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.
It’s easy to focus so much on studying that you stumble into the exam room with no energy, or feeling overwhelmed. Here are some tips for hitting the exam room with a clear mind and energy in the tank.
What you can do
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.
3. Don’t be afraid of stress
Stress is a normal part of exams, and in 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
Stress builds up and stays in your body, so you need to release it regularly. 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
It’s not the exams – but what you’re telling yourself about the exams and your ability to cope with them that matters. Keep your self-talk realistic, helpful and focused on solutions to the challenges you’re facing.
6. Keep it in perspective
This exam doesn’t define you or 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.
7. Stay connected
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. If you’re feeling really stressed or anxious, don’t keep it to yourself. Chat to someone you trust about it.
8. Remember to breathe
When we get stressed and anxious, our breathing becomes short and shallow which 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).
9. Avoid over-analysing after the exam
Try not to go looking for negatives or try to predict the future. Focus on what went well. Allow some recovery time between exams to give yourself a fresh start for the next one.
10. Seek support
If your stress and anxiety is overwhelming your ability to study and take exams, contact the RMIT Counselling Service.