Dealing with exam stress
Revision and exams
This page provides tips on managing exam anxiety. The advice below might not remove your anxiety but it should help you to feel less stressed and more effective. Don't worry if you find some of these techniques tricky to start with – stick with them and you'll find they're worthwhile in the end.
Part of coping better with exams means knowing that revision should start early. You should start revising for a summer exam in around early February. Starting revision early gives you time to revisit topics before your exam. Revisiting information repeatedly over time helps you store information in your long-term memory.
You don’t need to be chained to your desk while you revise. You can revise on the move – while you're walking, cleaning, or standing in a queue.
If you're struggling or looking for some extra support, speak to our Academic Skills Unit (ASK) or our Wellbeing team. You'll find them both in the Nuffield building. You could also see your Faculty Support Tutors, or talk to your tutors and lecturers.
Starting your revision early is key but there are other ways to prepare for exams as well. Familiarise yourself with what your exams will be like if you can. You won't know everything about an exam, but these 6 things can help reduce your stress:
- Explore the exam topics and spend some time considering what might come up in the exam
- Know the day, time and duration of each exam – and write them in your diary or calendar
- Visit the venue to familiarise yourself with how to get there, where you could wait and what the exam room will look like (if you can)
- Find out what equipment is or isn't allowed ahead of time
- Find out how the exam paper or task is structured – is it multiple choice, short answer, long answer questions, or a practical? Is it divided into sections?
- Use past papers if you have access to them – they'll give you an idea of what to expect
Look after your physical health
Looking after your physical health is important all the time, but it's especially vital when you're under pressure. A good diet and the right amount of sleep can help increase your energy and improve your concentration, focus, and memory. All of these contribute to your subject understanding too.
- have breakfast the morning of an exam to keep your blood sugar levels up
- have a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and foods that release energy slowly like brown rice, oats, nuts and seeds
- exercise regularly to improve your mood and concentration levels
- get enough sleep and build a nighttime routine – lacking sleep will affect your ability to remember and communicate information, while having a bedtime routine can help you sleep and reduce your stress