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Alison with students at Farlington School

Cool under pressure

Alison Binns has some tips for coping with exam stress

Posted by Stephanie Broad | May 21, 2016 | Health & wellbeing

It’s that time of year again; students all around the country are preparing for their examinations. Wherever you are in the school system, these exams will probably feel like the most important thing you have done, and may have an impact on what you want to do in September, so you want to get your preparation right.

Remember, everyone is different. We all work in different ways and our approach to exams (or any important task) will depend on what works best for us. If you have a ‘tried-and-tested’ method which works for you, keep going; stick with it and trust it to get you through the next few weeks. If you haven’t yet found what works best for you, you could try some of these suggestions.

It’s never too late to start. If you haven’t committed to your revision, do it now.

  1. Identify when, and where, you work best – early morning, mid-afternoon or during the evening.
  2. Draw up a blank timetable with possible revision/work slots marked. Or use one of the many apps:
  3. Set yourself manageable targets. Decide what you can realistically achieve and be specific – don’t just write ‘maths’, decide on a topic e.g. Pythagoras’ theorem. You’ll feel great when you can actually cross that off your list – you’ll never be able to cross ‘maths’ off your list!
  4. Give yourself regular breaks – maybe every hour – but don’t make your breaks longer than your work periods! Leave your work area, walk around, make a cup of tea, check your phone!
  5. Leave your mobile devices in another room – or switch them to Airplane mode.
  6. Build in some you-time; watch some TV, go out with friends, walk the dog….
  7. Some exam stress is good – it will spur you on, but if you are feeling very anxious, try some breathing exercises or mindfulness techniques. Yoga and Pilates are also very good to clear your head. Try the simple Sun Salutation… or download the Headspace app.
  8. Look after your health – drink lots of water and try to keep to a regular sleep routine; it’s better to get up early having had a good night’s sleep, than cram revision until 3am.
  9. Make sure you know when, and where, your exams will take place – are they in the morning or in the afternoon? Keep copies of your official timetable in key areas so you can refer to it easily. You don’t want to miss the exam!
  10. Use your teachers as resources – ask them if you still don’t understand the work, but try for yourself first.
  11. Talk to your parents – they might test you. They have been through this before and know how you feel.

Good luck - you can do this! Use your time sensibly. Put in the work now so you feel prepared; the long summer holiday is just around the corner.

And remember: if things don’t go to plan – there will be alternative routes ahead which you can take. Research some possibilities after the exams, so you have a back-up plan if you need it.

Alison Binns is Farlington School’s head of sixth form.

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