10 tips for managing exam stress

10 tips on how to manage exam stress

This article was updated by the Great British Mag content team on 29 April 2022.

A little stress can be a great motivator, but too much stress can negatively affect your studies and your overall health. And the stress levels around exam time can be off the scale so here are 10 tips to manage exam stress.

1) Keep things in perspective

You’ll hear this a lot because it is true: Exam scores are not everything. A bad score will not prevent you from getting a good job; employers are just as interested in your transferable skills, your work ethic and your ability to get along with others. More importantly, a bad exam score does not mean that you are a failure. You are so much more than the marks you receive.

2) Start early and make a studying schedule

Start studying several weeks before your exam so that you will not have to cram at the last minute. Review your syllabus and notes. Ask your professor what material the exam will cover – they can point you in the right direction. Make a studying schedule and stick to it. Beginning early and giving yourself structure can help you feel more in control of the situation.

3) Take regular breaks

You may feel like you have to study all day, every day in order to do well on your exams but this is not true. In fact, it is better for your overall health if you take regular breaks to do fun things. Taking twenty minutes to walk around the block or bake some brownies will refresh your mind and help you to concentrate when you sit back down at your desk.

4) Exercise, eat well and get enough sleep

How does exercise help with stress? Well, exercise can help relieve stress and anxiety and paired with good nutrition and adequate sleep, these will all help you be a better student. Health is important so don’t neglect yours, especially during a time when you will want to be at your best.

5) Don’t go it alone

Studying all by yourself can get lonely so why not do it with your friends? Get together with classmates and quiz each other on the materials. If you order a pizza, you can even turn studying into a party.

Similarly, if you are struggling then don’t ignore your university’s resources. They will offer pastoral and academic support, and will help you with writing British-style essays. 

6) Speak to someone

If your exam stress is out of control or is seriously hindering your studies, seek support from your university. Read our Student mental health guide for international student that can help you find the support that you need.

7) Pace yourself through panic

It is very common for students to panic before, during or even after an exam. If you find yourself panicking, take a moment to calm down. Take some deep breaths and drink some water. If you are able to get up and walk around, do so. Then return to the problem at hand. Think about how you can break the problem down into small chunks and then tackle them one at a time. Remember that very few problems are insurmountable.

8) Make an exam day plan

Exam day can frazzle every last nerve in your body, but you can make it less stressful if you feel prepared. Get a good night’s sleep, eat a good breakfast, and arrive at the exam location early. Wear a watch so that you can keep track of the time during your exam and, if you are allowed to, bring a small bottle of water and a quiet snack such as a banana.

9) Avoid the “exam post-mortem”

Once your exam is finished it can be tempting to think about all the things you could have done differently, but this will only make you feel stressed. After all you cannot go back into the exam hall. Instead of thinking about things you cannot change, focus on the fact that you did your best.

10) Treat yourself

Once your exams are done, it’s time to treat yourself to something nice. Go to a movie, order a pizza, visit some of the best theme parks in the UK – do whatever you like, as long as it’s fun. You worked very hard to prepare for your exams and now it’s time to celebrate all your hard work!

You may also want to read

11 revision techniques proven to work

Tips on how to successfully prepare for an exam

Student mental health guide for international students