significant assignments.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to what I always do (and this shouldn’t take any longer than 30 minutes):

  1. Log in to the online study portal of your institution and find the subject overview document.
  2. Print out the material.
  3. Staple/pin all the pages together in order.
  4. Highlight the necessary information such as assessments, lectures, tutorials, marking guides, and contact methods with the lecturer.
  5. Draw a separate planner of your assessments’ due date and stick it on the fridge door.
  6. Keep a reminder of each assessment in your smartphone.
  7. Keep each subjects’ printed guides in a separate folder and keep them organized (and away from the kids!).

2. Know the expected topics

There was a time when my anxiety levels caused me to feel lost, and at one point, I was on the verge of breaking and tearing apart. Then, I learned the secret to get through the exam worries by observing the exam patterns in each subject. I found out that preparing for the expected topics to appear is yet another fantastic way to prevent the exam stress.

It’s not rocket science to get an understanding of the expected exam topics. Here’s what you should do:

  • Attend all the lectures, especially those right before the exam. These lectures contain critical information as most lecturers reveal crucial topics in the last lectures.
  • Sign in to your online portal and briefly read the assessments section in the subject guide.
  • Get to know the relevant topics of your course and briefly read them before your first lecture.
  • Highlight the topics related to your assessments.
  • Have a brief look at each topic even before your lecture and pen down the questions as it will help you clarify any confusion and ask questions with your lecturer.

3. Find a separate study space

I understand that it could be challenging to find an independent space at your home, especially when there are little ones around or if you live in shared accommodation. But trust me, designating a specific study corner is potentially the best step you can take to prepare yourself well for the exam and eventually, to avoid exam anxiety. You don’t have to organize a large table and a high-back chair for that. All you need is a quiet, comfortable space, and you can find this space in a little corner of your home, even by keeping the compact side table alone.

I used to study in my living room and sometimes, even in the dining area. I also prepared for the exams straight lying on the bed! But I felt both exhausted and distracted within a few minutes.

I did not have a separate study space; I looked for one at home, and I eventually found one in my Backyard, right on the outdoor table!

Here’s what you can do:

  • Look around the home for a place where your kids are least likely to enter.
  • Get help from your partner or a family member to engage kids and study in a quiet corner.
  • Give them the smartphone for some time (You shouldn’t encourage this always though sometimes, keeping them busy is necessary to fulfill other critical responsibilities).
  • Go to the local library, if there’s absolutely no space to study at home.
  • Or you can even find a quiet area in a nearby park!
  • Another great option: study at your college library before or after the lecture.

4. Schedule specific days to study

Here’s yet another way to decrease the chance of facing exam anxiety. Dedicate a particular day and time for your studies. Challenge yourself to stick with the schedule right away if you regularly get stressed out during exams because once you get into a routine of preparing, you’ll more likely feel prepared for the exam day.

I had a habit of delaying my study and prioritizing other commitments over study time. Later, I realized that I could’ve achieved better grades if I were more dedicated to the study schedule.

Here’s what you can do to hold with the study time:

  • Find out whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, since you can learn the best based on these factors.
  • Keep a reminder on your smartphone to remind you of the next day’s study schedule in advance.
  • If you choose to study in the morning, get a good 8-hour sleep the night before.
  • Begin your day with a strong cup of coffee/tea.
  • Set a number of topics you should cover on each scheduled day.

5. Take lecture notes

You’ll be the luckiest person on Earth if you adopt the healthy habit of taking notes. Since writing helps in memorizing, it’s pretty much apparent that the same applies to the lecture.

If your life was an absolute mess and you didn’t practice at all during the semesters, grab the notes you’ve made during the lecture and begin preparing instead of chucking them in the bin. You can even ask your friend to lend you its lecture notes just for exams. But you won’t stress much if you revise your own-written notes.

Here’s the guide to organize your lecture notes:

  • Do not take the dictation during a lecture. Instead, pen down the key ideas and keywords.
  • Grab a pen with the smoothest tip and a fancy notebook to write your lecture notes (It motivates me to keep fancy belongings organized, even if it’s a stationery!).
  • Get your pencil box organized and clean. Keep highlighters and use them frequently in your notes to highlight the keywords. This way, you’ll understand the crucial ideas of the lecture with minor effort during revision.
  • Use paper clips, Foldback clips, Static notes, and sticky flags to organize your lecture notes.
  • Make a table of content. It will help save you time to search for a particular topic in your notebook and ultimately reduce stress.

6. Take frequent pauses while studying

Okay, just because you’re stressed out with the assessment, doesn’t mean you stop eating or ignore your thirst! Take frequent breaks between your revisions to avoid overstressing and getting fatigued.

Since I used to pile up all my study load for the exam season, I often got so stressed in the exam season that I stopped feeling hungry! That was an awful feeling because back in the days, I could eat a horse! It affected my overall health, leading to more health problems.

My best suggestion is to keep eating well, stay hydrated, and follow these steps to avoid exam stress:

  • Go for a quick walk for 5 minutes.
  • Get Vitamin D from the Sun.
  • Look for a window at home with beautiful views of outside. It will entertain you from time to time while revising your exam notes.
  • Refresh yourself with an instant makeup and apply your favorite fragrance.
  • Quickly chat with someone, call a friend, or talk to your partner and kids about your preparation.

7. Give yourself a pat on the back

Last but not least, appreciate yourself for what you’ve gained throughout the semester. You’ve memorized, kept making your effort, and struggled day and night to ace in your exam.

On the exam day, most students experience the highest stress levels, including myself, though I saw others setting up a spa to relax (that’s a rare story!). Consider all the struggles you’ve made preparing for the ultimate day of assessment and trust yourself.

As I often belittled myself, assuming that I haven’t prepared enough made me more anxious for the final exams. But I eventually trusted myself. Here’s how:

  • Take a deep breath and calmly look if you’ve already prepared the major topics for the exam.
  • Celebrate the last day of your semester by treating yourself. Cook your favourite food, or even dine out.
  • Keep trust in yourself that you’ll attempt the best of your knowledge.
  • Know that this isn’t the end of the world. Exam is just a tiny drop of your life’s ocean. Don’t spoil your valuable time in stressing out for this miniature.

In a nutshell

Managing exam stress is all about planning, being organized, and looking after yourself. Stay focused to get prepared for the exam and keep a good faith in yourself. It’s a massive work that despite the busy schedule, you’re attending the lectures and submitting the assignments on time. It could be tough to balance between studies and other commitments, but believe me, it isn’t impossible. Even implementing a few of these in your routine ways to avoid exam worry can boost your confidence and efficiency during the exam.

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I’d love to hear from you. What do you do to relieve exam stress?

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