Top 8 Ways to Boss the Exam Season.

It’s the beginning of the exam period here in the UK, and I thought that some of you out there could benefit from tips on how to take the exam season by storm.

It’s the beginning of the exam season here in the UK, and I’m sure that some of you could benefit from tips on how to take the exam season by storm. There’s no doubt that no matter whether they’re GCSE’s, A-Levels, finals, mocks or the real thing, they can all be extremely stressful. Especially if you’re already a ball of anxiety.

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve sat down to study for or take an exam, but the pressure of those impending hours of essay writing has stuck with me. During my final year at university, I’m proud to say that I developed a perfect algorithm to help me go into that exam hall and know that I was giving it my all. Yes, it was hard. Yes, I spent many nights crying; but it didn’t break me!

So whether you’ve just finished singing the Auld Land Syne or you’re getting ready to hop into your flip-flops, this post will point you in the right direction so that you can go the distance!

If you’re wondering how you can help your kids prepare themselves for exams, have a look at this wonderful article!


8 Ways to manage exam season.

Feed yourself!

I can’t believe I’m lecturing you all about feeding yourself. But the truth is that during my final year I was quite healthy. I ate when I was hungry and fueled my body properly. Your brain accounts for 20% of the energy consumption in your body on an average day. When put under pressure this increases tenfold! This means that you need more of the right foods to enable you to hold focus and retain important information.

While studying you need to make sure you’re not only eating enough but also eating the right types of foods. Don’t just reserve yourself to a quick pot noodle or a cup of soup, make the effort to eat foods that are packed full of nutrition. Meal prepping is a category I am absolutely useless with so I’ll leave that to the experts. Snack foods, however, I can help you with.

There are so many out there that not only fuel our bodies but benefit the function of our brains. This is by no means a definitive list but it’ll give you an idea of what to look for.

  • Nuts, such as cashews and almonds, provide our bodies with magnesium which is known for its cortisol (stress) reducing properties. Walnuts have the added benefit of omega 3 and polyphenols which help with our memory so we can better retain information!
  • Bananas contain vitamin B-6 which helps with the production of serotonin (the happy hormone) and helps regulate our blood sugar levels. I admit that I didn’t eat these because I loathe bananas, but you do you.
  • Oatmeal or porridge oats are packed full of vitamins and minerals that help our bodies during times of stress. Apart from the obvious fibre and gastrointestinal benefits, oatmeal contains magnesium, vitamin B-6 & potassium. All of these together help reduce stress and anxiety to manageable levels. It’s quick to make in the morning, you can add whatever you want to it, you can make overnight oats, and you can also make handy, snack-size flat jacks for when you’re on the go.
  • Dark chocolate helps with the release of endorphins and increases blood flow to the brain, heightening focus and reducing mental fatigue. It also contains a bit of caffeine for an extra kick!

Hydrate right!

Stick to water as much as you can. The recommended is six to eight cups a day, and it helps to have some sort of reusable bottle on hand so that you don’t forget. I find that if it’s in my line of vision then I am less likely to bypass it for a coffee.  

Believe it or not, I switched to green tea after midday every day while studying for my exams. Otherwise, I found I got jittery and couldn’t sleep. Instead, I became a real herbal tea buff and drank my body weight in green tea.

When going into the exam remember to bring your water bottle with you! There is nothing worse than being stuck in an exam hall and thirsty as all hell.

Organise!

Before you start studying make sure you know when the exams are and what to prioritise. Then, with all the information at hand, you can work on creating a study timetable to help keep your mind on track.

Use a planner to plan out your days, what topics you are going to cover, and for how long. When it comes to the day of the exam make sure you know where you are going and what the topic is. Don’t turn up at the wrong place, at the wrong time, and prepared for the wrong subject. There’s nothing worse!

Make sure you have all the materials you need to make studying easier for you. Highlighters, textbooks, lecture notes, notebooks, pencils, pens, sticky notes, etc. Whatever makes it easier for you, make sure you have it on hand before beginning.

Finally, remember to leave the house in good time so you arrive early. You don’t want to be rushing or turn up late. This will only heighten any stress you might be feeling.

Check out this post to learn more about how sticking to a routine can help you stay organised and reasonably stress-free. A routine is essential to ensure you’re getting the most out of your study days, and that you’re better prepared for the exams ahead.

    Bonus: Consider adding notecards into the equation! You can use notecards to write down quick bullet points that trigger your thinking on a particular subject.

Image from Joshua Hoehne.

Set goals.

Set yourself smart and achievable goals. Before you begin your study session write yourself a list of your aims, and as you complete the tasks mark them off. You’ll feel a great sense of reward every time you see how far you have gotten.

It’s been a while since I was in university, and even longer since I was in school. That being said I still have goals that I need to achieve in terms of blogging, writing, and recovery.

 Note: If you really want to motivate yourself to study, put a sweet at the end of each page/paragraph that you’re working on. When you finally reach the goal you get the added bonus of a tasty treat! It’s actually quite a good test of motivation and self-control.

Music (if you’re into that).

I can’t study without some sort of background noise. However, others can’t study without silence. It’s really up to your own personal preference.

If you need a little bit of music while you’re taking notes and highlighting then I suggest trying the Vitamin String Quartet.

If you just want some noise there are various apps that set a timer complete with background sounds such as rain, thunder, and crackling fires. After the time is up, the music slowly fades out! Get yourself the Chrome extension for Noisli. It does everything I mentioned above and I frequently use it to help myself focus on writing.

Breaks.

You can’t study all day without any breaks at all or your brain just won’t retain the information. According to INC we should only be studying for between fifty to ninety minutes, after which time we should take a break for between fifteen to twenty minutes. 

During this time you should move away from your place of work to give your brain a change of scenery. Get up and walk around, dance, call a friend, do a quick yoga sequence or go for a walk. 

I wouldn’t advise it but if you just must go on the Internet you can use this. It will ensure that you don’t end up spending the rest of your day on Twitter or reading the latest news. Just enter all the sites you tend to spend your time on, set a timer and there you have it. No more inappropriately long study breaks.

Sleep!

“Lack of sleep can end up clouding judgement or increasing the number of mistakes made. Students need to get at least six to eight hours of sleep a night, particularly on the night before an exam.” – Sarah Jessica, The Sleep Council

Six to eight hours of sleep each night is recommended for most people. This might increase depending on the amount of physical activity you take. Basically what this means is that you definitely should not be pulling an all-nighter to cram for an exam last minute.

Lack of sleep leads to increased stress levels, ‘brain fog‘, and a distinct dip in concentration and focus. All of which you certainly don’t want when you are trying to ace your exams.

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If you have problems getting off to sleep have a look at one of my older posts

Image from Kate Stone Matheson.

Exercise!

Get up! Get active!

Exercise increases blood flow which, in turn, boosts our energy levels naturally without the use of stimulants. It’s also a great way to bust stress due to the release of endorphins.

It doesn’t have to be a 5KM run or a full three-hour gym session. It can be as simple as a short walk during one of your study breaks, or even a quick at-home yoga session.


Further tips.

  • Believe in your ability.
  • Don’t try to be perfect. Ain’t nobody perfect!
  • Take steps to overcome your problems. If you don’t understand something seek help from a fellow classmate or even try the inter-webs. Sometimes the lecturer’s notes are just far to complicated and Google can really help!
  • Don’t keep it all bottled up. If you need to talk, then talk. It’s natural to be anxious but don’t let it knock you down.
  • Keep things in perspective.
  • Take your time reading the questions and, before passing in your paper, make sure to read over your answers.
  • Pace yourself.
  • After the exam reward yourself. Shop, sleep, or play a video game BUT RELAX!

No matter if you’re in secondary school, university or studying for anything else, I hope these tips are helpful to you in some way.

Remember; You got this! You are awesome! Grades are not the end of the world, they are not the be-all and end-all. No matter what you get you are deserving, you are wonderful and you did your best.

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115 comments

  1. My littlest sister is doing her GCSEs. These are some really great tips to help you during your exams. Thank you for sharing your suggestions.

    Lauren x

  2. I so wish I had a post like this whilst I was taking my exams. You’ve shared some really great, helpful tips which will 100% come in handy for those taking their exams. I’m going to pass this post onto my cousin whose currently taking her GCSE’s. I’m sure she’ll find this really useful. Thank you so much for sharing lovely Xo

    Elle

  3. Spot on! I endorse all the ways you’ve talked about. There’s really no rush for the exam period.

  4. Great tips, my girlfriend and I just went through the exam season and did well. These are great tips!

  5. Taking breaks and getting the right amount of sleep is so important. Most people stay up to study therefore losing focus and concentration the next day.

  6. I like to listen to quiet melody when studying. Plus of course, some chips on the side.

  7. Exams can be quite stressful- more so for some people than others. Taking breaks and exercising usually work for me. They give the mind a rest.

  8. I loved this read. I am actually a part time college instructor and studying without the right tools can be STRESSFUL. Although, I crammed while in college, it’s the worst thing you can do for your own well-being and retention of materials in your area of concentration. Great job on this blog post!

    If you ever want to be a guest blogger I would love to have you. I’m small and just beginning my dream. So, not sure if it would help you or not.

  9. Amazing tips! I’ve got my A Levels coming up next week so this came at just the right time. I’m definitely going to try your suggestion with the sweets at the end of each paragraph, and I love the idea of exercising too! I think taking breaks and getting sleep is so important to prevent burnout too. Thank you so much for sharing x

  10. This is going to help so many students! I remember how incredibly stressful exams were on me when I was in college. God, it was terrible.

  11. I’m so glad I’m done with any types of exams, but my older son is just starting with the big state test for 3rd graders this week. We’ve been helping him with his anxiety over taking it for the first time and telling him to make sure he gets a good night’s sleep and try his best.

  12. By now I have left my studies behind, but I remember very well that finding your own method and following the right steps is not an unattainable goal, especially when you are overwhelmed in the most intense moments. At the time I would have needed this article, a valuable help.

  13. These are great tips and advice! I remember back in college when finals came and what I thought was important was just to keep on studying. But I will tell you the lack of breaks and sleep was horrible and did more damage than what I wanted. So take breaks and get some sleep people!

  14. These are great tips. And I think it doesn’t just work for exams but for preparing for anything really.

  15. These are some amazing tips and I am gonna share this post with my son whose exams are due in 2 months from now. I think these will help him keep the stress away and remain focused.

  16. yeah totally agree with your all points… Keeping calm is the one of best thing one can do for a better result…Thanks for sharing…

  17. These are some great tips and you have explained every point in detail. Thanks.

  18. All perfect tips to prepare for any exam! Music is also one of that things that keeps me motivated to study.

  19. I love that you suggested music. I’m one of those weird people who just does better with music. I like having it in the background and it definitely helps with my mood when I’m feeling a bit of stress. I do need to hydrate more, that’s where I always fall short.

  20. This was actually a great post for me to look at right now, because I start working with my kids on preparing for standardized testing right after the holidays. Then when May rolls around, they don’t feel like they are trying to cram to get themselves up to par and ready. And they have taken enough practice tests by then to be comfortable for the actual day of the test.
    You post has some great ideas! Chocolate covered bananas is one of my kids’ favorite treats (which were both on your good-eating list), so maybe we will implement that into test taking practice as a treat!

  21. Hello,
    This is a timely article for me. For the last 8 years, I have worked in technology & I have a well-rounded and in-depth skill set. Recently I left that industry and moved into the editing. About four months into that, however, I ended up in a situation where I am creating websites for a group that is involved in marketing for indie authors which is my target market for editing.
    I am working on four websites in fact and they fall within the scope of what you talked about in your experience above. I have always been the type of person you described, and could not be any other way, I would get too bored with life. I could not imagine being the type of person that became content in mediocrity.
    Thanks

  22. I’m sure a lot of people are going to find this post helpful ❤️ Exams are stressful especially at the end of the year! Great post !!

  23. Thank you for reading. If you know anyone, children, teenagers or adults who need tips for exams pass it on! I would have loved to had clear, concise tips during my exams.

  24. I don’t have children myself who are doing exams, but will share this post with a few of my friends who do. I am sure they’ll find it very useful x

  25. I love this and very relevant to our family with my eldest taking exams right now and my 7 year old about to sit her SATS. I find exams so stressful, I worry a lot about the pressure on kids too!

  26. I was always horrible at shutting down and taking breaks, now I have to in order to maintain any level of sanity! Thank you for stopping by 🙂

  27. Taking breaks for me was a must during finals week. I found that by doing just a little and then taking breaks, and then repeating that until my studying was done, helped me to retain the information better. I eventually became an expert at studying that way!

  28. This is such a great post! I wish I had this kind of info to read when I was going through exams and now I wish all my past students could benefit from these tips too! Good luck, I feel crazily proud and happy, you’re a final year! xx

  29. love these tips! every single one of them is important. Thanks so much for sharing

  30. love this topic! every single one of them is such an important tips. Thanks so much for sharing

  31. Thank you for stopping by lovely! The diet and hydration thing really gets me when it comes to my concentration levels!

  32. If you are going through exam season, then these are great points to read. Such an informative post.

  33. It’s been over ten years since my last exams season, but these are great tips I definitely used. I still practice these habits during hectic work weeks> I can not get through those with out music, it’s my ” go to” stress relief method. Great Post!

  34. This very helpful and i love the tips. Sharing this to my sis who is preparing for her exam

  35. OMG! I’m so glad that my exam days are behind me. I don’t miss being stressed or sleep deprived at all. I wish I had your tips, because they definitely would’ve saved me a great deal of trouble. These tips are so helpful and any student would surely appreciate them.

  36. Fabulous tips! I use so many now blogging too! Especially the get up and move, once I feel my concentration has gone (or my back starts aching now I’m hiding in my room again using my wardrobe as a desk) I get up and do a couple of sun salutations on my yoga mat.

    I also stare out of the window (or go for a walk) to get the eyes looking long distance again rather than the short distance focus when reading or using a computer.

    I’d say remember some protein snacks too – boiled eggs are a favourite with me. My current favourite pack up lunch is boiled eggs, steamed broccoli with pesto (it’s good cold-trust) and smoked salmon mmmmm lots of yummy EFA for brain function 🙂

  37. OH I wish I had this when I was on college haha I was always stressed by exams!

  38. See I don’t feed myself properly and the stress only increases because my body needs nourishment. I think I would have done far better in exams if I had fed myself properly before them and throughout the studying period.

  39. I’m exactly the same. No to do list for a goal? It’s not going to happen. End of. Thank you for stopping by and showing your support 🙂

  40. I was the same but I was scared of having to pee too much during the exam! Thank you for stopping by and commenting 🙂

  41. I hope this advice works for you! Please look after yourself during finals and I wish you all the best (this post will be circulating at all the major exam times, so it’ll be popping up again)! Good luck with school 🙂

  42. Congratulations for taking the time to look after yourself and managing to pass your exam! And thank you for stopping by 🙂

  43. The stress certainly gets in the way of our thinking and can really hinder us if we want to do well. Thank you for stopping by and commenting 🙂

  44. Great suggestions! I think we often get so caught up in the stress of times like exam season that we completely forget about the importance of actually taking care of ourselves. If your’e falling apart (literally and figuratively), you’re not going to be able to accomplish anything!

  45. Amen to all of these! I actually did all of these and passed the biggest exam of my life!

    sarahrizaga.blogspot.com

  46. I’m getting ready to go back to school in the fall, and I will definitely need this! When I get in the heart of finals, I often lock myself away. It’s funny, but I really do need someone to tell me to eat, get out, have a life! Great advice!

  47. I struggle so much with remembering to drink water and I feel like that always screws me over come exam season because I’m just so tired! I’m definitely going to have to give myself a reminder to drink more. Great tips!
    El xx

  48. Never thought no.2 helps. I should’ve drank a lot of water back then…

  49. Perfect! I’ve had to practice this to get through my schooling and certifications!

  50. I always feed myself. It doesn’t help de-stress in the long term. I feel more stressed afterward. The stress stays the weight stays.

  51. A lot of us allow our stress levels to get away from us and this can greatly hinder how we cope with things such as exams.
    Thank you for popping in and showing your support.

  52. I am still very much using these now while writing almost full time. When I return to work I will also be making use of these to maintain my sanity!
    Thank you for stopping by and showing your support.

  53. I still use these and I’m not even studying!
    Thank you so much for stopping by and showing your support.

    – Nyxie

  54. The kitty drinking the water made my day when I found it! Thank you so much for reading and GOOD LUCK with college!

  55. Very true Vanesh! Thank you for making this point – as a health and safety officer by trade I really should have thought of this!

  56. I always found that goal setting really helped me in achieving what I needed to get done! Thank you for stopping by and reading 😀

  57. Lol, I am just starting college and wow! These are going to be some super helpful things.. Btw I adore the kitty drinking the water xD

  58. Thank you so much for sharing these tips. Some things can be so much easier if we just take care of ourselves!

  59. Super tips! I could have used them many a moon ago!
    My technique of cramming all night really did have its toll :/

    Peace and love,
    Spence 🙂

  60. I love the tips in this post! The exact same advice can be given to freelance writers and bloggers or anyone who has to do a lot of self-propelling through their goalposts. Thank you for putting these together so thoughtfully and with a bit of cuteness and humor splashed in (great gifs!).

  61. I think this is something that is very overlooked, we have many ways that tell students how to cram or how to spend endless hours studying, but not enough explaining how to keep our stress levels obtainable so that we can actually obtain this information. Great post!

  62. Great tips! Very well explained each point.

    I would like to add one more point if I missed it in this article.
    The sitting position. Wrong posture could result into the back pain and neck pain!

    – Vanesh
    https://TechnoVans.com

  63. These are all such great tips, especially because exam time can be so stressful. I know I always forgot to care for myself when studying for final exams.

  64. Sleep is so, so important! You’re likely to remember so much more if you are not sleep deprived!

  65. Goal-setting is really important. It helps you focus and keeps you in track towards your objectives.

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