collage made by Castlegar Finding Balance group
This time of year can be overwhelming . . . . . essays due, exams looming, Christmas pressures around the corner .. . . .. .
Here are some tips on dealing with exam pressures from a UK site:
Hang in there …. . . . . . another few days of crazy hard work and this cycle of assignments and exams will be over!
If you find out exactly what you’re facing, you can work out a plan for dealing with it, and this will go a long way towards putting your mind at ease. Get hold of the right information from the start. Make sure you know how you will be examined, and what you’ll be examined on. Catch up with anything you’ve missed, so that you’ve got all your notes up to date.
Plan a timetable
Try to start your revision in plenty of time. Take time to plan a revision timetable that’s realistic and still flexible, and linked to your exam timetable, so you revise subjects in the right order. In planning it, give yourself clear priorities and try to balance your revision with other demands on your time – meals, sleep, chores or other commitments, as well as time for relaxing. Identify your best time of day for studying.
One way to structure your work might be to divide each day into three units (morning, afternoon and evening), giving you a total of 21 units per week. Then make a list of all the topics you need to cover. Estimate how long you think it will take you to revise each one, allowing more time for things you find most difficult. Then add on plenty of extra. Finally, divide the topics up between the units.
Everyone needs time off, and it’s a bad idea to abandon your social life and sporting activities, but for a period near the examinations, you may need to cut down. This may involve making hard choices. Always leave yourself a minimum of six units of free time per week.
What’s the best way to revview material?
It’s not always possible to find peace and quiet, and a comfortable place to revise. Try to arrange with those at home a set time and space where you can work without being disturbed. Failing that, think about whether you could use other facilities at school, college, or your local library. If you study in a room where you also eat or sleep, try to keep the work area separate, so it’s not always confronting you when you’re not studying.
There’s no ‘right’ way to revise, it’s largely a matter of what suits you best and the particular exam you’re taking (multiple choice answers, calculations, short-answer questions, or essays). Methods might include making notes from text books, writing quick summaries of topics (in the form of mind maps or spidergrams perhaps), reciting facts out loud, learning dates, formulae or vocabulary by heart, and reading revision books or watching revision programmes. Switching between methods helps you hold your interest and absorb information better. Mix dull subjects with more interesting ones, for the same reason. If it’s hard to get started, begin with something easy.
Actively think about, sift and question what you’re writing and reading, and test yourself afterwards. Writing endless notes is probably a waste of time. If you come to something you don’t understand, try reading about it somewhere else. If that doesn’t work, then ask someone who knows the subject well.
If you have a problem with concentration, you can improve it by starting with short bursts of study, then adding an extra few minutes to each session. Don’t try to study for longer than 45 to 60 minutes at a stretch.
It may be less stressful to do the work than it is to worry about it.
If you find it hard getting motivated, set yourself measurable goals for each revision session, and tick them off when you’ve achieved them. After each session, acknowledge the achievement, and reward yourself with something. Have a break between sessions, or if you find things getting on top of you. Get a soft drink, read a magazine or take some exercise. Bear in mind that drinks
containing caffeine, such as cola, tea and coffee, are stimulants,
and may make you feel more agitated.
It’s worth practising timed exam questions and papers. This can give you some idea of what the real exam will be like, and of how to divide your time between questions. Although exam papers are never the same, they’re similar enough to be useful. There’s a good quote that goes, “the more I practised, the luckier I got”.
It felt OK to be in the routine of working some of the time and then going to the gym or for a run. I was still going out at night, but I was getting home at a reasonable time. I felt as if I’d got it under control, and so when the exams came, I’d done my best, and stayed sane.
Learning how to relax is crucial. Straightforward, effective, self-help techniques are going to be very helpful in the run-up to the exams, and even when you’re sitting in the exam room.
Stress can make you start breathing with quick, shallow breaths and make your heart beat faster than usual. If this happens, sit down somewhere comfortable, if possible. Place one hand on your stomach and check how quickly you are breathing. If it’s one breath every couple of seconds, take a deep breath and start counting steadily. Breathe out slowly and try to get the last of the breath out on about five seconds. Carry on doing this
until you are doing it naturally.
- Close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply
- Locate any areas of tension and try to relax those muscles; imagine the tension disappearing
- Relax each part of the body, from your feet to the top of your head
- As you focus on each part of your body, think of warmth, heaviness and relaxation
- After 20 minutes, take some deep breaths and stretch
Regular exercise is an excellent way of coping with stress. As little as 10 or 20 minutes a day spent walking, cycling, or at the gym can make a big difference.
and – Eat well. Sleep well – so your brain can function at its best.s