Exams suck right?! Unfortunately though, they are an unavoidable part of life for pretty much every single one of us. So often, fear of failure and exam jitters can get in our way when it comes to preparing and performing our best in exam situations (not to mention turning even the worlds neatest handwriting into a scrawled mess).
Give yourself a break
You’ve heard this 1000 times right? But when there is the pressure of a ticking clock and your brains ability to only hold so much information, it definitely doesn’t seem worth it? Well giving yourself a break throughout revision is vitally important to you being able to remember stuff, and also just being able to keep up your revision schedule long term.
Don’t feel the need to do what everyone else or your teacher tells you to do on your breaks. If your break consists of a jog and you hate running, then the chances of you actually taking one are much smaller. It’s better to have the break and do what you want than to not have one at all. So whether it’s Fortnite, baking, taking a bath, going for a run, lifting weights, trying out new hairstyles or anything else that makes you better, give yourself time every day to a little bit of it.
Practice sleep hygiene
Even though it sounds a bit like you need to shower before you sleep, sleep hygiene is actually the practice of a calming routine before bed. Things like taking a warm bath, having a (decaff) hot drink and piling under the covers with some non-School reading material at the same time every night is sleep hygiene. Figure out a routine that works for you and set an alarm on your phone for when you have to start your routine – no matter where you are in your revision. This is a great way to get yourself a solid night’s sleep every night and keep your brain firing on tip top form for the next day.
Before You Go In
You do you
Of course, all your mates will be taking exams right alongside you, and sometimes they might want to use you for reassurance before an exam. But taking all you time before an exam to get in the right head space might be great for them, but not necessarily for you. If you want to sit alone and read your notes, listen to calming music, find a quiet space to do some yoga, or if you want to talk about something else entirely, let them know beforehand. That way you can do you without the added worry of maybe upsetting someone.
During the Exam
Try not to panic
You’ve made it to the hall, found your seat, the paper is in front of you. We’ve all sat in that spot and felt our hearts go a bit faster and palms go all sweaty and gross. The important thing is not to panic. A great way not to panic is to try a few breathing exercises. Try breathing deeply in for four seconds and breathe out slowly for another four.
Slowing down and controlling your breathing triggers the area of your brain that will stop stress producing hormones in their tracks, meaning you can pick up that pen and get writing. Taking a moment to calm will slow down that sense of panic in your body, meaning mistakes will be less likely and your thought processes clearer.
Don’t hang around outside the hall
Hanging around after an exam sometimes can’t be avoided, especially if teachers are shepherding you back to lessons. However, it’s not always the best idea as everyone else who took the exam will have a lot to say about it. Dissecting the exam afterwards is pretty common in hall ways outside of exam halls, but if you are already struggling with fear of failure, the only thing doing this will do is make it worse.
Hearing about what other people wrote or how they answered a particularly tough question is likely to make you think about everything you could or should have done. Once you are out of the hall, there isn’t anything more you can do this time, so put the contents of that paper behind you and move on.
Especially important if you taking loads of exams one after another, it is important to move on from the exams you have already finished and focus on the next. If you are struggling to do this, and thinking too much about what you should have done, take a break from revision altogether. Get out for a long walk, a bike ride or a jog, away from revision and devices. This will give your mind a chance to reset and your body a chance to do something other than sitting at the kitchen table flipping through revision cards and getting stressed.
If you are that finding exam stress is getting too much for you, or if there is anything else that is bothering you, reach out to the Ditch the Label Community here.