Exams are nearly upon us but, to quote Douglas Adams, ‘Don’t panic!’ As a recent graduate from the Uni I know that it’s easier said than done! I’ve had my fair share of tearful exchanges and panicked moments, but by learning to channel this feeling of panic and stress into motivation I managed (with a few blips) to conquer my exam stress and come out on the other side a victorious student (who during the process, can now recite the BBC’s shipping forecast…..perhaps not something I should be sharing but there you go)!
It’s fairly inevitable that you will experience some form of panic at some point in your life, the most important thing is to learn to recognise it in yourself. Common physical symptoms can include: intense nausea, dizziness, shaking or trembling of limbs, feeling hot and excessive sweating. You may also experience irrational thoughts such as ‘I’m going to fail’ or ‘I’m rubbish’; recognising panic for what it is can help you to bat these thoughts away. When these thoughts creep up on you, give yourself a (metaphorical) slap. Reassure yourself and think positively, ‘I can do this’. Remember to breathe and the feeling will pass.
My first experience of exam panic came when I was in my 3rd year of Uni and I was sitting a paper on quantum physics. Panic seemed to grip me as soon as the exam started and I felt like I would never be free from its clutches. Staring at the 1st question my mind went blank and I thought I was going to projectile vomit everywhere. I felt like I couldn’t breathe, I starting sweating and could not for the life of me recall a fundamental equation underpinning the entire exam! It took me 30 minutes to tackle my self-deprecation, but by taking deep breaths and thinking ‘this is only an exam, things could be worse’ I managed to complete the paper and get a reasonable mark. My advice for you would be a classic: if you’re stuck on a question, leave it and move on.
Stress: The Unsaid Truth
Whenever anyone mentions the word stress to me I immediately tense up and grimace, but stress is actually your body’s natural response to difficulties arising in your local environment, and a little bit of stress is good for your well-being and performance! Some rather clever scientists have done some research about the physiological effects of stress, and have shown that too little stress can be just as bad as too much stress. We Earthlings need a certain degree of stress in order to thrive, as shown by this beautiful graph below. As you increase the amount of stress exposed to you, your body will respond by entering into a fight or flight response. This triggers the release of adrenalin, leading to increased levels of concentration and motivation, resulting in an increase in your performance. What often happens is that the positive effect that stress has on our bodies can quickly develop into ‘distress’, which impacts negatively on our performance and we reach the burnout stage. It’s important to recognise when you’re approaching the fatigue stage and to bring your stress levels back down to a healthy amount by removing yourself from the source of stress and participating in activities which you find relaxing.
Top revision tips
I’ve trawled the internet looking for some top revision tips and below are the ones which made the final cut, so feast your eyes on these and hopefully you’ll find one which floats your boat!
- Revise on the go! Try revising whilst cooking, cleaning or tidying your room.
- Record key facts/themes on your phone and listen while you walk to Uni or the shops.
- Use cue cards for quick fire questions and answers.
- Do past papers. Practice really does make perfect! It’s great to get a feel for the exam style, but a word to the wise, don’t just rely on them as lecturers may throw a curved ball and change the exam style (something that I had to learn the hard way)!
- Talking through difficult concepts with peers is a real test of your understanding of a topic. If you can explain something to your mate, then you can explain it in an exam.
- Remember to take regular breaks to give your brain time to absorb and process new information.
- Get your 40 winks! It has been scientifically proven that sleep is a crucial part of memory retention; depriving yourself of sleep by doing an all-nighter will not benefit you in the long run. From my own experience of pulling a few all-nighters I found myself in a higher state of agitation, more susceptible to making mistakes and failure to retain a lot of the information I had attempted to learn, making the whole process exhausting and incredibly futile and pointless! L
- Think positive! Having optimism about yourself will really help improve your mental well-being and improve your performance in exams.
- Eat well and you’ll feel well. Although a trip to the local chippy or pizza place may be tempting, fast food can make you feel sluggish and lethargic. It’s important to reward you brain for all its hard work revising, so treat it well. Give your brain some TLC with plenty of fruit and veg and lots of water. You’ll feel more energised and more likely to retain stuff.
- And last but by no means least, relax! Remember to give yourself some down time.
|‘Oust’ those outlets for procrastination!|
Let’s face it, we would all rather be doing something other than revision, but unfortunately the words ‘students’ and exams’ are synonymous with ‘revision’ , and with the advent of the internet and social media, it has now become even easier to procrastinate. But technology is a double-edged sword, and you can now fight technology with technology! Combat your urge to surf the net looking up things on Sporcle or to check your Facebook and say goodbye to procrastination forever (or at least until after the exams) by downloading these clever apps:
- StayFocused. This clever app limits the amount of time which you can spend on time-wasting websites.
- Facebook Nanny restricts your access to Facebook to 1 minute per notification and if you have none then you are limited to 15 seconds only and a lovely message will pop up guilt tripping you into doing something more productive!
If you have any top tips with regards to revision or stress management then feel free to drop us a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org