5 tips for a less stressful exam time!



Exam time can be really stressful for most students. Perhaps you are one of many young people currently studying for GCSE or A level exams – or maybe some university exams. No matter which exams you are studying for, here are five tips to make the experience less stressful!

1. Maintain a good routine

As you have a lot of material to study, you may easily prioritise this over maintaining your daily routine. You may skip a meal or eat something quick, and you may stay up a couple of hours later than you normally would. While it may seem like you have to study a lot to get it all done, the key is to study effectively. Maintaining a healthy routine where you eat properly and get enough sleep will help you learn better and study more effectively. You will likely get more done in the morning after a good night’s sleep, than what you would get done pushing yourself to stay up late into the night.

2. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals

S.M.A.R.T. goals are a great planning technique – it is all about setting goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. They are perfect for those who plan to “study for their history exam tomorrow”, but when tomorrow comes around, they feel overwhelmed by the task, and by the end of the day, they may feel insecure or guilty, as they are not sure how much they achieved. If this sounds familiar, try to make a list of S.M.A.R.T. goals for the next day. Instead of planning to broadly “study”, write down specifically what you need to do. This could be “read pages 45-65”, “make 10 flashcards”, and “write an outline for a potential exam essay”. Do you see the difference? This will help you guide your studying, realise your achievements, and hopefully this will motivate you rather than overwhelm you. Remember, being realistic about your goals will help you feel less overwhelmed.

3. Use the Pomodoro Technique


You have had a good night’s sleep, you have had a meal, and you have made your S.M.A.R.T. goals list. Yet you may find yourself reaching for your phone to procrastinate. An effective tool to combat this, is the Pomodoro Technique. It is a simple, elegant, and highly effective technique to maintain focus on your task, and thus, work effectively. Here’s how it works: You set a timer for 25 minutes, and in these 25 minutes you study non-stop without distractions. Then take a five-minute break. After repeating this four times, take a longer break, such as 20 minutes. In the 25 minute work periods, you will probably find that you work effectively for the first ten minutes, then as your productivity starts to decrease, you realise you only have 10-15 more minutes, and this may motivate you to finish that chapter or that paragraph. In your five-minute breaks, consider standing up and stretching rather than immediately grabbing your phone.

4. Take active breaks

Just as you may not prioritise sleep and meals due to exam stress, you may also see your family and friends less, skip your football training, or take no time to yourself. However, to keep your mood up, and thus motivation and energy, it is important to take active breaks from studying. Spend a little time every day (some days this can be more than others) on a pleasant activity in which you do not think about exams at all. This will be good for your mood, and you may return to studying with renewed energy and a fresh perspective. Again, it is not about deprioritising studying, but about studying effectively, smart, and healthily to avoid burnout. You can plan these breaks in order to make sure you take them, but also to make sure they do not take too much time away from studying. However, sometimes you cannot plan ahead on how you will be feeling, and sometimes you will need a spontaneous break. And that’s okay!

5. Exercise to release stress

One of your active breaks could very well be exercise. Exercise is great for releasing stress, increasing energy levels, and boosting mood. This doesn’t have to be many hours at a time; even half an hour of exercise could give you these benefits. Choose an activity that you like, so that it is enjoyable. You can incorporate exercise into your S.M.A.R.T. goals for the day, to make sure you make time for it. You have to remember that these activities help you study more effectively when you sit down to study, rather than to think you are taking time away from studying. It is better to be effective for a shorter time, than ineffective for a long time! And even more importantly, it is better to not burnout.


A bonus point to remember is perspective. Yes exams matter, they might determine the next few years of your life, where you go and what you go on to study or where you go on to work. However they are not the end of the world. In the scale of your entire life, your exams will not be what defines you. Even people who have regrets about exam time, don’t sit around and say, “I regret that I got a D…” they say, “I regret I didn’t try my best”. So give yourself the best chance to fulfill your potential, use the above techniques and do your best. This way you can be proud of yourself, regardless of the outcome.

Good luck with exams, everybody!