Preparing for exams is not just about learning the subject

It’s also about how you look after yourself to be at your best on exam day.

Everyone has stress around exams, but keeping it in check can leave you alert and ready to perform well.

Here are 10 proven techniques to reduce your stress levels at exam time. 

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Choose your favourite exam tip and download it to your phone.

1. Treat yourself well

Don’t drop the healthy lifestyle when you ramp up the study.

All the stuff you know you should be doing - eating well, getting sleep, exercising, taking rest breaks, not drinking too much alcohol - will help you stay focused and keep your energy levels up.

2. Study smart

You can’t study all day, every day.

Your brain likes short study sessions (30-40 mins) with regular breaks (5-10 minutes). Plan your study into small chunks that gradually move you towards being prepared by exam day.

Don't be afraid of stress

Stress is a normal part of exams

The right amount helps you perform. But if your stress is too high, take action to dial it down. Focus on what you can control, like your study schedule or asking your teacher questions when you’re confused. Breaking big things down into small tasks will help you feel less overwhelmed.

4. Release stress regularly

You need to release stress regularly

Stress builds up and stays in your body. Exercise, try a meditation app, take a walk in nature or drop into the RMIT Calm Zone on the city campus.

5. Talk yourself up

Keep your self-talk realistic

Keep it helpful and focused on solutions to the challenges you’re facing. It’s not the exams – but what you’re telling yourself about the exams and your ability to cope with them that matters. 

Positive self-talk

Three ways to talk yourself up

6. Keep it in perspective

This exam doesn’t define you

It doesn't determine your future career success. Even if you don’t do as well as you’d like, there are always other ways forward.  Be aware when your worries snowball into a catastrophe that hasn’t actually happened yet, and come back to the present moment.

How to avoid worrying too much

Four things to remember when you're spiralling

7. Stay connected

If you’re feeling really stressed or anxious, don’t keep it to yourself. 

When you’re in study mode, it’s tempting to withdraw from others to give you more time  to study. But you need your people to stay grounded. Chat to someone you trust about it.

8. Remember to breathe

When we get stressed and anxious, our breathing becomes short and shallow

This actually makes us feel more stressed and anxious. In the exam, practice slow and deep breathing to stay calm (in for 3 seconds, hold for 2 seconds, out for 3 seconds).  

More breathing tips

Online tool  - calm breath

 

 

9. Avoid over-analysing

Focus on what went well. 

After the exam, try not to go looking for negatives or try to predict the future. Allow some recovery time between exams to give yourself a fresh start for the next one.

Containing exam worries

Reachout worry time app

 

 

10. Seek support

If your stress and anxiety is overwhelming

If it's affecting your ability to study and take exams, contact the RMIT Counselling Service.