How to deal with Exam Stress

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How to deal with Exam Stress


Exam Stress


Somewhere along the line we all have to write exams.  Quite often they are the source of high levels of stress and anxiety but with proper planning and by following a number of easy steps you can avoid the overwhelming and debilitating effect of exam stress. The effects of exam stress can include, but are not limited to stomach cramps, sleeplessness, losing your appetite or overeating, anxiety, aggressive behaviour and a feeling of losing control.

The following steps, as personally experienced and as described by various educational specialists, will help you to cope effectively with exam stress!

According to Hillay James, an award winning South African author and editor, a number of steps can be taken to improve your chances of success during exam time. She underlined the importance of keeping PERSPECTIVE. Exam success or failure doesn’t define you as a person. It is great to do well in exams but remember that exams aren’t the only thing that will help you succeed in life. Employers will be equally interested in other things, like your attitude, emotional intelligence, work-rate or ability to get on with others. Worrying about it will definitely not help and may even reduce your chances of doing well in other exams you still have to write.

Once you’ve done an exam, try to forget about it. There’s nothing you can do about it, and worrying won’t change your results. Rather spend time and energy on the exams you still have to write.

By being ORGANISED in your approach you will reduce your stress levels and better your chances of success. At Abbotts College students can consult with teachers during the compulsory Homework Sessions to receive extra help and academic support. Make sure that you use any available opportunity to get help from teachers in learning areas you struggle with.

Start PREPARING as soon as your exam timetable is available. REVISE on a regular basis during the term and make sure you understand the work. Get help before it is too late.

Make sure the basics are in place before you start studying:

  • When are you writing and how long is the paper?
  • What will be covered in the exam?
  • How are marks allocated?
  • Plan your study time ahead and study according to a study roster. Cramming doesn’t work.
  • Determine how much time you need to revise and draw up a study timetable that includes enough free time to unwind. You cannot work all day every day. Psychologists advise that we can only concentrate properly for 30-45 minutes. When you’re on your break, do something different – get out of your room, take a stroll or go make yourself a cup of tea!
  • Break down the subject content into manageable chunks. Compensate for subjects that need more time by allocating more revision and study time to these subjects.
  • Study in a venue where you can concentrate without distractions.
  • Remember that summaries are only a study tool. Making them is only part of the process.
  • Make sure that you eat well. Studies show exercise and healthy eating improves concentration levels. By eating slow-release foods like rice, pasta and fruit you can keep up your blood sugar level to avoid fluctuating energy levels.
  • Drink enough water to keep up your metabolism and brain function.
  • Try to get at least eight hours’ sleep a night – your mind needs the rest as well!
  • Avoid stimulants. Energy drinks, alcohol and drugs impede your energy and concentration.
  • If you find it difficult to cope with exam stress, make sure you get support from parents, friends, teachers or a professional counsellor.

It is important to manage the stress and anxiety that forms part of exams but by being well prepared, having a structured  approach and by acquiring good habits you can avoid the negative impact of exam stress.


JC Engelbrecht