How to manage exam stress

The pressure that students are under at school is never far from the news these days. Various studies and surveys have highlighted what is seen as a growing issue. Of course, the pressures that young people face and the rise of mental health problems among children are incredibly complex issues. However, a survey conducted by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) found that 65% of teachers believe that the biggest cause of stress for students is testing and examinations.

This is no surprise at all. After all, exams are always likely to be the most stressful period of a student’s time at school. Although, the underlying principle of any examination system is to provide an opportunity for an individual to display their knowledge and ability in a subject, the reality is something quite different. Regardless of how many times parents and teachers tell students that ‘there is no need to worry’ or ‘try not to get stressed’ about exams, it is only natural that they do – anybody would.

It is also ridiculous to pretend that there isn’t any pressure, because there undoubtedly is. Therefore, the best advice is to try to work out how to handle this pressure and how to cope with the inevitable stress that exams bring.

So, what follows here is not a miracle cure. It will not completely stop you from feeling stressed about your exams, but these tips are coping strategies that will help you to handle the pressure so that you can perform at your best.

Be positive

When we feel anxious about something, it is very easy for our head to become clouded with negative thoughts. The thing is, if you say to yourself, ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I’m going to fail’, you will find it very difficult to succeed.

Going into your exams with a positive mental attitude is half the battle won. Think of athletes who often use positive realisation techniques by imagining themselves lifting a trophy or standing on the medal podium. Imagine opening your exam results and seeing the grades you wanted in front of you!

Share your concerns

You may have heard of the phrase, ‘ a problem shared is a problem halved’. It makes a lot of sense. It is completely normal to feel nervous and stressed about exams, and it’s important to remember that you are not alone. It might feel that you are the only person who is stressed but you really won’t be.

Bottling up stress and trying to cope with it on your own only makes the situation worse. Share your concerns with others. Often it’s just really helpful to get things off your chest.

What if the worst happens?

When you think of the worst case scenario of not getting the grades you want: not getting a place on a particular course or at a particular university, for example, it’s no surprise that you are feeling under pressure.

The important thing to remember is that there is always an alternative and a different option. Every single problem that disappointing exam results can bring does have a solution.

It’s all about you

A big part of the pressure that comes with exams can come from other people. If you are expected to do well by your teachers and your parents, it can add to the stress you feel. Of course, your teachers and parents will want you to do well, but ultimately your exam results are all about you. You have to study, you have to take the exams and they will be your results – no one else’s.

You are not doing your exams for your teachers or your parents, but for yourself. It is your future and nobody else’s.

With that comes a responsibility. Only you can do this. Everybody needs the support of friends, family, teachers and tutors but it is down to you in the end. This means putting effort into your studies, spending adequate time revising and being dedicated.

But it also means having some balance. You still need some ‘me time’. You still need the odd treat and reward.

In the vast majority of cases hard work does pay off, but with exams you need to be handle the pressure that they bring. These tips should certainly help you do this.

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